There’s a lot of talk about what to put inside the chicken run area for your chickens. Many people start out with their chicken coop and run on grass, but as we chicken people know, grass will not last long around chickens.
We had only one flat surface on our property (except the backyard, which wasn’t an option for us) and we had raised beds there previously. So we moved the raised beds and spread wood chips all around where the beds were. Wood chips are a great option because they are free from tree services who need to get rid of them. Sign up with your local tree service, but be prepared to take an entire truckload if they come by. (We use wood chips all over our garden and property)
Wood chips help keep the run from getting muddy, especially since we have an open section with our pergola. The hens still dig huge holes and take dust baths in there, or maybe they are also digging holes to try to escape. I’m not entirely sure.
So what else can you put in the run? Organic material.
The main thing is, I don’t have to clean out my run.
You can throw food scraps in there, but you may want to be careful about what exactly, since some foods aren’t good for chickens. However, many chicken people I know put just about anything except moldy food in there. Moldy food, such as moldy bread, will kill your chickens.
I find a great benefit of having chickens is giving them stuff from my garden. We have a huge garden and chickens love weeds, like clover, and greens, cucumbers, melons, strawberries, grapes — the list goes on and on. I grow mustard greens because they come up quickly, can tolerate the cold, and the girls really like them.
I also have cover crops in my raised beds in the winter, so when I pull them out to plant in the spring, I just put it in their run for them to enjoy. Any type of greens the girls seem to gobble up.
Plus, with chickens, it means less of our garden goes to waste. Since we use the deep litter method in our henhouse, they will produce rich fertilizer for the garden. It’s our own little circle of life.
I throw in pine shavings to absorb dampness in the pergola area and straw in the coop run since it’s covered, just to make things interesting. With only six hens, I don’t see many table scraps getting devoured quickly, plus with two dogs, there isn’t much anyway.
The other thing to remember is to keep it interesting for them. I cleaned off and moved a large flock block for the girls. I stuff greens into a suet container and hang that, but also move it from time to time if I notice they aren’t eating it much.
The main thing is, I don’t have to clean out my run. I occasionally will pull out large weeds or greens I threw in there when they are done with them, just to make room, but everything organic just breaks down anyway. I rake in there to flatten the ground, because, well, all the holes they dig. But I really don’t do much.
The bottom line is organic matter, leaves, wood chips, grass clippings, kitchen scraps — all go in the run.
I keep hearing about all these people cleaning up their chicken coop and run all the time, and I’m wondering if I’m missing something.
But the truth is, with the right set up, like our American Coop, it’s not labor intensive at all to keep chickens. Rake a bit to flatten at times and add organic material for them to enjoy — that’s it.
The chickens will eat and scratch, so why not just let them do all the work?
Until next time,
Ingrid — Crazy Chicken Lady in Training
P.S. Matt did a video about this very subject: