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Chicken Run Mud Management

One of the biggest problems during wet weather seems to be keeping your chickens run clean and free of mud.  I am often asked how we keep our hens so clean and the runs free of mud so thought I would dedicate a page to 'chicken run mud management'.


This system has the added advantage of helping prevent behavioural problems as chickens also need to fulfill their natural instinct to constantly be scratching/foraging with their feet.  If they are kept on a hard or compacted mud surface they cannot scratch and soon become bored, this can trigger problems such as feather pecking.  By using this system not only are they kept cleaner, they are getting exercise and being provided with stimulation.

Whilst there is no perfect cure for a muddy run, I have tried many methods over the years and the most successful way I have found is the one below.  

We sell everything you need to set up the system, please look in our Online Shop  It may seem like quite an investment in time and money but once this system is in place it will be semi-permanent and make hen keeping through the winter pleasurable and not a muddy chore.

Please be aware that whilst this method will stop most of the mud in the run, nothing will stop your chickens doing droppings and scratching around,  and the wood chips will still need cleaning/changing as recommended in the maintenance section.  

To Minimise Mud In Your Chicken Run 

  1. Try to level the area as much as possible, fill in any holes and remove any stones or sharp objects from the run area.

  2. Lay down our green turf protector mat or black rubber mats.  Your chickens will be constantly scratching at the woodchips and without this layer they will soon scratch their way through to the soil below and mix it with the woodchips.  When deciding which to use - the rubber mats are much thicker so good where you have standing water, they are also easy to lay and take up.  The green turf protector can be cut to different shapes and made to fit a variety of run shapes.  

  3. If using green turf protector, pin the turf protector down with pegs.  If there are large gaps between the pegs the woodchip slips between the layers (see photo in tips section below), so ensure it is pegged at very regular intervals.

  4. Unless you have a chicken run with very fine wire mesh you will need to fit an upstand or border around the run to prevent the woodchips being scratched out and lost.  This needs to be at least 8" high as the chickens just love to flick it everywhere. For certain types of run I have found garden border edging works well.

  5. Fill your run with a deep (at least 2" thick) layer of woodchips - each of our sacks of wood chips covers approximately 1 square metre.  Do not use bark or woodchips containing bark.  Bark is a mulch designed to sponge up water and hold it - the exact opposite of what you are trying to achieve!  Bark also gives off aspergillosis spores which are harmful to chickens.   You can read an explanation of the Dangers of Bark by the poultry vet Victoria Roberts about this issue (reproduced from Country Smallholding magazine).

  6. Let your chickens in to scratch around and dig in their lovely new mud free surface. 

Rubber Mat
Rubber Mud Horse mat
Horse Mud Mats


The run will still need maintenance as the rain doesn't stop and hens will still be doing their droppings, and if they free range they will be treading mud back onto the woodchips.

  1. If possible regularly pick out the worst of the hens droppings.

  2. Rake the woodchips level as your hens will probably have dug lots of lovely holes in it. This will also fluff it back up and turn the droppings over. Remove any heavily soiled areas.

  3. If your run is under cover you may need to hose it down or jet wash the woodchips to wash the droppings through to the soil below.  If it is uncovered, the rain will do this step for you.  Lastly scatter a layer of Agrisec 250 ground sanitiser (or similar) over the top of the woodchips.  This will sanitise the area and keep it fresh smelling.  

  4. Depending on the drainage below/how many hens you have/how large the area is, the woodchips will occasionally need changing.  The turf protector below can remain, it will simply be a matter of raking up and removing the soiled woodchips, washing down the turf protector and replacing the soiled woodchips. The woodchips themselves will last for many years, if you can remove and jet wash them they can be put back down, the only reason for replacing them is they do become soiled and it can be tricky to clean them.


We have now fitted the system in over 20 runs here and have come across a few issues that we have overcome, so please have a look at our tips and learn from our mistakes!

  • Cover every area of the run.  If you leave even a small amount of mud/dirt exposed the hens will mix it in with your lovely clean wood chips.

  • Overlap and peg the turf protector down very regularly.  If there are gaps the woodchip works it way through the gaps and ends below the protector as in the image below.

  • Having a covered run will make the whole system last much longer as well as keeping your chickens dry and cosy. 

  • Be aware that if your hens free range they will tread mud back onto the wood chips.  Try putting a pallet down outside the entrance to the run so they walk across it and 'clean' their feet before stepping back on to it.

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