My six chickens have a fully enclosed 800 square foot patch of Texas to roam about and enjoy their chickeny pleasures. It sure pleases them to scratch the local soil, known as gumbo!
Everything was fine during the dry season. But then the rains came. What was once 800 square feet of pasture turf became a yucky mucky mire of chicken poo, uneaten things, and composting organic matter.
Oh the smell. It was like being "downwind of a compost heap on fire". (Thank P.D.Q. Bach for that image). The compost heap in the chicken pen might have had something to do with it....
Between Doctor Doolittle's super sniffer and my delicate sensibilities, it was getting difficult to justify fresh eggs. After a few moments reminiscing about the fragrant breezes of springtime, we sprang into action. Ever graceful, I narrowly escaped a particularly disgusting slip-and-fall.
After setting the chickens out to free range, we raked out half of the rich old organic material. We used this to establish a new compost heap outside the chicken pen. We cleaned out the litter in the coop and placed it on the new compost heap. Then we finished the new heap with some more of the mucky old compost. Back in the coop, I shook out a bunch of diatomaceous earth on the floor and then covered it with fresh pine shavings. We raked dry leaves and pine needles onto the chicken's compost pile. Finally we put fresh hay in the pen, ready for the chickens to turn it into the next batch of stinky rich organic compost.
The chickens came back to a fresh pen and coop. Oh the chickeny joy! They scratched in the fresh compost. They climbed up on the hay bale. They carefully examined every corner of the coop. They topped off their tummies with Black Oil Sunflower Seed and got on the roost for a good night.
Of course, their gratitude was gone by morning.
BYC member patandchickens has a great page about fixing muddy runs at BackYardChickens.com.
Note to self: roof and sand, roof and sand.