Cleaning and Leveling the Chicken Run

When we built the new chicken run we had a problem. Pig Row is on a hillside and that means as the ground moves towards the house, the soil starts to fall away and the simplest of slips could mean you gathering moss at an increasing rate as you roll and bounce your way down to the ginnel behind the kitchen. Building the new chicken run was all about groundworks and this meant sinking part of it into the ground to get it level. This had a plus side, we could tuck it closer to the hedges as the new trenches we dug meant we could get up close to roots. Hornbeam hedges are very forgiving when you sever their roots but it also meant that after we did this we could still end up with a sloping space in the new run. Today was all about sorting this out. When we built the new chicken coop, we again had to excavate into the hillside and we decided that the chickens would scratch away and level the site. They haven't. Suffice to say that Gene Simmons, Mrs Cluckerbuck, Princess Layer and Lola are very lazy hens. The run has also started to stink as the soil has been denuded of grass and then compacted by what can only be described as a late night chicken rave by hens with loose bowels.

Hen house

Chicken keeper

So, out with the chickens to scratch in the new veg patch and in with a border fork, a shovel and a rake to level off the site. It takes around an hour to make sure the soil is broken up and raked flat. The coop frame which was in a trench and subject to flooding has vanished beneath soil giving more security as the netting is now below soil level. A neighbour likes our run, he has lost most of his hens to a fox, and admits the security on his is nowhere near our's. We talk about the benefits of urinating around a run to put a fox off. We discuss whether cocks are any good at keeping them away compared to the crowing they make. Our cock is rather docile with humans and though he crows, and though he keeps the hens in check, we know that he can fight when he needs to. Only last week I flapped my black jacket at him and he threw himself against me in the bid to teach me a lesson, he soon backed down when he saw I had food. Even cocks know which side their corn is buttered on. Two jobs are done as we tidy up the coop and run, the hens weed the vegetable patch, clearing a good twelve by twelve patch as they grub up pests. They don't need a second invitation to go home, they have watched as we turned the soil, fat worms rising to the surface in their hundreds. We will in spring add hardwood chippings to the run. It's a good idea to give the run a good clean out like this every few months to check to soil parasites and to stop it from turning into a quagmire.


They are soon back in the run, digging the worms up, gobbling them down, fighting and squabbling, and enjoying the hen life.


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