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Do chickens need grass in their run?

When you get chickens deciding what ground to place the coop and run onto can sometimes be a bit of a dilemma. It can be worrying if the coop area becomes messy especially in the winter months when the ground is wet and muddy.

Images of chicken coops are often shown on lush green grass (like the one above), but do chickens really need grass in their run area to begin with?

While chickens don’t necessarily need grass in their run, providing it can offer benefits like additional nutrition and enrichment. Grass gives them the opportunity to forage, scratch, and peck, which are natural behaviors, and also provides a source of greens which can enhance their diet.

This destruction is caused by the chickens being placed onto a small area of grass and does not mean they will destroy larger grassy areas or lawns. Read on to find out more about options for run bases and how you can graze chickens on grass without them destroying it.

Can chickens live without grass?

Chickens don’t eat much grass as such but they do enjoy scratching in grass because it’s full of tasty treats which chickens love such as bugs, seeds and worms.

But this doesn’t mean chickens need grass to live because they can find morsels of food in pretty much any outside area.

As owners, we like to see them in grass because it’s clean and tidy, but in reality, a chicken loves nothing more than digging in anything with a loose top where food can be lurking underneath.

Chickens can definitely live without grass and will happily scratch and dig in any floor covering. Most chickens don’t eat much grass and you can supplement greens with veggies such as kale, broccoli, lettuce etc.

How to keep chicken runs on grass

If you’ve ever put a chicken run and coop on a patch of grass you will know that within a very short amount of time the grass gets destroyed and will quickly become non-existent.

This is mainly because of the constant scratching which chickens do with their feet, which churns up the roots of the grass and while chickens continue to graze on that patch the grass won’t get chance to re-grow.

It’s important to note that this only really happens in a run area where chickens are intensively scratching at the same ground, they won’t ruin larger areas of grass or lawns by just grazing the land.

If you’re lucky enough to have a large lawn or grassed area then fencing out a large area can help to prevent grass destruction and will allow any bald patches to re-grow.

The number of chickens you have in relation to space will also depend on the impact on the grass. A few chickens in a large space will have little impact when compared to a larger flock.

If you really want to keep a smaller chicken run and coop on grass then the best way to do this is to have a run which you can easily move onto a new patch of grass periodically.

When the grass starts to thin out and disappear, move the run and coop along onto a new patch of grass and allow the previous patch of grass to recover.

You can speed up the recovery process by sprinkling some grass seed onto any bald patches and by feeding the lawn. A good seed to use is hardwearing grass seed which contains at least 50% ryegrass.

Alternative bases for chicken runs

In the winter months when the ground is permanently damp and wet the ground of a chicken run can become pretty wet and muddy which is not ideal for you or the chickens.

Chickens can develop feet problems if they’re constantly standing in wet mud and they will also tread it into the coop leading to more mess on the coop floor and within nest boxes.

It’s good to cover the ground with a material which helps to keep the mud at bay while still allowing the chickens to scratch and graze. Good floor coverings include:

  • Sawdust/wood shavings.
  • Chipped wood – not bark as this can contain fungus which can be harmful to chickens.
  • Shingle type gravel
  • straw

We live in a mountainous area in Wales where it rains a lot, so we’re always battling against mud outside of summer so we break up a few large bales of wood shavings into the coop. Large bales are available from pet centres and are inexpensive, so it t works well for us and the chickens seem to like it too.

Below is an image of our chickens in the run and as you can see, their feet are looking pretty clean for October time.

Image of a chicken run covered in sawdust

How does chicken poo affect grass?

I just wanted to end on this post on the lovely subject of poo because many people believe its this which kills grass when you keep chickens.

Chicken poo (or manure) is very rich in nitrogen and is often used by farmers as a fertilizer for grass because it makes it grow so quickly.

Chicken manure is too strong to be used directly on more delicate plants because it can scorch the leaves.

My husband is a professional gardener and he assures me that grass is hardy enough not to be damaged by chicken manure, but it will make it grow very fast and patchy around where the chicken has poo’d.

You might also like…

I hope you’ve found this post useful, you might also like to read the following article:

Are chickens really that messy

7 ways to get chickens back into the coop to roost at night

Do chickens need water in the coop at night?

7 tips on how to get chickens to like you

How to get chickens to follow you

Our recommended coop

Chicken coop for different flock sizes and different weather.

This article and its contents are owned by Pentagon Pets and was first published on October 9, 2020.

Click here to find out more about our recommended coop.