Sand in the Coop Run

I don’t use sand inside of the chicken house. There are better options for coop bedding. So, why was I at the lumber yard, filling my car with bags of all-purpose sand?



It wasn’t just an excuse to admire the resident dog (but don’t you just love seeing dogs at places like this?)

lumber yard dog


I bought the sand for the chicken run. There are eleven hens in the Big Barn. That means that there are 22 dinosaur feet digging and kicking. Although I do my best to keep their yard raked, that’s eleven hens producing manure and grinding and pounding it into the ground. Eleven hens actively making dust wallows. Twenty-two clawed feet tunneling along the fence line, weakening the defensive boundary we’d installed around their coop to make it safe.


Clearly, it was time to do something. The solution was easy. A few bags of sand would help to loosen things up, improve drainage, and bring the surface of the run up to ground level.

Each bag weighs 70 pounds. I can get them out of the car and into a wheelbarrow, but not out of the wheelbarrow and set down where I need them. This is why I’m grateful that I still have a teenage boy at home. Three hundred and fifty pounds of sand seems like a lot, but it doesn’t go far when you’re filling up pot-holes created by a flock of hens.



The Gems free-ranged while I worked.

free ranging hens


Pearl, the fluffy cochin, spied what was going on. Sand, she says, provides for a true spa experience.

dust bath


  1. 350 lbs of sand doesn’t go very far -at all-. It can be rather depressing seeing how far it -doesn’t- go when you’ve expended energy moving that much weight.

    And since I have a neck and back that don’t operate at factory specs anymore, here’s how I work the heavy bags: I flip flop them out of the back of the van into the wheelbarrow/garden cart and then slice the bags open and empty them. I then wheel the contents to the intended spot and dump. It’s awkward and takes longer, but it saves my back.

    And if everyone enjoys that sand the way Pearl is, you may have your holes dug back up sooner than expected! :D

  2. Clever girl, Pearl! I like watching hens dustbathing – they’re hilarious.
    Thanks for the tip on run maintenance. I will be doing the same thing in my run this weekend, because last week my white Silkie took a dirt bath after two days of rain, and she looked just awful afterwards.
    Terry, do you ever throw any DE in the run in addition to the sand? I have been throwing a little in their preferred wallows from time to time. I figure that it can’t hurt, since they never use the dust bath that I have for them during rainy periods.

    • Yes, I’ll put a half-cup of food-grade DE in the dust wallows, when they’re dry and loose (does no good in damp dirt.) For rainy periods, my flocks have kitty litter tubs filled with sand inside of the coops.

  3. I can`t say enough about how much I love having sand for the base of my chicken run. My husband brings a fresh pick-up truck-load of it home 2 or 3 times a year and we wheel-barrow it into the run. It is so easy to keep clean with a quick rake and then disposing of clumps into the compost. The chickens only dust bathe in it when they are in the run for the day as they free range all the time other then in extreme weather. My yard takes the brunt of the digging as the 8 of them prefer to change it up and bathe in a new location just about every day. And community bathing is quite popular and although destructive a riot to watch! We have contained the gang to the back-yard as of this Spring so at least the front-yard looks the same way each day and we have had no complaints from them that we know of. :)

  4. I keep meaning to buy some sand for my run, although they take their dust baths in the holes they have created in the ground. I thought, however, that sand would be nicer for them. I am not sure if I can purchase normal builders sand or if it would be safer to buy the more expensive children’s play sand. Any preferences anyone?

    • Playground sand is much finer and therefore dustier, which can pose a problem for their lungs. Stick with the coarser stuff (and it’s less expensive!)

  5. My run is almost nothing but ankle breakers. They seem to dig a new dust bath daily and for some reason more are right on the fence line.

  6. I watched Nancy (I think) have the most wonderful dust bath a couple of days ago. You could just tell how wonderful it felt.

  7. Can I borrow your son? Been trying to figure out how im gonna lug those bags, my strength is not what it used to be. Might try that wheelbarrel trick.

  8. Opal is certainly looking good! Do you ever hear how her brother Opie is doing on his farm?

  9. I have added a ton and a half to my run so far in the past 2 years. The chicken yard was settling and collecting rain water, which of course made for a nasty wet soup at times. I also add lots of leaves, and piles of field cuttings which I scrape off the farm equipment after a bout of bush hogging. My car’s “trunk” is at waist height, so I can somewhat “lift” the bags, then hold them very close to me, abdomen-height, and carry them to the chicken yard. Of course the dangerous part is to be careful not to drop them on one of the ladies. When I am at the big box store and have the energy I add a couple bags to my purchase, but I must have someone load it for me. As long as it’s not lower than my waist, I can handle it. Barely. There is one area in the yard that has a roof on it where I don’t add the organic matter, hoping the ladies will dust bathe there, but they don’t seem to like it.

  10. Now I want to go out and get a big bag of sand to give my girls the “true spa experience”! But I don’t really want to lug it up the 2 1/2 flights of stairs to our backyard. I’d need the spa treatment after that.

  11. I was watching Phoebe earlier digging to China, does she take a dust bath at the spa?

  12. Yay, photos of Phoebe! We tried sand in our coop once and our two chickens freaked out. We’ve gone back to wood shavings. Our chickens “free range” each morning and afternoon when they love a dust bath in my Mum’s garden. Mum fills in the holes and they start all over again the next day. Dust baths look so relaxing!

  13. Thanks for the inspiration! What is the difference between the play sand and arena sand (quite coarse)? I get arena sand delivered every couple years for my mini-horses’ paddocks, maybe I could just get more at that time for the chix?
    Thank you for all your great info!!!