I just thought I would pass along a little something I am trying. We just completed our little retirement cottage in late summer. We moved in late July. It was awful dry all summer here in Ohio so I put off planting any type of ground cover or yard until fall. Between finishing touches on the cottage, building a chicken coop, and other "stuff", a yard just didn't get put in.
Then came fall rains. It was pretty much a mud hole. We finely got a driveway in so we could drive and park without the mud issues. From the driveway to the back porch, I put a gravel sidewalk for now. It was wonderful.
BUT! There was still a big problem. Our home is built in an old reclaimed stripmine pit. It is all solid clay. When we let the dogs out, they would avoid gravel at all costs so they could maximize the opportunity to track the think juicy clay mud back into the house.
I put an ad on Craigs list "in need of junk hay".
I got more calls and offers than I could possibly handle. The end result was a total of 4 - 1500lb round bales of hey DELIVERED! for a total cost of $50.00. I have been spreading the hay all over (what will be the yard). It covers the clay mud AND will go along way tward ammending the soil for grass next spring. I hope my idea works as well for growing grass as it does for covering mud. I plan to just sprinking the grass seed down through the partually decomposed hay, water well, and pray.
It sounds like a good start. If this is all you do, I suspect that in the spring you'll say your yard is "somewhat better". A little gypsum can help break up the clay. You mentioned chickens. Perhaps relocate your coop every couple of weeks. The chickens will work the hay into the soil, eat hayseeds, and help fertilize.
“Life is entrusted to man as a treasure which must not be squandered, as a talent which must be used well.” ~ St. John Paul II
If you are seeding through the hay cover, you might want to spread the hay thin...like butter on toast. If not, the places where it is thicker will not allow the grass to grow and those spots will take a couple of seasons to really grow in. Your grass growth will be spotty around this clumping and sparse, but if you can keep traffic off it for a couple of years the hay will nourish the new growth, encourage earthworms to inhabit the soils which will make your clay more aerated and spongy, and as the hay deteriorates, the grass will slowly fill in the spots left by too clumpy and thick hay layering.
In the long run it will get you to a natural lawn quicker but I'd seed with native grasses if you want it faster...look around and see what grows in your area the best and try to seed it with that. It will grow better in your soils and you will get faster growth and coverage. In the first year, wait until the grass goes to seed before mowing and set your mower at 4 in. to encourage natural reseeding of your planted grass.
Resist the temptation to mow one last time before fall, which will allow some fall varieties a chance to get their seeds into the mix as well, will not scalp the grasses before a cold spell and will keep your grass more lush in growth for the coming spring.