First time chicken keeper here.
I have done quite a bit of research on BYC but am still undecided on the surface that will be best for my run, particularly with Vermont winter coming on.
I have a flock of 7 that are just reaching the point of lay. They have a run attached to their chicken coop and I don't let them free range. We are at the edge of the woods and while I could let them free range under my supervision and probably avoid foxes, hawks, and the like during the daytime, there are a couple of bands of very quick, large dogs that have the run of the countryside that are in no way scared of me.
To begin with the run was full of lovely grass but of course that was gone within the first month. So what they have now is dirt. Half of the run is uncovered because I didn't want to deprive them of sunlight. As it turns out, most of the sunshine comes in through the southern side wall so I plan to cover the uncovered end of the run before the snow flies. Even with heavy rainstorms, the run drains beautifully. But with each weekly cleanup I remove more dirt and it's getting a bit "sunken" now. Even if I decide to leave it a dirt run, the dirt will eventually have to be replenished. I would also like a surface that would give them some traction that might help them clean off their poopy little feet between cleanings, if that's possible.
I have been going back and forth between leaving it dirt, adding a base layer of pea gravel, or adding a base layer of sand. And then what goes on top of that? Particularly if I use sand, which in the winter would get ice cold? My latest game plan is to leave it dirt and to cover it with fine pine shavings from TSC. This is the same surface they have in the coop, using the deep litter method, and it's been working well. Advantages? Disadvantages to doing that?
I would appreciate your input and recommendations. Thanks! Here's a couple of shots of the run during a recent cleaning.