We've got four hens that are coming up on five months old. We've started getting eggs are we're around one per day. I've got three kids, ages 3, 5 and 7. The chics started out enjoyable for us; now they are mostly just enjoyable for the kids who torment them! While I've read chickens and kids get along great, I can assure you my chickens don't like the manhandling they have to endure!
I don't mind the day to day upkeep that goes into it, but the setup we have for the coop and run is driving me nuts! I started out wanting to try the deep litter method using pine chips but quickly found that when it rains it gets nasty in there. Plus the flies congregated quite a bit. I think maybe I didn't try it long enough, and I was trying too hard to clean droppings instead of just applying new wood chips and letting it decompose.
I read up on sand and it sounded like that would be a great solution, so I swapped out. I loved it! Cleanup was a breeze and flies were gone. Then the rain started. I'm in Minneapolis, and this summer has been a wet one. Now I'm dealing with sand that is constantly packed down. I put a tarp over the run, but it still gets plenty wet in there. Now the poop just sits on top, and the chickens trample it into the sand. It never seems to dry, so it's very hard to clean. I use a shovel to stir it up to help with drying, but it just gets packed back down. It's never been the same since the first rain. What a mess! Not to mention it gets pretty dusty inside the coop, and they kick away the sand from the area they lay the eggs. I think this is what's resulting in about 1/3 of our eggs being cracked.
One thing I know I need to do is to build a slightly slanted roof over the run to help when it rains. But other than that, I need some serious advice!
Now, for my barrage of questions:
- For my setup, would you recommend sand or wood chips? Keep in mind Winter is coming and I'm in Minneapolis.
- Would you recommend the same in both? I started with pine chips in the coop and sand in the run, but they just kicked the wood chips into the sand.
- If wood chips in the run, deep litter method? The run sits on top of the soil. What happens in the winter when it's frozen and covered in snow? Do I even have enough vertical space for DLM?
- If wood chips in the coop, I assume DLM isn't an option, so just sweep it into the run every week or so and add new?
- If I stick with sand, what can I do to combat the packed down wetness? PDZ? Is sad a bad idea for the winter?
- In addition to a roof, should I tack some sides up? I was planning to do that on at least one side for winter to help block the wind.
So many frustrations and questions but I figured this was the best place to come! If you have any other ideas to help with mysetup I'd great appciate it. Thank you!