I went out to the coop to do my weekly cleaning. I cleaned the poop trays and put in new Sweet PDZ in preparation for winter. Then I started raking the sand. As I looked around the coop I could not believe the amount of dust that was in there yet again. My husband had just used the shop vac in there about 2 weeks ago to suck up all the dust the sand is making. He cleaned the coop from floor to ceiling for me. I know chickens make dust, but this is absolutely unacceptable. I have been a chicken mom for over 15 years now and never have I had this massive amount of dust. Even in smaller coops with more chickens.!
In order to clean the coop, I have to wear jeans tucked into my barn boots, a long sleeved shirt with elastic cuffs, a work shirt over that, tie my hair up and put a hat on, a respirator and my soap making goggles with the foam around the edges and leather gloves. I looked like I was going to clean a toxic waste area instead of a chicken coop. When I finished up, I was covered in dust and my eyes now feel like they are full of dirt, despite using the googles and my lungs hurt even though I use a respirator mask. I go through this each time I clean the coop since adding the sand in there.
Then I checked the chickens as I always do and we have 3 more with bumble foot and two look like they don't feel so well. A couple months ago, all of them were wheezing and having trouble breathing and I thought I was going to lose the whole flock. Since putting the sand in the coop in the fall of 2012, we have lost 6 chickens, several of which were under 3 years old and had countless bouts of bumble foot I never even heard of bumble foot prior to using sand. We never had a chicken develop that when we used deep litter. Nor did we have respiratory problems with the chickens or the humans. We cleaned out the coop in spring and fall and I never felt ill like I do when I clean it now.
I decided that's it and enough is enough. I raked the sand until it was clean and hauled out as much of it as I was able too, which wasn't much, but I can only do so much. I then marched over to the goat house and procured a nice new bag of pine shavings and proceeded to cover the whole floor of the chicken coop with several inches of pine shavings right over that horrid sand. I don't know if this will work or not, but I cannot take one more minute of sand in the coop. It will be spring until I get my new coop and the thought of going all winter dealing with that sand made me want to cry. So, I am going to just keep adding clean shavings every few weeks just like I used to do and see if that keeps the dust from the sand down until we can build a new coop and get them moved out of their current digs.
Please think twice before you put sand in your chicken coop. It might be ok in the run, but we have had nothing but problems since putting in the coop. Once my new coop is built, I will be going back to pine shavings, leaves, pine needles, etc. and the DL method. I think it is healthier for them and me and more natural as well. Not one grain of sand is going to enter my new coop. This has been a horrible experience for us and for our chickens. Sorry for the long post, but I had to get this off my chest. Now if I could just get the sand out of my lungs, I would be ok.