We have an enclosed 5x10' run with a roof for our three chickens. Since we got them in the spring, we have used a combination of pine shavings and sand in the run. I scoop out droppings every day or two, and so far maintaining the clean run has been super easy. For the winter (snowy) months, I was planning to wrap the run in heavy-duty clear plastic to help keep snow out (to the extent that it is possible), but I doubt that I will be able to keep up the schedule of scooping poop on nearly a daily basis, what with the frozen ground and cold temperatures and all. So my question is this: I have an abundance of maple leaves in my yard right now. Does anyone have any experience using finely mulched leaves in the run and simply adding a fresh layer on top of the old every so often or as needed until spring, when I can clean the whole thing out? What do people generally do with their chicken runs in the winter, especially in northern climates?
mulched leaves for winter run?
Featured Stories on BackYard Chickens
I've never used leaves in a run, my chickens have such a large barn (it use to be used for sheep and horses among other animals) that they just stay inside all winter without being crowded. However, using leaf mulch sounds like a great idea. Wet leaves can get smelly, so make sure they are well composted so that doesn't happen.
Lots of people use leaves here. I tried it and didn't like it but mine were whole maple leaves not mulched. Mulched might be better. I found the poop just sat on the leaves and the leaves weren't absorbent at all. Made for an awful stink! I use pine shavings as the bulk now but still add a few leaves.
I like the idea of using pine shavings mixed in with the leaves to increase absorbency. Any thoughts on letting the leaves become leaf mould for several weeks and then using that? Is there any reason that leaf mould would be harmful for chickens?
Edited by Bridebeliever - 11/4/15 at 4:27pm
It sounds like the key might be to mix the leaves with other materials, too. Also, the chickens probably do the "leaf mulching" all by themselves with all their scratching, which makes perfect sense once I stop and think about it!
We use mulched leaves and grass clippings in our not covered 7' x 30' run that is for "free range" time for our four chickens. I never need to scoop out the poop, just let everything decompose in place. The finer materials let the moisture seep through to the dirt below, so it is much more absorbent. It has been well received by the chickens to have a soft bedding to walk on and scratch around, and help us to be more environmentally sustainable.
Last year, we put the un-mulched leaves and pine needles directly in the same run. It didn't compost, didn't absorb moisture, did not work out well, had to scoop out everything for leaves collection. So mulching the leaves and pine needles was the key to manage moisture and speed up compost.
Inside our coop and the attached covered run, we use pine shaving, poop board and deep litter method, it has been very low maintenance.