So, I have a separate wooden coop for overnight, but by day my hens will be in the run, or free ranging in the garden. At first they'll have to stay in the run til they acclimatise, and of course I want it perfect for them.
I tend to over-research and over-plan so you can bet I've read loads about different run floors here and elsewhere. I realise that in no way makes me an expert but I don't need pointing at basic starter descriptions, but would appreciate the benefit of your practical experiences.
Originally my plan was sand throughout but I'm physically disabled and it looks like deep litter, while maybe harder to establish, would be easier for maintenance in general? I'm not good at bending in particular, picking up my dog's mess sometimes makes me dizzy or causes pain, though I get it done in the end of course. I'm also close to a lot of houses and hoping it will have less of a smell (although if smell ever became an issue I'd just have to clean up more often!)
So I wonder if you can advise? My run will have hardware mesh on ALL sides, and that includes the floor, because we have a lot of urban foxes. The foxes love to play in my garden, say hi to my dog(!), and steal sausages from a nearby shop's shed and bury them in my plant pots. They always leave me surprises... Grr.
The run will be standing on bare earth (that used to be a herb and veggie patch).
The videos and info I've seen on Deep Litter (DL) make it look like a great option. I'm already familiar with composting and the benefit of nematodes too (I use them to kill slugs and deter ants). But... How do I plan for this and get started?
Given the mesh floor, I can't just dig down. I know the bacteria and nematodes will come from the soil below into the litter tho; they do with my compost heap.
So, I've read you start with 2 inches but it doesn't count as DL til it's about 6" deep and ideally up to 12! Eek, that deep? really? Can you advise if that depth is necessary?
I'm thinking the run needs a plank around the bottom of the sides, so it will keep in litter up to 4 or 5 inches, and I'm not majorly bothered if it overflows a bit (I've seen videos where the hardware mesh largely kept it in, at least for an inch or two). Is this sensible / practical? I do have some planks I can use that were formerly enclosing the veggie patch.
Once that's sorted - the way I enclose / make room for the litter - how do I get started? I can see that I regularly would toss nest bedding into it, also leaves, etc, and rake / turn as needed, scatter corn to get the hens to aerate it - all the "once it is established" stuff - but while I'm setting up the run, in advance of my hens' arrival, what should I be aiming for?
I know you guys will be on hand with advice (please?!) but otherwise, here's the initial plan:
Take the mature compost out of my compost bin, scatter it. That way I know the composting nematodes and bacteria are seeded there and ready to get to work. Add an inch of chipped wood (I'm 100 metres from a forest so I'm asking very nicely to see if I can source some for a low price...)
Right now, I don't have a lot else to chuck in. I have a bag of bark but I know that can get mouldy or have spore issues. Given that the run is covered, and bark from the same source has rotted down nicely without issue in my borders, is there any harm in chucking that in for variety, just to mix things up while we get started? I'm tempted. One bag wouldn't even loosely cover the run floor, there'd just be a few bits here and there, especially if mixed in.
What else can I add, or is that enough to begin with? I was planning to put it in the run as soon as it's built, which should be 2 weeks before the hens arrive, partly just to get it done but also so I can then set everything else up in the run once its got a floor.
I have two more questions I'm afraid!
Firstly, I know not to use DE in DL. What about Zeolite (sweet pdz) - I'm planning to put some in the coop but do I need it in the run? Will it help? Hinder? Do nothing at all? I read about adding lime, is that helpful / necessary? If so, could someone kindly point me at an appropriate product online so I know what to look for?
Final question (phew!) Obviously the point of DL is... It is deep! And gets deeper! How does this work with items placed on the ground? I'm thinking mainly of my dustbath (a tyre that I'll fill with sand and wood ash), the metal bucket style drinker, and the treadle feeder.
So presumably it builds up against the tyre, but that's no biggie, right? But what if the litter gets up around the drinker? And might a build-up of litter stop the treadle from functioning properly? Maybe I should put the treadle on a paving slab or similar and keep it brushed clear? Or am I over thinking, and I simply move the feeder and drinker every time I rake, toss or add to the litter?
Well, that's all my questions! Thanks so much to everyone who made it this far! *waves* And my phone only crashed once during this epic!
I will value and appreciate any advice you guys can offer. Thanks so much!
Edited by techiebabe - 2/15/16 at 7:58am