Beddings For Outdoor Run In Pacnw Rain Shadow?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by alycoop, Nov 13, 2009.

  1. alycoop

    alycoop Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 7, 2009
    Vancouver WA
    I live in Portland OR /Vancouver WA metro area. I've got the indoor run and coop covered with sand and pine shavings - all is good there and those work great.

    My question is about the outdoor run/play area for my hens. They are not out there all day long but only when we are home.

    I think pine shavings will get too mushy and I wanted something to prevent the outdoor run, which was grass, from getting all muddy.
    It is a flat surface and no indication of drainage problems. Just gets "squishy" during heavy rains.

    I was planning to get a couple bales of straw today to lay out...since I have the day off work and can get it all done today.
    My hens are now 5 months old and starting to lay....I wanted something to keep their feet drier and up from mud and any standing water.

    Will straw bales be alright for this?
  2. ColoradoMike

    ColoradoMike Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 12, 2009
    Northern Colorado
    It is my understanding that organic 'bedding' materials are more difficult/problematic to manage in areas exposed to the elements. Sand is the most recommended material to use in outdoor run areas due to the good drainage characteristics.

    How long have you had your chickens? I only ask because most of the experiences I've read about on BYC are that the outdoor grassy areas the chickens frequent are typically denuded of all vegetation within pretty short order (this of course is a function of how many birds you have, how big the grassy area is, and how much time they spend munching on the grass and scratching around).

    Now, all that being said, I've read that some people have used straw in outdoor run areas with good success. I've also read that some have ended up with stinking, rotting straw caked with mud.

    I am going to be getting a few bales of straw to use as a wind break around our secure run area and I imagine the straw will end up being picked apart and scattered around out outdoor 'chicken yard' over the course of the winter. I'm not planning on purposely scattering the straw for a ground cover, though.

    Not sure whether this was any help whatsoever. [​IMG]
  3. chookchick

    chookchick Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 18, 2008
    Olympia WA
    I'm in Olympia, the rain capital of the NW! I use wood chip (material left when tree trimmers work) for my run and I love it! The hens stay nice and clean. Now my soil does drain very well, so I'm sure that helps, and most of the run is covered. I would not use straw or pine shavings--the general consensus is that those don't work well and make a muddy mess. Try doing one area with chip (or bark), one area with sand, and see what works best for you before you commit to a huge amount of material. And yes, that grass probably won't last unless you have a HUGE run area!
  4. Bear Foot Farm

    Bear Foot Farm Overrun With Chickens

    Mar 31, 2008
    Grifton NC
    If you dont want mud, don't put any organic material.
    Sand will stay drier
  5. alycoop

    alycoop Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 7, 2009
    Vancouver WA
    Well, since I had the day off and the chance to run out I went ahead and got one bale of straw before you folks answered!
    I've used straw as a winter mulch in garden beds and it did eventually break down by the next spring but gave me something less muddy to walk on over the winter.

    I've posted a few photos here of what I've done today. I agree about using sand, and have used it in the coop and a small connected run.
    I just didn't have the money to order a load of it for this temporary outdoor run.
    The hens are having a ball in the straw - i scattered some food around and they are scratching away.

    I think it looks very "domestic" which is something to consider if my neighbors come over.

    Oh, I was at the Urban Farm Store in Portland a few weeks back and saw that they had hazelnut shells as a mulch in their nursery area.
    I was wondering how that would do for you think it would hurt or damage their feet?



  6. trilyn

    trilyn Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 13, 2009
    East Syracuse
    OMG-your run is just like mine, right down to the zip ties (mine are black [​IMG]), the only difference is your gabled roof netting!! You know what I mean-I wish I had thought to do that with my bird netting, I just have it pulled taut over the run and the leaves were a pain when they were falling, kept weighing it down and I had to rake it daily. I am redoing the entire run next year and covering it with the pvc panels. Sand will be the footing of choice in there next year, for sure! Right now though, I am considering doing the same thing with the straw because I cannot stand the mud, it is making me crazy, not to say the extra work of wiping the mud off the eggs, apparently mud does not dry instantly from the short trip into the coop from the run! lol

    I absolutely love how "domestic" your run and chickies look, too cute!

    My question to all you bycer's out there is this-is it true that straw harbors lice/mites?!! This is my only hesitation about using it in the run. Help!!! Sorry for the hijacking!!
  7. alycoop

    alycoop Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 7, 2009
    Vancouver WA
    Hi trilyn.... no worries! I have several containers of food grade DE (diatometeous earth) that I mix in with all bedding to deal with mites.

    This temp run is really just a proto-type for what we'll eventually build with lumbar and hardware cloth and heavier wire later on.

    BTW - I was just in your parts in Sept. My dad's family was from up Phoenix and Schroeppel area....about 100 years ago. Gorgeous part of NY!
  8. trilyn

    trilyn Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 13, 2009
    East Syracuse
    Quote:Thank you, we love it here!! I think I'm gonna go for the straw myself and use the DE also-can't wait for spring (I know, it's not even winter yet!!) to build the new one. [​IMG] BTW, your girls look so happy pecking around in the straw! lol
  9. wombat

    wombat Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 23, 2009
    Straw is good if you have the time to rake it out and a use for composting it. We use that with pine needles underneath and it works great. It will get smelly fast when it gets wet if you aren't changing it out, though.

    We want the organic material for gardening, so it is worth the work for us.

    If you want low maintenance, sand is better.
  10. I think you should consider using sawdust. I use it and my chickens scratch most of their poop under so they have a relatively clean coop! We also put all our compost in there and they eat some and compost the rest. We purchased our sawdust from a local mill for about $20 a truck load. We plan on scooping it out in the spring and putting it in the garden for better soil, then putting fresh sawdust in and doing it over again!
    Hope this helps!


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