Brand New Chicken Owner With Poop Related Questions

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Tisnelda, Jun 9, 2016.

  1. Tisnelda

    Tisnelda Out Of The Brooder

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    Good Morning BYC! I have tried to find the answers to the following questions, but couldn't find any strains that had them. I apologize if these are repeat and welcome a link to the strain if you are aware of one. Somehow all of these questions come back to poop!

    We have 3 9-week-old pullets settling into their brand new coop and run. We're 3 days in and so far so good. I have 7 and 9 year old daughters who are very hands on. We want to hold and interact with the chickens. My absolute main priority is the health of my family and the health of the chickens. We wear only our rubber boots in the run, and I have been really focusing on teaching the girls good hand washing and careful handling.

    First, the chickens are roosting at night (yay!), but they are choosing to sleep on the poop shelf instead of the bar just above it, so they are laying in a lot of poop. Any ideas for discouraging this and getting them to hop up a few more inches? Should I make the bar even higher? Right now it is just above the shelf.

    Second, They immediately flocked to the nesting boxes for security when we brought them home, and now spend a great deal of their time hiding out there throghout the day. Is this a good thing, since they will see that as a safe/quiet place when it comes time to lay? Or should I be blocking them off from the nesting boxes so they don't continue to see it as a place to hangout and, you know lay in more poop!

    Third, our run is currently grass. I know it won't stay that way, but for now they seem to be enjoying scratching and pecking at the grass and ground. Once again, poop is my concern. Should I be putting bedding in the run to help manage the poop? There is really no way for me to clean out the poop as it stands now.

    Fourth, I have a garden and have been putting the poop that I clean out of the poop tray in the compost. I know it is high in ammonia and should not be applied directly to plants. Is there a general rule of thumb for how long the manure should break down before it is ready to be used as compost?

    Thank you for all of your help. I'm afraid I'm being a little paranoid about all of the poop, the chickens laying in poop, and my daughters touching the chickens. I need some newbie reassurance. :)

    Thanks again!
     
  2. Cacique500

    Cacique500 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Lets see if we can tackle a couple of these...

    1) A picture would help, but if they're roosting on the lip the answer would be to raise the lip. I built a beautiful roosting area with a 2x4 (4" side up) over a box filled with pdz...and of course they never sleep on the 2x4, they sleep on the front lip of the box. I've got a few inches of clearance between the back end of the hen and the pdz layer, so it works ok and they don't lay in the poop.

    2) I'd block off the nesting boxes till they're much older. When you put your hand down towards the chicken and they squat and spread their wings out they're getting close to point of lay...then it's time to unblock the boxes. Think you'd be safe leaving it blocked until they're 3 or 4 months old. Also make sure your roosting area is higher than your nest boxes or they will sleep in them.

    3) Pics would help on this too. you're right, it won't be grass for long. There's many different schools of thought on materials for the run.. Sand, pdz, pine shavings, dirt, etc. I think one of the key things here is to keep the run DRY (covered roof and water draining away from the run). I'd also recommend trying to find a way to clean the poop out on some kind of maintenance schedule. Wet runs that aren't maintained (i.e. poop removed) will get really smelly and will fill up quickly with flies.

    4) I've got one of the big composting bins and it usually takes 3 to 6 months for everything to break down for me...YMMV.
     
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  3. Rock Home Isle

    Rock Home Isle Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sounds like a great backyard project for you and your family.

    The birds sound to be about the same age as my new flock. They will adjust to the coop and run over time. Roosting on the poop board is common, they will eventually figure out that that thing above where I've been roosting is more comfortable. They are chickens after all....

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    You will want to keep the birds out of the nesting boxes. If they think it's okay to sleep, rest, play in the nesting boxes, you will be very busy cleaning out the boxes or washing dirty eggs. Yeah...try to keep them out of the boxes.

    Grass in the run is awesome...the birds will love it and the eggs will be noticeably better quality if your birds have access to grass and fresh green forage as part if their diet.

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    Composting poop is a great idea. If your compost is active, then 4 to 6 weeks should be more than enough to break down the manure. For me, I clean out the coop and nest boxes twice a year and dump all of it into the garden. Then I turn the girls loose on it. It takes them about 2 weeks to work all that material into the soil. I do this about late March/early April so that it is all composted and incorporated by the time I plant my garden in mid-May.

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    You are going to enjoy your birds. Sounds like you are off to a wonderful start. Show us some images of the girls and your setup...
     
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2016
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  4. Tisnelda

    Tisnelda Out Of The Brooder

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    Here are some photos of our setup. We lock them in the coop at night, but I'm already planning to change my window screen to hardware cloth. I can close the window to secure them, but I'm afraid that will be too hot mid-summer. The coop is about 3 ft x 5.5 ft. and 48 inches tall inside (42 in. at the back). I built 2 nesting boxes on the left wall with an egg door. The poop shelf is above the nesting boxes and roost above that. Run is 36 square feet. As you can see we built it all in around the existing play set
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    Here's my best attempt at interior photos. My hubby made me a v-shaped poop tray out of scrap aluminum. I hoped the v shape would discourage roosting, but they found the cozy little spot between the tray and the wall. I propped a piece of plywood there just now to see if that solves the problem. You can also see the chickens laying in front of the nesting boxes I just blocked off as well.
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    Finally here's the girls. Louisa, Brigitta and Gretyl. (What can I say. I'm an elementary music teacher.) We are very excited to have this backyard project and I'm so glad I have my summer off to get comfortable with the routine before I go back to work! Thanks for all of your input and help!
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  5. Rock Home Isle

    Rock Home Isle Chillin' With My Peeps

    Louisa, Brigitta and Gretyl...one of my wife's favorite movies. [​IMG]
     
  6. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

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    dirty chicken are no fun, and getting them to roost will really help. Chickens are habitual, the trick is getting the right habit. If the plywood did not work, try removing the poop try for a couple of days. That will get them up on the roost, and once there, they will tend to stay there. Then add back the poop board.

    As for poop and compost - different people do it differently, I do like the poster up above, I don't have a poop board, mine just falls into the hay I line the floor with. Occasionally I throw scratch in on top of the hay, and the chickens digging through the bedding, break up the clumps, and spread it evenly into the bedding. In the fall and early spring, I put all of that on my own garden, mixing with the soil or using it as mulch. However, I want to point out, that the manure is mixed with a large amount of organic matter, and later with the soil, so it is not concentrated.

    The poop board, keeps the bedding much cleaner, and is a quick and easy way to keep your birds manure out of the set up, especially a smaller set up like yours. A quick swipe, it is collected and placed in a compost. My point being is that this is nearly 100% manure, with little to no bedding mixed in. This is highly concentrated manure. I think that this pile should wait nearly a year, before you add it to your garden. If you do add it earlier, you will need to dilute it by working it into your soil thinly.

    Mrs K
     
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  7. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Chicken Obsessed

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    As long as you're covering your window screen with hardware cloth, you might want to consider reinforcing the chicken wire around your run with it, too.
     
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  8. Tisnelda

    Tisnelda Out Of The Brooder

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    Thanks for the tips, everyone! I know we need to amp up the predator proofing. The chicken wire/hardware cloth is a sore spot right now. I wanted hardware cloth, but hubby (who is less on board with the whole chicken idea) thought the project was getting way too expensive. I insisted chicken wire wasn't strong enough.....he insisted it would be just fine. He is very handy and smart, and builds things for a living, so it's hard to argue with him. Once the chickens were here and my dog came into the yard it took about 5 mins for him to realize I was right. My dog hasn't hurt the chickens or anything, but seeing her interested in getting in makes the chicken wire look pretty dinky. Now we have to undo the wire and redo what we already did with hardware cloth! For now I'm letting it go while the ego is still freshly bruised, lol. The coop is secure at night, and the yard has constant traffic during the day. I'm home all summer, there are dozens of neighborhood kids in my yard all the time (even when we're not home), and my dog is never out without me. I'll get it all secured by fall with an apron to boot.

    As for the compost situation, I have a compost heap that I plan to dump the manure into and mix it in. We add lots of grass clippings and table scraps, plus coffee grounds, newspaper, leaves, etc. Plus I'll be replacing the pine shavings in the coop somewhat frequently and those will go in, too! Do you think that mixes it in enough? What is the danger to putting it on the plants too soon? Killing the plants? Or harming the people who eat from the plants?

    Thanks so much for all of your help and concern! I would never be brave enough to take on this endeavor without all the fabulous resources and people on BYC!
     
  9. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Chicken Obsessed

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    Instead of getting rid of the chicken wire and totally replacing with hardware cloth, another thought would be to get welded wire (ours is 2"x4") and just put over the top of the chicken wire.
     
  10. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

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    That is how mine is chicken wire to keep the chickens in and welded wire to keep predators out.

    As for the safety issue - it is impossible for me to say with out me being there, but some general rules:
    Always wash what you eat from the garden, that will get rid of most germs, even a rinse with the garden hose will drastically reduce any bacteria on the food. And as for the plants, try it in small areas first, if they thrive - you have the mixture right, if they burn - it is too strong.

    Mrs. K
     

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