Chicken Run Composting Design planning

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by gtaus, Sep 13, 2019.

  1. gtaus

    gtaus Crowing

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    rWell, my chickens finally scratched all the grass in the chicken run down to the dirt. So I have reconsidered what my goals are at this point.

    I have been dumping my grass clippings on the dirt ground in the chicken run and built up about a 2 inch layer. The chickens loved scratching through the clippings and were always finding something to eat. I also liked the look of the fresh, green carpet, not to mention that it smelled great.

    Then we got a couple days of rain, the grass got wet, turned brown, and started to mat down. The chickens still kept it scratched up, so it was not really a problem. However, I decided I might as well add a layer of woodchips in the run. The chickens quickly mixed the wood chips in with the grass clippings and now I have a nice, spongy, dark brown carpet in the chicken run. The woodchips broke up the grass clippings from matting and when I walk on the litter it is like walking on a damp sponge. There is no smell, and the color of the mixture is about the same color as the tree bark in the yard. So that is working well.

    I also am planning on dumping shredded paper onto the chicken run ground litter, but will cover it with another layer of grass clippings or woodchips. I don't want the chicken run to look like a landfill with the shredded paper, but I am trying to reduce the amount of material I do send to the dump. Also, I don't want paper shreds flying all over the yard.

    Leaves are starting to fall and soon (after this rain spell is over) I will be collecting leaves to throw into the chicken run. I have 3 options to collect and process the leaves and am wondering which system would be best for the chickens (if they even care).

    Option 1) I have a towable lawn leaf sweeper which sweeps up the leaves whole.
    Option 2) I can use my riding lawn mower with grass collection bags to vacuum up the leaves and it will shred them down a little bit, maybe in half or 1/3 original size.
    Option 3) I have a wood chipper/shredder that will shred leaves in about a 16:1 ratio, so the leaves come out in small, tiny bits.

    Considering I plan on dumping the leaves directly on the chicken run ground, which option would the chickens like best? I am thinking they would like the whole leaves and probably would scratch through them and break them down on their own. The easiest for me is to use the lawn mower with grass bags. The most time consuming option is processing all the leaves through the shredder, but I know that the leave bits would break down faster and turn into compost for use sooner. If anyone has thoughts on these options, I would like to hear them. Thanks in advance.
     
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2019
  2. rosemarythyme

    rosemarythyme Free Ranging

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    I throw in leaves whole. No real reason to mulch them down, the chickens scratching at them plus the weather will break them down very quickly with no extra work from you.

    If you're planning on storing them (I store my fall leaves through the following spring and summer, then begin collecting again - I use them for both my compost and the chicken run) they really need to be kept dry as possible, so whatever allows you to gather and store them dry is what you want to aim for.
     
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  3. gtaus

    gtaus Crowing

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    Thanks. I was thinking the chickens might like the whole leaves better. I had not thought about storing dry leaves over winter, but that's another option I could consider. I have lots of woodchips that I had planned on using over the winter, but I suppose dry leaves would be a nice addition to have on hand.
     
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  4. jthornton

    jthornton Crowing

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    I like to get a trash can and stuff it full of leaves then turn it upside down in the run and lift the can off. It leaves a tower of leaves, more fun to watch them tear it down.

    JT
     
  5. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler!

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    Sounds perfect...Observe and Adjust!
    Same will go for the leaves and paper shreds, too much and they can pack 'go nasty'.

    Highly likely.....go lightly with them at first.

    IIRC, your 'run' is an area circumscribed by un-electrified portable poultry fence?
    Any plans to change that for winter to provide more shelter?
     
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  6. gtaus

    gtaus Crowing

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    I have 3 acres of wooded lot, so lots of leaves every fall. But yeah, I have been piling up grass clippings and woodchips into tall towers in the run and enjoy watching the girls tear it down. I'll do the same with leaves.
     
  7. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler!

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    I love to do this too, sometimes they disappear into the pile!
     
  8. Quackter

    Quackter Songster

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    I hit mine with the mulching lawn mower, and use them for bedding. We got a lot of leaves, I put the chickens on the garden in winter. I pile up the "mowed" right outside of their reach. I settle them with them water hose about every 18 inches or so to hold them in place. Then layer them into the pen all winter long with dried grass clippings. We have mainly oak leaves, the pile holds water, but the leaf itself doesn't absorb much, if that makes sense. The PH wasn't as low as I thought it would be from the leaves either, I didn't even add any lime this year. This works well for me, yours might be different. Who knows maybe all that good compost might prompt you to a garden? :) I can tell you it is a real good feeling to fix a whole delicious meal right out of the backyard. Chicken-zucchini-egg drop is awesome.
    You shouldn't have to send your compost to the landfill, I'd say a curb alert on craigslist would have any gardener on their way.
    Wind is the only draw back with whole leaves.
     
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  9. gtaus

    gtaus Crowing

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    I built my 6X12 chicken coop on an old boat trailer frame. It has wheels so I can move it closer to the house in the winter - to access electricity and so my old bones don't have to haul water "all the way back" to the backyard. Actually, it's not that far this time of year, but last winter it was covered by about 4-5 feet of snow. I just don't want to have to maintain that much distance between the house and the coop.

    The fence I have for the 13x13 run is 6 foot tall 2x4 wire with bird netting on top. It can be moved if I want because all I did was pound some T-posts into the corners and wrapped the fencing around. I don't know yet where the WIFE and I decided to move the coop for the winter. So I don't even know if I will have a chicken run over winter. I did, however, make the coop about twice as big as needed for 10 chickens so they might not even need any chicken run for the winter. Many people around here say their chickens don't even bother to go out into the run if there is snow on the ground.

    If I do build a chicken run for the winter, I would want to wrap it in plastic and maybe have a hard roof overhead for the snow. If I go that route, the run would be much smaller, but big enough to get some fresh air and winter sunshine. Maybe no bigger than what I could fit underneath a 4x8 sheet of exterior plywood as a roof. Small, but maybe good enough for winter months. Thanks for asking. If you have any ideas for winter accommodations, I'd love to hear.
     
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  10. gtaus

    gtaus Crowing

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    I do garden, and one of the main reasons I got laying hens was to make compost for me. Compost by the bag is expensive. The eggs are just a bonus. Well, and just the enjoyment I get from having the chickens.

    Not too worried about the wind with whole leaves as I suspect they will stay within the chicken run fencing. Also, the chickens will tear it up and trample that stuff down in no time. Next spring it should have made some good compost for the garden.
     
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