Chicken run litter necessary?

kennabug987

In the Brooder
Jun 28, 2021
14
36
44
Good morning! I have a picture of my chicken coop and run attached. Inside the coop for the girls I have shaving, but I have also been putting shavings in the run as well using the deep litter method. I am just curious to if it is necessary or not for me to put shavings in the run area? It has a dirt floor bottom. I am also doing the same with my ducks. The coop runs have very little flies and do not smell as of now, and I live in the Appalachian mountains so winters can get pretty cold.
tempImageIgaiay.jpg
Let me know what y'all think or if you have any recommendations!
 

Mtnboomer

Crowing
Mar 17, 2019
1,304
2,538
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Southwest Virginia (mountains)
Very coarse litter would be best as a base. Chickens can compact soil surprisingly quickly. Your run does not appear to be covered? You may end up with a mud hole on your hands should compaction be a problem.

A subsurface drain system can be a cheap DIY project with a little elbow grease, but at the minimum some very coarse mulch would work best. I use the scraps of wood and bark left over from splitting firewood and it does great. It supports the birds, protects the soil, lasts a long time, and has plenty of gaps for water and poo to filter through.
 

NatJ

Crossing the Road
5 Years
Mar 20, 2017
12,049
27,725
916
USA
If the run has a bad smell (too much manure or too much moisture), then adding dry litter will usually help.

Having dry litter can often prevent bad smells and wet spots.

Whether you really need litter depends on your climate, how big your run is, and how many chickens you have.

So it really comes down to a personal decision based on what you want, and what you notice if you do or do not add litter regularly.
 
Last edited:

K0k0shka

Free Ranging
Premium Feather Member
Jul 24, 2019
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If you don't have any run litter at all, the run can get quite poopy and gross, and muddy when it rains. And it will freeze solid in the winter. If you are up for regular cleanings, that can help the poopiness issue, but it will still get muddy or frozen. I have a very low maintenance setup where I never clean the run, and it never gets poopy or muddy. It only ever freezes if it's exceptionally cold (single or low double digits). I have a deep layer of organic matter of different sizes and textures - wood chips, dry leaves, grass clippings from mowing, and other miscellaneous yard waste that I rake up from my yard. The nitrogen in the poop mixes with the carbon in the plant matter and forms an active compost, which the chickens stir constantly. It doesn't smell, and I don't have to clean it. The larger particles (wood chips) provide great drainage so it doesn't get muddy and there are no puddles after a rain. And, again, because of the good drainage, the top layer dries fairly quickly and doesn't freeze in the winter. The deeper layers that stay wet longer will freeze, but the top usually stays loose. I got my wood chips from a dead tree that got shredded, and all the other material is yard waste, so everything is free. I collect dry leaves in the fall and use them throughout the year. I top off the run with leaves or wood chips as needed, and throw the clippings in there every time I mow the lawn. I love this method and highly recommend it!
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
13 Years
Feb 2, 2009
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Southeast Louisiana
I base this type of decision on what I see, not what some stranger over the internet who may be in totally different circumstances tells me. If your run starts to stink you need to do something. If it is too muddy for you to walk in there and the chickens or ducks can't get out of the mud, you should do something. If you don't have problems you don't have problems that have to be solved.

Bedding will not have a big effect due to winter, wet is the issue with bedding. My chickens do not like a cold wind hitting them and they don't like to wake up to a strange white world (snow). Bedding will not effect either of those. You can scatter bedding on top of snow but putting bedding down now won't affect that.

My run is bare dirt and is covered. Snow blows in from the side. Rain blows in from the side so it can get muddy. But it also drains fairly well so it doesn't stink. Mud is a mess to work in so I dumped some pea gravel in critical locations so I can walk around in there. Mine have a large area of grass so they are not stuck in mud.

Some people find that bedding helps a lot. Some like to turn their run into a compost pile. Some people find that if water collects in their run they have to regularly clean wet bedding out of the run or it will mold or stink. We are all in different situations so what works for one or is needed for one isn't necessarily the right answer for someone else.
 

kennabug987

In the Brooder
Jun 28, 2021
14
36
44
If you don't have any run litter at all, the run can get quite poopy and gross, and muddy when it rains. And it will freeze solid in the winter. If you are up for regular cleanings, that can help the poopiness issue, but it will still get muddy or frozen. I have a very low maintenance setup where I never clean the run, and it never gets poopy or muddy. It only ever freezes if it's exceptionally cold (single or low double digits). I have a deep layer of organic matter of different sizes and textures - wood chips, dry leaves, grass clippings from mowing, and other miscellaneous yard waste that I rake up from my yard. The nitrogen in the poop mixes with the carbon in the plant matter and forms an active compost, which the chickens stir constantly. It doesn't smell, and I don't have to clean it. The larger particles (wood chips) provide great drainage so it doesn't get muddy and there are no puddles after a rain. And, again, because of the good drainage, the top layer dries fairly quickly and doesn't freeze in the winter. The deeper layers that stay wet longer will freeze, but the top usually stays loose. I got my wood chips from a dead tree that got shredded, and all the other material is yard waste, so everything is free. I collect dry leaves in the fall and use them throughout the year. I top off the run with leaves or wood chips as needed, and throw the clippings in there every time I mow the lawn. I love this method and highly recommend it!
I might try adding some old leaves as suggest to the mix! We have 70 acres of pasture as well so I could definitely throw in some yard clippings too. Thank you for the recommendations and sharing your method!
 

kennabug987

In the Brooder
Jun 28, 2021
14
36
44
I base this type of decision on what I see, not what some stranger over the internet who may be in totally different circumstances tells me. If your run starts to stink you need to do something. If it is too muddy for you to walk in there and the chickens or ducks can't get out of the mud, you should do something. If you don't have problems you don't have problems that have to be solved.

Bedding will not have a big effect due to winter, wet is the issue with bedding. My chickens do not like a cold wind hitting them and they don't like to wake up to a strange white world (snow). Bedding will not effect either of those. You can scatter bedding on top of snow but putting bedding down now won't affect that.

My run is bare dirt and is covered. Snow blows in from the side. Rain blows in from the side so it can get muddy. But it also drains fairly well so it doesn't stink. Mud is a mess to work in so I dumped some pea gravel in critical locations so I can walk around in there. Mine have a large area of grass so they are not stuck in mud.

Some people find that bedding helps a lot. Some like to turn their run into a compost pile. Some people find that if water collects in their run they have to regularly clean wet bedding out of the run or it will mold or stink. We are all in different situations so what works for one or is needed for one isn't necessarily the right answer for someone else.
Thank you for sharing! Yes, I am sort of getting tired of buying all these shavings for TSC! It is a must for my duck coop and run as they attract flies like nobodies business. But my chickens are cleaner and less stinky, and I am not sure if they directly benefit from the shavings other than it sucking up some moisture after rain. I guess I am most worried about the dirty becoming too wet and them getting bumble foot? Not sure if the two go hand and hand. This is my first time raising and having chickens. Thank you again!
 

K0k0shka

Free Ranging
Premium Feather Member
Jul 24, 2019
4,041
11,152
547
Boston Area, MA
My Coop
My Coop
I might try adding some old leaves as suggest to the mix! We have 70 acres of pasture as well so I could definitely throw in some yard clippings too. Thank you for the recommendations and sharing your method!
I also want to add that the chickens themselves LOVE this type of bedding because it's great for foraging (mine don't free range so whatever's in the run, that's all they've got). They love scratching through it and churning it, and manage to find the occasional bug or worm in there. It's a lot more satisfying for them to scratch through than gravel or compacted/muddy bare dirt. This stuff stays fairly loose and easy to scratch trough and dig trenches in :lol: Sometimes I'll throw scratch grains and then do a light raking so they sink in the bedding (before the chickens come out), and it gives them something to find while foraging. As an enrichment activity for chickens permanently closed in a run, it's a lot better than scattering scratch on top of compacted dirt, which they'll find and eat in about 5 seconds and then be bored :D Mine keep scratching and churning all day and keep finding little treasures. In the spring, they even find sprouts from grains they've missed. All the churning helps the bedding compost, too, and helps bury fresh turds and mix them around with the litter so the floor never looks too mined.
 

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