Chicken run litter necessary?

3KillerBs

Enabler
Premium Feather Member
12 Years
Jul 10, 2009
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North Carolina Sandhills
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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!

This is pretty much what I was about to say.

It's not technically *necessary* to have litter in the run, but a good amount of the right kind of litter solves many problems that might arise, especially odor, flies, and mud -- though no amount and no kind of litter can solve a mud problem that is caused by a fundamental drainage problem.

Like many people here, I use Deep Bedding in my coop and Deep Litter in my run. I have no issues with odor or flies, but I will admit that I'm on extremely, even excessively, well-drained soil.

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.

An excellent point to keep in mind. I rambled on at length yesterday about my decision to use straw rather than wood chips in this run. https://www.backyardchickens.com/threads/thoughts-on-bedding-litter-why-i-chose-straw-today.1481550/

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!

Since your photos are showing woodland, you might try raking up a bunch of leaf litter to use for the run instead of shavings. I put three more gorilla carts of mixed pine straw and oak leaves plus several bushels of lawn clippings into the run this week.

Persistent wet is one of the things that can increase the chances of bumblefoot, but if your overall drainage is adequate then adding plenty of dry organic material is one of the best solutions for dampness.

Coarse material like the sort of wood chips you get from a tree trimming service is the best for drainage. I like a mix of materials better than any one sort, especially if part of that mix is leaves or straw -- which seem to be the worst about packing and matting when used alone.

@K0k0shka's point about the chickens foraging in the litter is a very good one. I never actually spread anything I dump into the run. I leave a pile and the chickens have a blast digging in it and spreading it.

0224211425g.jpg
 

kennabug987

In the Brooder
Jun 28, 2021
14
36
44
This is pretty much what I was about to say.

It's not technically *necessary* to have litter in the run, but a good amount of the right kind of litter solves many problems that might arise, especially odor, flies, and mud -- though no amount and no kind of litter can solve a mud problem that is caused by a fundamental drainage problem.

Like many people here, I use Deep Bedding in my coop and Deep Litter in my run. I have no issues with odor or flies, but I will admit that I'm on extremely, even excessively, well-drained soil.



An excellent point to keep in mind. I rambled on at length yesterday about my decision to use straw rather than wood chips in this run. https://www.backyardchickens.com/threads/thoughts-on-bedding-litter-why-i-chose-straw-today.1481550/



Since your photos are showing woodland, you might try raking up a bunch of leaf litter to use for the run instead of shavings. I put three more gorilla carts of mixed pine straw and oak leaves plus several bushels of lawn clippings into the run this week.

Persistent wet is one of the things that can increase the chances of bumblefoot, but if your overall drainage is adequate then adding plenty of dry organic material is one of the best solutions for dampness.

Coarse material like the sort of wood chips you get from a tree trimming service is the best for drainage. I like a mix of materials better than any one sort, especially if part of that mix is leaves or straw -- which seem to be the worst about packing and matting when used alone.

@K0k0shka's point about the chickens foraging in the litter is a very good one. I never actually spread anything I dump into the run. I leave a pile and the chickens have a blast digging in it and spreading it.

View attachment 2758209

Awesome post and thanks for sharing! It looks like your girls love what you have going for them! We have so many leaves and forrest debris around our house that I will have to try this. It looks more natural and would definitely be more cost efficient in the long run. I enjoy watching the girls look around for little critters too💕
 

K0k0shka

Crowing
Premium Feather Member
Jul 24, 2019
3,486
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Boston Area, MA
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Here are some visual examples of my run bedding.

In the fall, after a round of yard raking, it looks like this:
image.png


Some of the leaves I dump straight in the run, and others I save for later. They come in really handy after a snow storm. Part of my run is covered and I put plastic around the sides, but it's not enough to keep a New England snowstorm out. So after I shovel some of the snow aside, I dump a bag of leaves in the run and the chickens love it (they will NOT set foot on snow and will pout inside the coop all day unless I do something).
image_4.png


Leaves don't last long intact though - soon all the scratching shreds them into bits and they get churned with the general bedding. It looks rich and satisfying to dig through:
image_1.png


After the leaves have been ground down enough, the wood chips are more visible:
image_2.png


This is after mowing the lawn. I dump it in a big pile or two, and the chickens spread it around for me. It entertains them, they eat a bunch, and it helps with the bedding:
image_3.png


If the weather is hot, the grass turns to hay within a few hours and gets mixed around with the rest of the bedding.

I love that the run floor always has a natural, forest floor look to it, and that the poop is hidden pretty well and breaks down quickly. It doesn't ever get gross. And it entertains the chickens in all seasons.
 

kennabug987

In the Brooder
Jun 28, 2021
14
36
44
Here are some visual examples of my run bedding.

In the fall, after a round of yard raking, it looks like this:
View attachment 2758423

Some of the leaves I dump straight in the run, and others I save for later. They come in really handy after a snow storm. Part of my run is covered and I put plastic around the sides, but it's not enough to keep a New England snowstorm out. So after I shovel some of the snow aside, I dump a bag of leaves in the run and the chickens love it (they will NOT set foot on snow and will pout inside the coop all day unless I do something).
View attachment 2758422

Leaves don't last long intact though - soon all the scratching shreds them into bits and they get churned with the general bedding. It looks rich and satisfying to dig through:
View attachment 2758419

After the leaves have been ground down enough, the wood chips are more visible:
View attachment 2758420

This is after mowing the lawn. I dump it in a big pile or two, and the chickens spread it around for me. It entertains them, they eat a bunch, and it helps with the bedding:
View attachment 2758421

If the weather is hot, the grass turns to hay within a few hours and gets mixed around with the rest of the bedding.

I love that the run floor always has a natural, forest floor look to it, and that the poop is hidden pretty well and breaks down quickly. It doesn't ever get gross. And it entertains the chickens in all seasons.
Love the leaves. I think my ladies would love destroying those! I’ll have to try it this fall. Your gals are gorgeous by the way! I can’t wait for mine to finish growing and lay eggs. It’s so exciting to watch them grow.
 

perkolator

Songster
Aug 20, 2019
320
737
166
Placer County, CA
My Coop
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Had both bare ground and mulched runs - by far we prefer the mulched run at our house.

Old coop run was bare ground, observed issues such as visual accumulation of poop and the ground (we have a lot of decomposed granite) would compact into a dense mass which would repel water to a certain point and then turn to muck that smelled, no in between. Also it had flies in the run.

New coop I expanded my permanent run and didn't do anything to the ground in the new section - what little grass there was quickly turned to bare dirt, which started to turn into the same hard-packed mess the old coop had -- so I started adding in leaves, rakings, grass clippings, broken up cardboard, a load of wood chips, some bales of shavings, etc.

Now the 2nd run is almost like a huge composting area, the chickens have a foot deep of added material to scrounge through during the day, and there is a lot of worm presence due to all the organics. I plan on harvesting soil from my chicken run in the future for use in the garden
 

LePetitPoulet

In the Brooder
Aug 30, 2020
11
15
36
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. View attachment 2758001 Let me know what y'all think or if you have any recommendations!
I use mulch in my run, it helps keep it from getting muddy and keeps odor down! Plus the girls love scratching in it! It also helps to keep the ground moist during dry periods and gives them a place to forage for insects and worms!
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. View attachment 2758001 Let me know what y'all think or if you have any recommendations!
 
May 5, 2021
549
907
181
Connecticut
Here are some visual examples of my run bedding.

In the fall, after a round of yard raking, it looks like this:
View attachment 2758423

Some of the leaves I dump straight in the run, and others I save for later. They come in really handy after a snow storm. Part of my run is covered and I put plastic around the sides, but it's not enough to keep a New England snowstorm out. So after I shovel some of the snow aside, I dump a bag of leaves in the run and the chickens love it (they will NOT set foot on snow and will pout inside the coop all day unless I do something).
View attachment 2758422

Leaves don't last long intact though - soon all the scratching shreds them into bits and they get churned with the general bedding. It looks rich and satisfying to dig through:
View attachment 2758419

After the leaves have been ground down enough, the wood chips are more visible:
View attachment 2758420

This is after mowing the lawn. I dump it in a big pile or two, and the chickens spread it around for me. It entertains them, they eat a bunch, and it helps with the bedding:
View attachment 2758421

If the weather is hot, the grass turns to hay within a few hours and gets mixed around with the rest of the bedding.

I love that the run floor always has a natural, forest floor look to it, and that the poop is hidden pretty well and breaks down quickly. It doesn't ever get gross. And it entertains the chickens in all seasons.
Your chickens are so beautiful 🐓❤️
 

cmom

Hilltop Farm
Premium Feather Member
14 Years
Nov 18, 2007
30,111
32,546
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Florida
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I don't add anything to my pens. I do put shavings in the coops. When I clean out the coops the shavings go into a compost pile. I do throw out some scratch in the pens for the birds to scratch and peck through and also grass clippings while the grass is growing. During the winter months I put alfalfa in the pens. The birds like to scratch through it and peck off the tiny green leaves.
IMG_20180503_094047.jpg
 

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