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composting straw bales in chicken yard

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by chickngranny, Oct 23, 2013.

  1. chickngranny

    chickngranny In the Brooder

    Jun 6, 2012
    I have access to straw bales that got wet in a storm and are now somewhat moldy. If I put these in my chicken yard for the girls to paly in will that harm them? I have 34 hens and they'd love sscratching tin them but will it hurt them? Their yard is 40'x120'. We have acreage but they can't free range bc of my labs and coyotes. that's why I gave them such a big area.

  2. ailurophile23

    ailurophile23 Songster

    Dec 21, 2010
    Very interesting question. In general, chickens have fairly sensitive respiratory systems and I would hesitate to have them around mold. However, composting moldy straw bales could be very interesting and all my chickens have always loved digging through my compost piles, which of course have some mold (and often moldy hay or grass) in them. I might give them a bale, placed away from their coop area, and see how it goes. I hope others on BYC will answer as well as I am quite intrigued with this question.
  3. Bear Foot Farm

    Bear Foot Farm Crowing

    Mar 31, 2008
    Grifton NC
    Straw that is spread on the ground and allowed to get wet will form into a dense mat that will not allow oxygen in.

    It will soon begin to produce Methane and smell like "swamp gas", and will breed anaerobic bacteria

    It will also be nearly impossible to remove without intense labor or a tractor

    If you want compost, do it in a dedicated compost pile and not in a chicken run
  4. boxofpens

    boxofpens Songster

    Mar 9, 2013
    We actually put old hay mixed with cow manure in the run for our girls to dig around in when we have to keep them penned up. We got the idea to do that while watching them free range. They're always rummaging through our large manure/hay/pine shaving compost pile, and actually help to break it down faster by constantly turning it over. We don't use an entire bale in their run though, only about a wheel barrow full, and I turn it daily if it gets wet or starts looking mucky. They love it! I'll rake it into a tall pile in the morning and they'll hop on it as soon as I let them out of the coop and start scratching it down. I do this with leaves as well and they break it all down to some very nice dirt. I think a whole bale would be too much. Once it's broken open, it really spreads out and
    mats up, especially if wet, and they can't really scratch through the large mats. I've seen them try around our cow's hay feeder. I have to use a pitch fork for that. But when I turn that over, they dig into it with relish to get any bugs that may be under the wet hay. You could try just a few flakes at a time and
    see how they do with it. Mine have become great little composters. In fact, my husband now has little piles of hay, pine shavings & manure in part of our yard that I'm converting to a garden next year, that the chickens have in various stages of composting. They absolutely love digging in the piles and we haven't seen any sign of respiratory issues. I do make sure to constantly turn whatever I
    put in their run for them to play in / to keep them occupied, in order to keep it from getting stagnant. It only takes a minute or two and there are usually sprouts and grubs underneath that they eat. I've read on some of the BYC forums where people throw scratch onto their deep litter to keep it turned over and/or fresh. Same concept. I just have them break it down to dirt. Then I remove the dirt and start all over. They don't care what they're scratching, they just love to scratch. Our chickens are by far the most productive animals in our household.

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