I HATE sand, now what do I do? (Help me with my run flooring)

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by goldfishes, Nov 28, 2014.

  1. goldfishes

    goldfishes Chirping

    Jun 13, 2014
    I have six hens that cannot free range as planned because of constant predators. I thought the fact I lived in the city and had a six foot privacy fence that it would be feasible, but so far, feral cats, possums, owls and now hawks are constantly visiting the back yard. The run is 6 x 12 and is covered. We plan to add at least another 6' x 6' area next year since it looks like the predators are not going away.

    I tried sand, but hated it. The chickens didn't like it, sand got everywhere, they wouldn't eat food that got on the ground and one kept eating it to the point she got sick twice. When it rained, water would get in through the sides of the run and it these edges reeked until it dried out. Since we have a lot of rain and humidity in this area, it wouldn't dry out for days. It got so nasty that I scrapped it all out, sprinkled the run with a layer of lime and added some fine shavings to help draw up the moisture.

    Throughout the spring and summer, I left it with just dirt and would throw out a flake of straw or some shavings. I would rake this up weekly and start fresh. Unfortunately, they have created some craters in the hard clay and I would like to add more dirt but don't know how without possibly introducing dangerous elements like coccidiosis to the flock.

    So I started wondering, could I just keep adding more and more bedding and leaves to the run without raking them out? Eventually, this could break down and become composted dirt which would fix my crater issues. And I could "harvest" some for the garden. Is this safe to do or will it be unsafe or unsanitary as it breaks down?

  2. Probably a 99.9% chance your birds already have coccidiosis, it's everywhere and in almost all chickens, they just build up an immunity and it stays in check... I would not be overly concerned with adding more dirt/soil as long as it wasn't sourced from say a chicken farm... If you are overly concerned (it's really the wrong time of year to do it yourself) Google up steam sterilization of soil, either find a local supplier or wait until spring and do your own, IMO it's likely overkill...

    Your other idea of composting is also AOK...
  3. yellowchicks

    yellowchicks Chirping

    Jun 27, 2014
    My Coop
    As you had experienced, sand does not work well in wet condition if the sub-grade is not permeable to drain it (such as on clay or on concrete patio). Sand also does not decompose, but it can be mixed in the compost to create a more sandy soil.

    What you have done so far, removing the sand, adding top soil (not garden soil) on the bottom and wood shaving on the top is fine. There is no need to rake out all the bedding materials weekly.

    If the run is covered, deep litter method should work well on the dirt ground. Just keep adding the pine shaving whatever works to control odor and moisture when it starts to get smelly or wet. Stir the bedding daily if you can, a quick rake is all you need. The shavings and the chicken poo will breakdown to fill the holes on the ground, so not to worry. Remove 2/3 of the bedding material every 6 months, let it compost for several months (depending on the temperature), then use it in your garden. Add new bedding in the run to start your next cycle of deep litter.

    People have different preferences of the bedding materials, it really depend on the climate and your setup, find one that works for your conditions.
  4. CliffB

    CliffB Songster

    Oct 5, 2014
    This is what i just said in another thread.
    1 person likes this.
  5. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    What you're talking about is basically a deep litter method for the run, and it's great. I cringed when reading you're raking out straw and shavings--leave that in there, and just add to it as needed. I go by smell, and sometimes don't have to add material for months. During the winter (rainy PNW, here) I use lots more straw as it breaks down slowly and helps keep the bird's feet out of the mud. When it dries out, toss some corn or scratch out there and let the ladies turn it for you--why do that work yourself? I clean mine out once a year or so and put it in the garden. Between the chickens and the horses, my garden is the envy of my friends!
    3 people like this.
  6. I use deep litter for my coop, and plan on using it for my run. I'll be putting leaves, pine straw, shavings, grass clippings and what have you in the run and coop both. My chickens have been in the coop almost 8 months now. I have never changed the litter and it has never smelled. Only time you can smell it is when someone has a fresh poo.
  7. goldfishes

    goldfishes Chirping

    Jun 13, 2014
    Thanks for all the answers, especially the one on birds already having coccidosis and it is now just controlled if the bird is kept healthy! You don't know how much I've worried about that disease in particular.

    Donrae, if it helps you to cringe less, I was adding this raked up material into a huge compost pile all the while. I was able to grow grass for the first time since moving here after incorporating some of this into the soil. One of the many surprising benefits of chickens! :)

    As far as the deep litter method, is this something you avoid doing in the summer months to prevent heat building up? Or do you just do it year round? So far, I've noticed that not raking it up brings lots of critters to the pen which makes the birds happy. What if the chicken feed gets spilled in the run as it inevitably does? Do I need to rake up that area to avoid botulism or mold? Or do I leave it to decompose?

    Since I am on the subject, does DLM attract pests like mites? And how do you deal with the dust in the coop if you only change a few times a year? So far, I've been picking out poo daily since my coop is smaller than what people on here seem to have (a little under 3 square feet) and every two weeks, I would rake everything out and toss it into the run for them to play in for a week or 10 days.

    Also, thanks for the information on the straw. The girls tend to love it, but I was worried about using it too much as it is very rainy here as well pretty much all seasons. What happens if if gets wet? Occassionally, there is a really bad storm and the ground gets soaked everywhere even in the covered run. I am trying to deflect as much water as I can but sometimes it's completely unavoidable. Do I take out the areas that get the wettest or just churn it up and let it dry out? Will this hurt the birds?

    Sorry for all the questions, but I've tried to find information on deep litter method in the run, but it seems everywhere I've looked uses sand. I've found very little research on the DLM for outdoors.

    Thanks again to you all for the help. It is greatly appreciated!
  8. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler!

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    I had to dig a trench to control/divert the rainwater(and snowmelt) that meanders thru the run area...it still goes thru the run but in one place instead of all over and it's now away from the part of the run that's under the coop so it stays dry, they love to drink from their 'stream' when it's full. Luckily my soil is fairly sandy so it drains pretty fast.

    I do put down some straw near the ramp and pop door when it's mucky and over the snow in the winter to entice more chicken wandering.
    I just keep the straw layer thin(and the chooks will scratch/spread it around) so it doesn't get slimy and if it does pile up just spread it out with a rake.
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2014
  9. Mtn Laurel

    Mtn Laurel Songster

    May 18, 2012
    Northern Virginia
    My Coop
    We had a section of our run that was getting run-off water from a nearby hill. We solved that by using sand bags to block and divert the water. Believe DH got the empty sand bags at home depot and we filled them here. Worked great. Now that the problem has been fixed, I'm using that sand in their dusting box.

    I do deep litter in my run, as well. Love it, as do the girls. Anything organic - straw, leaves, wood chips, sawdust, shredded newspaper - goes in there and I dig out fantastic compost for the garden in the spring. Another plus is that the organic matter attracts leaf litter eating bugs and worms that become chicken snacks. Happy Hens!
  10. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    I do it year round. Now, I have a larger coop and run....coop is maybe 8x20? and run is 32x 48..I'm spatially impaired so those my not be accurate, but it gives you an idea.

    My run is a continuous compost area. All types of organic material go there, and all food scraps get tossed in there except onion peels. The birds eat most of it, and what they don't care for gets broke down anyway. I'll even dump a barred of horse manure in there from time to time for the ladies to scratch through...they think it's a buffet [​IMG]

    I've not had a problem with the straw getting moldy when it gets wet. I try not to let it clump too much, I toss flakes in and throw a handful of corn on them, the ladies get nice strong leg muscles scratching through the flake and scatter the straw out nicely in the process. If you had a big clump or something it might get moldy, but scattered out it seems to do okay. The straw gives the birds something to walk on and keeps their feet out of the mud, which is a constant battle here.

    I feed in the coop, and keep the feeder nice and high so there's not much spilled. If I notice a fair amount of feed on the ground, I simply don't fill the feeder for a day or so to encourage the flock to pick up after themselves. Eating off the ground doens't hurt them a bit and keeps my feed bill down, I couldn't afford all that waste.

    I've never had problems with external parasites. Not sure why some folks battle them so much, but they've never been an issue for me. The deep litter gives them something to dust bathe in year round, and I do put our wood stove ashes out for them to use also. Other than that, I think enough space is crucial. A crowded flock is going to be a stressed flock, mentally and physically.

    I guess my coop is a little dusty, but not so much I've ever been bothered by it.

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