Ice and Water are Making Soup of Our Coop

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by ChickenChuckles, Mar 2, 2015.

  1. ChickenChuckles

    ChickenChuckles Out Of The Brooder

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    Jan 12, 2015
    Hi Everyone,

    The winter has not been kind to our coop or run. How do the rest of you deal with the snow and ice and melting of spring?

    Let's start with our coop problems. It was built of wood 30+ years ago for meat birds, which were never overwintered. This is our first year on the property, and we're using it for layers. We replaced the floor with thick fir boards, but we're now learning that all the snow on the surrounding land drains into our chicken run and therefore trickles into the coop, making a soggy mess.

    We were using the deep bedding method to avoid coccidiosis naturally, which had to be tossed aside 6 weeks ago when the dampness became too overwhelming. We've since been mucking out all the hay down to the fir flooring every week, replacing it with brand new hay. That said, it wasn't enough and we lost a chicken yesterday, and the culprit appears to be coccidiosis, making my concerns about our coop condition that much greater.

    We're thinking about putting in treated 2x4s as joists on top of the existing flooring and putting a flooring above it. Then we'd raise the coop door and build a ramp to the coop, hoping that the extra 4" in height will keep the coop more dry. Would that even start to solve the problem?

    Next, the run. Metres of beautiful grass are now covered in a thick layer of ice. The chickens go outside, poop on the ice, and it turns from a skating rink into a pooping rink. There is now a good 1/4" of poop smeared on the ice in a half circle out of the chicken coop door. We never feed on that portion (obviously) but on the ice beyond it hoping to leverage the old adage that "the solution to pollution is dilution." Nonetheless it's getting disgusting.

    I thought about throwing hay on top and mucking it out every so often, but that just feels like it'll make a bigger mess. What do you do?

    The section of the run that gets the most sun has melted and the chickens are destroying what little is left of the grass roots. The problem is that they're concentrating poop there too, making it a muddy, poopy mess, that they're pecking in.

    Where do we even start?

    We want our chickens to have free access to the outdoors, but the outdoors appear very unkind this time of year. How do we keep our birds healthy in this weather?

    Thanks for your help.
     
  2. Alaskan

    Alaskan The Frosted Flake

    Unfortunately, you will have to work with whatever 'make it do for now' things that you can come up with....until you are in 'building weather'. (ie. your ground is thawed)

    For stop gap things..... I would find free pallets, toss some inside the coop, and then put wood chips on the pallets... and ALSO toss pallets outside on top of the ice in the run.

    You could, right now, make a frame with wire on it, I think there are picture of them somewhere here on BYC with the name "grazing frame" or "grow frame". The point is, think a thick picture frame, like for a fancy painting, and instead of a painting, a layer of wire.

    You toss that frame on the ground... now the chickens can NOT touch the ground or scratch up grass roots, but can eat the grass after it grows at least a half inch, to two inches tall (depending on the dimentions of your grazing frame). This is a great idea to keep part of the run grassy.



    OK, what to do after everything thaws....

    You need to divert the water. You can make an edging around the uphill part of the chicken run and coop that shifts the water to run around it. You can also dig trenches around the run and/or the coop.

    If the coop has been sitting in a muddy spot for years, I would check it closely for rot.... Even a good size coop, can usually be relatively easily jacked up, and then you can put a better foundation under it, dig out lots of that dirt and replace with drain rock and sand to help drain things...

    You can also greatly increase the size of the roof of the coop, so that all rain and snow dumps further away... and that will help reduce flooding issues.

    And yes... spread the poop around more........ increase the size you have... more square feet per bird means less nastiness. A roof and one solid wall in the run will make it warm, dry, and comfortable even during nasty snow, ice storms, or what have you nasty weather.

    However, with that said, when things are freezing quickly... there is not much that you can do about a poopy run... it all freezes together in a solid sheet.... In the non-frozen times of the year, you can rake out the run on occasion to keep it looking nice.
     
  3. ChickenChuckles

    ChickenChuckles Out Of The Brooder

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    Jan 12, 2015
    Thank you so much. We have pallets, what an excellent idea. I appreciate your ideas for once the thaw allows us to build as well.
     
  4. ChickenChuckles

    ChickenChuckles Out Of The Brooder

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    Jan 12, 2015
    We're discussing how to apply the pallets, and we're thinking ahead to next year... even if we do stop the flow of snow run-off, or move the coop across the property to higher ground, we're still going to have the issue of ice covered ground in the run every winter. Do you put pallets down in the run every year? As far as scale, next year we'll have 100 chickens and turkeys.
     
  5. Alaskan

    Alaskan The Frosted Flake

    why is the ground ice covered?

    I only get ice on the ground for the following reasons:
    - spillage from the waterer, or carrying the water out
    - dripping off of the eaves of the coop
    - if everything in the world is covered in ice (because there was snow, then it melted, then it froze)
    - the blocks of ice that we toss out of the waterer


    so, moving where the waterer is can help a great deal, also increasing the roof size can be very helpful...
     
  6. ChickenChuckles

    ChickenChuckles Out Of The Brooder

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    Jan 12, 2015
    Our entire world is covered in ice right now because of this year's weather. Snow, melt, freeze, repeat.

    Our hay fields are covered in 2 feet of ice crusted snow, and everywhere we used our snowblowers is a thick sheet of ice. Even our sizeable pole barn is an ice rink because of snow blowing across the land which then melted and froze, so the idea of a roof over a run even seems unlikely to solve our problems.
     
  7. ChickenChuckles

    ChickenChuckles Out Of The Brooder

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    Jan 12, 2015
    PS - There's no ice on the floor of our coop - just our chickens' outdoor run, which they use daily. That's what I'm referring to when I say that even offering a covered outdoor area wouldn't likely help, considering the current state of our pole barn.
     
  8. Alaskan

    Alaskan The Frosted Flake

    yep, I agree, if the entire world is covered in ice... there isn't much you can do.... I would just toss a pallet or two into the run... of course, if you get another round of snow that turns to ice, that will get covered too.


    Just bad weather [​IMG]

    You could I guess roof the run, and do solid walls on maybe 2 sides of the run... that might keep the blowing snow out... and that would keep the run ice free.

    Pretty tricky.....

    Your other option is to make a much bigger coop, pretty much a coop with indoor run.... that is very much what this guy did, a Woods style open front coop:

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/445004/woods-style-house-in-the-winter
     
  9. ChickenChuckles

    ChickenChuckles Out Of The Brooder

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    Jan 12, 2015
    Thanks, that was inspirational. We've figured out what's going on and have made a new plan.

    Aside from a very icy year, we've discovered that during above freezing temperatures the melting snow runoff from the upper areas of the property has been flowing like a creek beneath the snow and making its way under our chicken coop. It's flowing beneath the floor (making the fir planks wet from underneath) and out into their run, turning that into a swamp on above freezing days and an ice rink of freezing days.

    We've assessed how we could fix this and it's looking like it'd be cheaper to build a new coop on higher ground in a different section of the property than to remediate the water flow with ditches, drainage, gravel, etc. As spring melts the snow pack (ice pack this year), we're starting to see which areas are most accommodating for chickens and will be building there. We're designing a coop with a covered section of outdoor run as well, just to cover our bases.

    Thanks for your thoughts, they were very helpful!
     
  10. Alaskan

    Alaskan The Frosted Flake

    good luck to you!

    It is kinda fun making a coop after having a coop, since you have a much better idea of what works and doesn't work for you.
     

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