Keeping uncovered outdoor run clean

equivix

In the Brooder
Jun 10, 2020
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23
North East
Hi everyone!

New to the group and have been browsing for a while! We just built our coop a couple of months ago. We live in an suburban setting and so must follow a few bylaws to keep hens but we're able to do so! That being said, we have close neighbors and want to do our best to minimize the impact the hens have on them.

Because of the setting, we can't have our hens free range, and so we built them a 12x6 uncovered run (4 hens total), and they can get shade and shelter from the rain under the elevated coop (4x8). The run was grass, but as we expected they've gotten it down to mostly dirt at this point. I use chopped straw in the coop (tried shavings and just didn't like them as much), spot clean every couple of days and replace bedding completely every few weeks. The problem is I've noticed flies and some smell coming from the run, can't really clean the dirt very effectively, and it being uncovered makes adding bedding seem impractical. I'm considering river sand or gravel and hoping it acts like kitty litter so I can scoop the poop more easily.. Has anyone had success with this?

My goal is to eliminate the smell and flies as much as possible.... Help!
 

3KillerBs

Crossing the Road
Premium Feather Member
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Jul 10, 2009
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An uncovered run is the perfect place for a deep little system. The cold composting of dry "brown" material and chicken poop is odor-free.

You get the best results from a deep litter system if you use a mix of materials -- wood chips, shavings, straw, fall leaves, pine straw, and any other compost browns that come to hand. You start with a layer of 4-6 inches than add more as needed.

Some people never clean it all out but just harvest compost as needed. I had to clean out my small run a couple times a year when either the pile got inconveniently high or I developed an odor issue that I couldn't solve with another layer of bedding.

The problem with sand is that poop dissolves into it when wet and sticks around. Sand afficianados are almost all located in dry climates. :)
 

equivix

In the Brooder
Jun 10, 2020
14
13
23
North East
Ah, that makes sense! So if the deep litter gets rained on, that's ok? I always though cold compost had to be kept pretty even keel (not too dry, not too wet).
I live in the northeast, so cold snowy winters, hot summers, good amount of rain.

I definitely have plenty of leaf litter, straw, shavings, grass clippings and peat moss to get things going. Do you turn it at all? Or just keep layering every few days to bury the fresh poop? Thanks so much for your help!
 

rosemarythyme

Scarborough Fair
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Jul 3, 2016
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Once deep litter gets going it'll eat up odor as it composts down the poop. Also rain is fine with it- provided that the soil in that location has good drainage and that you use a mix of components in terms of size, shape and material (chunky aged wood chips being an ideal base material for drainage), it'll drain rainwater, keep mud in check, and give you and the chickens a drier surface to walk on.
 

3KillerBs

Crossing the Road
Premium Feather Member
11 Years
Jul 10, 2009
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I definitely have plenty of leaf litter, straw, shavings, grass clippings and peat moss to get things going. Do you turn it at all? Or just keep layering every few days to bury the fresh poop? Thanks so much for your help!

You'll probably want to add some wood chips to keep the texture open and draining if you can get them, but you don't want fresh, green wood chips, you want aged chips.

The chickens will dig in the litter and keep it turned for you, though you might occassionally need to break up any crusty areas. Toss a handful or two of scratch into the litter to encourage the birds to do the work for you. ;)

You add more any time it seems to need it. You don't even have to spread it. There are few things chickens love more than a big pile of leaves to dig in.

If you're expecting continued wet weather you can put a couple intact straw bales into the run for the birds to have something to sit on. They'll happily play king of the castle and, over time, spread the straw around. This would be one time you'll need to get your fork out though -- straw will mat when not mixed with other materials so you'll need to break up mats before they pack too firmly.
 

David61

Songster
Jul 27, 2019
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Mississippi Gulf Coast
It been almost a year and most of my wood chips have been eaten up. All my fall leaves are long gone. I was smart enough to keep all I could in reserve. I'll be adding all that next week with more wood chips. This fall I'll get the mini loader and scrape it out and go again. Only because I want the run compost to put in the garden and flower beds. It needs to set all winter or it will be to hot to use.
 

equivix

In the Brooder
Jun 10, 2020
14
13
23
North East
Thanks everyone! I'm not sure I can find a source of aged woodchips... Would pine mulch do the trick? Most of the garden centers around here have that in bulk.
 

jreardon1918

Crowing
Jul 13, 2016
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Southeast, MA
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Another "vote" for deep bedding. Here is the uncovered part of our run. The fall leaves are almost gone. The only green are plants they leave alone. I take care of those every few weeks. It works here in SE Mass.
 

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