Land under runs becoming toxic?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Sinfonian, Feb 1, 2011.

  1. Sinfonian

    Sinfonian Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 24, 2011
    Seattle area
    Hi, as you can see I'm new here and am planning on chickens this spring. I have read and heard multiple places that land under runs becomes toxic to man and beast over time. For this reason, we have opted to build the heaviest chicken tractor I can move for the 4 chickens I plan to get. I also plan on building one or more arks to let the hens roam within limits during the day.

    Has anyone here run into that issue or can quantify it a bit for me? How long are we talking for a flockette my size?

    I would like to keep the coop where it is for as long as possible as it's near the compost bins, in an area where I don't care about the lawn, and near utilities with some wind break from a fence.

    Thank you!

  2. Bleenie

    Bleenie Wyan-DO's

    What you've probably read about is the acidity & amonia in the chicken poo, there are things you can do to the land in your run to keep it "healthy" for your birds & you. Agricultural Lime tilled into the dirt helps get rid of smells and, i believe, will also kill some bad bacteria.

    Check out this thread:
  3. pharmchickrnmom

    pharmchickrnmom Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 13, 2010
    Richard--not quite sure about the toxic part but I will tell you that our experience with 8 hens in a tractor has been good. We have an 4x8 tractor with a portable run and skirt. We move it 8 feet every day or every other day around our yard. This allows us to get about a months worth of grazing on our side lawn and about 2 weeks off our back lawn. The chickens arent on it long enough to destroy it (except if they dig a hole to dustbath but then its not that big and we just fill it in) and the poop usually breaks down pretty quick, especially if we have rain or I wet it down with the hose. Actually, it grows back nicer after they have been on it. I will tell you that if they have been on a piece of ground for a long time, it will be dirt. I have the tractor parked for the winter on our side lawn and make a point of scraping out under the tractor and in the run at least once a week to remove as much poop as possible. I will have to reseed this area in the spring. I believe that good housekeeping makes for a healthier flock and living space for the birds. If you plan on having a tractor, then you can move it as often as you would like to keep the chickens from destroying the lawn that they are on. Like I said, we move every day or every other day unless we hit a spot that has very long grass, then we go three days.
  4. speckledhen

    speckledhen Intentional Solitude Premium Member

    Toxic? Well, it becomes some of the richest garden dirt you can have, from experience.
  5. A.T. Hagan

    A.T. Hagan Don't Panic

    Aug 13, 2007
    North/Central Florida
    It's called "fowl sick" and means that the manure (and eventually parasites) build up to the point that you can't keep birds on it any longer. How long it takes for this to happen depends on how many birds there are in a given amount of area, the soil type and drainage, and the management practices used to keep them. The deep litter system was developed to cope with this and properly applied it can work quite well.

    If the run turns into a foul smelling mud hole with every rain it's going to become fowl sick much sooner than a run that is well drained and never muddy, especially if there is four or five inches (or more) of a good, absorbent organic litter on top. In fact if you take some of that litter out once in a whle (excellent garden fertilizer) and replace it then it likely never will become unusable.

    The first few years a run is in use is the easy part. It's when it gets a little age to it that management becomes very important.
  6. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Quote:It totally depends. On your soil type, your drainage, your climate, your run size, your number of chickens, and whether you put anything else in the run.

    It is not IMO something to really worry about though. Yes, as time passes the soil can get sufficiently compacted and weird-pH and nutrient-lopsided that plants won't grow well there, but you were not GOING to grow plants in the run ANYhow, so what difference does it make? And if you manage it well and have cooperative soil/drainage/climate it may not ever get that way to begin with.

    It is not dangerous to humans btw.

    If you want to worry about something vis-a-vis a permanent run, worry about the buildup of internal parasite eggs. Which WILL happen, but is still not usually a big problem for a well-managed backyard flock.

    I would suggest that if you are really wigged out over this "damage to soil structure/chemistry" thing, it would be more effective overall to build a fixed coop with two or more runs that you can rotate between every six months or a year, so that the soil has a chance to rest and fix itself before ever getting too badly messed up. It requires a bit more fencing, but <shrug>. It is much more predatorproof-able and can be made much, much LARGER than any tractor-and-moveable-pen setup could be, so it is better for the chickens in that regard.

    JMHO, good luck, have fun,


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