Mouldy Ground....

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by krista74, Jan 10, 2015.

  1. krista74

    krista74 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    After a week of consecutive temperatures over 40 degrees celcius (100F+) we were delighted when the rain finally broke through.

    The trouble is, it is still so hot and humid that when I awoke this morning I found that every inch of the bare dirt that is our chicken run is covered in a fine fluffy mould!

    I cannot imagine what I can do about this - the run is massive and it would take several trailers of (something?) to cover it, and even then that layer would start growing mould anyway!

    Their coop itself is dry, but my question is will this temporary bout of mouldy ground hurt my birds? I am worried about respiratory infections.

    I am considering going in and raking it all to disperse the fluffy-ness of it. Is this a good idea? Alternatively, I do have some hay that can go down over the area around feed troughs and waterers. Their feed is dry as it has covers over it.

    According to the weather online, we are expecting rain for the next 4 days, after which I presume scorching temperatures will be back and things will dry out.

    Thoughts?

    - Krista
     
  2. chooks4life

    chooks4life Overrun With Chickens

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    I would think this means your soil is sick and you should possibly lime it, i.e. with calcium carbonate, not the caustic limes.

    The name it goes by is random so you need to check the ingredients list, and it should only contain that one ingredient, nothing else. The finer the grade, e.g. dust not granules, the swifter it will do its job. Agricultural, gardening, landscaping and produce stores tend to have it.

    Using this, you just sprinkle handfuls everywhere, covering every square inch more or less, and then you can leave it or water it in, whatever, even dig it in, and you don't have to move the birds. It won't hurt them since this is also a feed additive. This helps control odor, pathogens, parasites, and gets the soil to break down into a healthier state which won't support this sort of monoculture, lol.

    You could add hay to the top as well if you like. Not knowing what this growth is, it might be a good idea, but it will encourage the chooks to dig. They'll mix the lime and soil and hay that way, it should be okay.

    Best wishes.
     
  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

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    Mold needs four things to grow.

    First you need mold spores. There are a tremendous number of different mold spores in nature. They are everywhere. Obviously one that your area meets its requirements for growth is present in your environment, not just in your run but all around. You are not going to be able to eliminate that specific mold spore from your run and nearby environs. For it to blossom that fast, you have a lot of mold spores in your area and in your soil. But the whole earth is infested with mold spores of one type or another. You are breathing some in with your next breath. You cannot get away from mold spores.

    They need food. Different molds can feed on different things, but some type of mold can live on practically every organic thing. Molds play a huge part in converting organic stuff, dead plant and animal matter, to compost. Was that mold only in your run or was in also in surrounding areas? It could be feeding off of chicken poop in your run or it could be living on plant and animal matter in your soil.

    Molds need water to grow, some more than others but they all need moisture. You had some glorious rain. Hopefully that was enough to break your heat cycle for a few days at least and not just turn it into a sauna. I don’t know how fast your run will dry out and stop that mold growth. Raking it to dry it out should help, but how fast it actually dries will depend on several things.

    You need the right temperature for that specific mold. Most of us have seen that some molds can grow in a refrigerator near freezing. Some molds need it a whole lot warmer. That one obviously likes the temperature it saw.

    How dangerous is that mold? I wish I had a good answer. There are a tremendous number of different types of molds. Some are beneficial, some harmful, and most benign. I don’t know which that one is. Moldy feed is considered dangerous because it can possibly kill. Never feed moldy feed. It’s not the mold itself that kills but the byproduct of digestion if certain molds are present. Never feed moldy feed, it’s not worth the risk. When I work in my compost pile the mold really kicks off my allergies but the chickens can scratch and eat in there without any bad effects. Chickens love to scratch and eat in leaf mold. They don’t automatically die or get sick when they do that. I see mold all the time in the garden, on decomposing horse or cow manure, and other places out of doors and don’t worry about it, other than when it kicks off my allergies, and I just work through that. I do wear a mask when cleaning out the coop and sometimes working in the compost because of how that mold affects me. I don’t get sick, just leak like a sieve.

    I don’t know how dangerous that specific mold is, for you or the chickens. I don’t know how Australia works. You might be able to get a sample tested through your ministry of agriculture or maybe your health department. I would not count on that but you can always try. Personally I would not worry about it. I don’t see that I can control it that much, molds are a part of the natural environment, and most molds are benign.

    Of the four things mold needs, the only one I think you have much control over is to control moisture. Rake it to try to help it dry out or try something else. I’m not going to tell you what to do to dry it out when I can’t see it and don’t know anything about your management techniques.

    Good luck! I don’t think you have a serious problem but I cannot say with authority. I don’t know what that specific mold is or how it might affect you or your chickens. I think the mold spores and the food is always going to be there, and when the moisture and temperature hit a critical point it will temporarily thrive. I suspect low levels are continuously growing in there, just not in the amount that becomes noticeable. That’s why there were so many spores there ready to take off when perfect conditions hit.
     
  4. chooks4life

    chooks4life Overrun With Chickens

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    ^ X2, but I would add, it's not normal or healthy to see such a 'monocrop' of mold, lol.

    While it's certainly true that molds are present everywhere, and necessary to the ecosystem, it's naturally kept in balance, and in such imbalance as you're seeing, in response to human-altered and unnatural conditions, it can be pretty reliably considered proof of unhealthy soil. Which is true for any area of soil animals permanently live on in higher density than they'd occur in the wild, anyway, after a while the soil becomes acidic, sickened and soured and needs treating to regain its health, or the animals' health soon follows the soil's health.

    There's varying degrees of unhealthiness and unfortunately many animals live in a permanent state of mild ill health, which can and does pass for 'healthy enough'. Relying on chemicals to control molds for the most part won't work permanently against the most virulent and opportunistic, which develop resistance and even immunity, and chemical treatment also kills the beneficial ones.

    In my experience a dirt coop floor cleaned out regularly is less healthy than a permanent but composting floor, i.e. the true deep litter method, which controls harmful fungi populations by itself. Basically it mimics the forest floor which retains its health despite permanent animal populations, by correct and beneficial balance of fungi, bacteria, etc, digesting the animal byproducts and breaking them down rapidly into a harmless state rather than letting them sit around and feed opportunistic pathogens and the likes.

    Mold taking over like that means something else is lacking, which would naturally keep it in check.

    Like Ridgerunner suggested it's probably growing in the feed or poops, possibly both.

    Helping break the feces down using lime/calcium carbonate will positively impact your chooks in a few ways, not just in terms of removing this possible source of toxins. For all we know this mold is safe and beneficial in moderation, but you don't have it in moderation. Not much is still safe in megadose, especially when talking about molds.

    Best wishes.
     
  5. Fancychooklady

    Fancychooklady Chicken Obsessed

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  6. krista74

    krista74 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thank you everyone for your detailed responses, and also the helpful link.

    I went back for a good look at the run and I think I have some sort of understanding about what has happened.

    The first thing to consider is our climate of late. As noted above, we experienced absolutely scorching hot and humid conditions (40C/105+F) for well over a week. This was followed by a big dumping of rain (40+mm) during which time the temperature remained quite high (28C/83F). Immediately thereafter the temperatures went up even higher to about 38C/95F and it was extremely humid. Yes, things have been pleasant here of late!

    The second thing to consider is the part for which I did have some control, but failed to exercise it! Every morning I throw out a bucket of vegetable scraps into the run for the chickens when they leave the coop. This usually consists of cucumber, lettuce, cabbage and corn. Whilst the coop is picked clean by myself each morning to rid it of poop, I readily admit that I left the vegie scraps to 'decompose naturally' in the run.

    To be honest, I really didn't think much about it until now - when my problem arose! On examination of the run, the fluffiest things by far were the left-over (previously dry) corn cobs. From this, the mould extended out in patches over the ground, joining up with the left over cucumber slices.

    YUCKO!

    Anyway, I think this is where my issue arises from. We have quite a large block (5 acres) and no-where else on the block has mould except for the run and the edges around the isolation pens - interestingly, where there were more left over corn cobs. Don't get me wrong - There were not hundreds of them about, but there were maybe 8 cobs in the run and three or four elsewhere. I concede this may have been what the mould was feeding on.

    So, what have I done about it? I scraped up every piece of vegetable matter from the run and hauled it out to a paddock far, far away. I've relocated their feeders away from where the mould was located. I've replaced (just in case) all of the feed in those feeders. I've examined their coop (dry as a bone, no mould), and their bedding (same).

    Today we got another 30mm of rain. Things are still wet as all get-out, and I can't do anything about that. If I was a wealthy woman I would lay down a thick layer of sand - but I'm not! The dirt in the run is reasonably loose and contains a lot of bark from the overhanging trees, so it should drain out quickly and dry off completely within four or five days - after the rain stops.

    I guess that's the best I can do. Everyone seems fine, and I am cutting way back on vegetable treats, and giving them time out into the rest of the property each day to free-range and get 'fresh air.'

    I am hoping that this will be enough to keep everyone healthy.

    Thank you once again for your responses.

    - Krista
     
  7. Free Feather

    Free Feather Chillin' With My Peeps

    How many birds, in how big of a run?
     
  8. krista74

    krista74 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    At present, I have eight hens and one rooster.

    There are a further three pullets to be added to the flock in due course who are currently still penned within a portion of the main coop. These three are presently eleven weeks old, and I keep them penned to protect them from my cat, who would kill them in a heartbeat. I would estimate that they will go in with the main flock in about a month to a month and a half's time.

    Their coop is 4.5 metres x 4.5 metres (15 x 15 feet) approximately.

    The run is (and I'm guessing here) maybe 10 metres wide x 25 metres long (around 35 x 80 feet). I'm not good with gauging size and only know that the coop is the size it is because I stepped it out! Either way, the run is massive.

    They do tend to hang out in the first half of the run (closer to the coop), rather than the end half of it. The first half is where all the feeders, waterers and shade is located. There are also several roosting spots for them there. The second half is all full of fallen tree branches and scrub, and they will play out there but not often.

    - Krista
     
  9. Free Feather

    Free Feather Chillin' With My Peeps

    That is weird, then. That is alot of space. I was thinking mayhaps an overload of crap in one place was causing the mold. I leave my vegetable scraps in the run all the time with no issues, but I do not live in hot and rainy Australia, either.
     
  10. krista74

    krista74 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Oh no, they are not over-crowded by any means. Upon my innocent questioning hubby readily admitted that our cop could probably handle another eight to ten birds quite comfortably. Foolish hubby [​IMG] He pretty much issued me with a free pass to go and get more hens at some point!

    The run is massive, yes. Plenty of space, and aside from this recent issue it was relatively clean. I don't know if the left over vegie scraps have caused the problem per se, but they certainly provided fodder for it once the problem did arise. I have had chickens for nearly a year now, and yes, they do poop in the run, but it's not a run overflowing with manure by any means. It sort of just breaks down in the soil and 'disappears' if that makes sense.

    Things do seem to be improving now though. We had a couple of days with slightly cooler temps, some wind and another dumping of rain. Upon inspection this morning I can't actually see any mould at all which is great news. I know the spores probably linger but I am confident the birds should be relatively ok in there now. I aim to keep on top of the scraps each day and if they don't eat all their vegies I will rake them away. Interestingly, they do enjoy digging through the compost heap, and I'm sure the food in there isn't fresh!

    - Krista
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2015

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