Need Advice for Run Surface in a Wintery Climate

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Chicken Strut, Sep 25, 2015.

  1. Chicken Strut

    Chicken Strut Out Of The Brooder

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    Jun 2, 2015
    Southern Vermont
    Hello, All!

    First time chicken keeper here.

    I have done quite a bit of research on BYC but am still undecided on the surface that will be best for my run, particularly with Vermont winter coming on.

    I have a flock of 7 that are just reaching the point of lay. They have a run attached to their chicken coop and I don't let them free range. We are at the edge of the woods and while I could let them free range under my supervision and probably avoid foxes, hawks, and the like during the daytime, there are a couple of bands of very quick, large dogs that have the run of the countryside that are in no way scared of me.

    To begin with the run was full of lovely grass but of course that was gone within the first month. So what they have now is dirt. Half of the run is uncovered because I didn't want to deprive them of sunlight. As it turns out, most of the sunshine comes in through the southern side wall so I plan to cover the uncovered end of the run before the snow flies. Even with heavy rainstorms, the run drains beautifully. But with each weekly cleanup I remove more dirt and it's getting a bit "sunken" now. Even if I decide to leave it a dirt run, the dirt will eventually have to be replenished. I would also like a surface that would give them some traction that might help them clean off their poopy little feet between cleanings, if that's possible.

    I have been going back and forth between leaving it dirt, adding a base layer of pea gravel, or adding a base layer of sand. And then what goes on top of that? Particularly if I use sand, which in the winter would get ice cold? My latest game plan is to leave it dirt and to cover it with fine pine shavings from TSC. This is the same surface they have in the coop, using the deep litter method, and it's been working well. Advantages? Disadvantages to doing that?

    I would appreciate your input and recommendations. Thanks! Here's a couple of shots of the run during a recent cleaning.

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  2. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Lots of Chickens Premium Member

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    Gravel can work well if you clean it regularly, we have gone with the deep litter system in my one and only run and it has been a lot better than the cleaning way, we put things like shaving from the coop, grass clippings, old garden mulch, fall leaves, dug up sod, and a nice layer of hay during the winter, my chickens won't stand on snow without hay put down. I don't really turn it, the chickens do that, I throw my old or unwanted produce in there, and give them scratch twice a day, my slowly sinking run is now higher up and drains well, there's no odor either.
     
  3. NewChick521

    NewChick521 New Egg

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    Sep 25, 2015
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    I'm in southern Vermont, too!
    We're getting chickens next weekend and I came on to find answers to this exact question.

    I also read that the coop may not need heaters and such... anyone know if that's true?
    Thanks
     
  4. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Lots of Chickens Premium Member

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    I am in Wisconsin and I have never provided any additional heat, and never will, and my shed is not insulated either, proper housing and acclamation to the weather is my way of dealing with winter, chickens handle cold better than they handle heat.
     
  5. Chicken Strut

    Chicken Strut Out Of The Brooder

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    Jun 2, 2015
    Southern Vermont
    Welcome, @NewChick521! What breed/s are you getting? Exciting! I am in Guilford.

    I'm so glad to hear you say that @oldhenlikesdogs! We do not have electricity to the henhouse and based on what I've read on BYC, including from chicken keepers in Quebec, supplemental heat is not needed and can in fact be dangerous (fire hazard and dependency by the chickens who then aren't prepared for what they suddenly face during a power failure). I picked breeds especially suited for cold weather as insurance.
     
  6. Chicken Strut

    Chicken Strut Out Of The Brooder

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    Southern Vermont

    I am loving the idea of a mixed deep litter run the more I ponder it. It would provide the needed depth and sounds like it would be fun for the chickens to forage in. One of the things that didn't appeal to me about sand was the sense that they would be stuck on a barren beach of sorts.

    If a clean up was needed in the spring, everything could be raked into a compost pile and later spread in the garden.
     
  7. NewChick521

    NewChick521 New Egg

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    Hey! We're in Pawlet, in between Rutland and Manchester.
    I'm getting 3 brown leghorns and a barred rock.
     
  8. Chicken Strut

    Chicken Strut Out Of The Brooder

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    Jun 2, 2015
    Southern Vermont

    I know Pawlet! We're very near Brattleboro. From what I hear those leghorns will lay like crazy! And who doesn't love a barred rock?
     
  9. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    You might want to cover most the run with plastic sheeting or clear shower curtains to keep the snow out of there,
    so they can have some outside time once the snow starts piling up.
    Then just use pine shavings a couple inches deep and you shouldn't have to clean anything out until spring.
     
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