newbie questions on maintenance of sand vs. dirt in run


In the Brooder
6 Years
Jul 22, 2013
S.F. Bay Area
We have 5 chicks in a 4'x8' coop and a 5'x12' run. The run has hardware cloth buried underneath and very rocky soil on top. So when we rake up the poop in the run, we also rake up a ton of rocks. I need a better way, but after sifting through all the threads on this I'm still not sure which way to go.

I like the idea of sand, and plan to start using that in the coop along with poop hammocks. I think I should be able to turn that out into the compost twice a year if it isn't too deep.

But if I put sand in the run, do I have to remove all that sand and replace it periodically? Or do I just rake and scoop and leave the sand alone? We have a tiny, 7000 sf lot — no room for stockpiling sand.

If I have to replace the sand in the run every so often, I'll go with a deep pile of dirt so I can till it occasionally without hitting the buried wire.

Thanks in advance for the help! I'm so grateful for all the experience shared here.
Your sand will wash away eventually and you will need to renew it. Also, if you ever get a problem with your soil (like tons of worms or sickness) where you want to get rid of the top layer of soil it could be handy to be able to till that up.

If you don't want the sand to wash away I have read you can install boards around the run to keep it from washing out, along the bottom.

Inside the coop, I spread a very thin layer on the wood floor and scrape with plastic rake daily, then use kitty litter scoop to remove poo. Poop free coop every day!

The more sand you put, the more to sift through. Less sand = less work inside the coop.

Outside the coop, I only have experience with sand in front of the coop and next to the waterers, and along the path I walk. I have to replace it yearly since it washes away.
I have 4-6" of sand in my run, the fence keeps most of it in. I've never (2 years) had to replace it. There is no smell--I scoop it once/day with a kitty litter scoop. I only have 3 girls, so the maintenance is pretty easy. I really love the sand, it drains really well. The back part of the run is pine straw mixed with grass clippings. I turn that over every couple days, because the chickens can't do it all by themselves! If I don't, that area seems to attract flies. NO flies in the sand areas.
C2CHICKS OMG your setup is SOOO nice !!
Wish mine was like this for my chickadees.. definitely jealous.
Is there a specific sand that you should use ?
I made a border for my run (15'x15') of 2x8 lumber, and then filled in the box with six inches of sand. Best upgrade I have done. It drains wonderfully, so no more mud. The lumber box keeps the sand in the run, so no having it wash into the yard etc. To save money, buy sand in bulk. Bags of sand from the orange or blue box store would have been $500. I bought 3 yards of sand for $60 from a local quarry. Same thing with a stone walk way I built going to the coop. Bags of stone from big box would have been $250, it was $36 from the quarry!
Thank you!! I have a lot fun tending it. I use all purpose sand--it's more coarse than the play sand, plus, it drains really well and they can chomp away at the tiny pebbles for grit. I have used play sand, but prefer the all purpose.
Thanks for the tips! A dumb follow-up question: If you have a sand run, do you need a particular area preserved as dirt for dirt-bathing? Or is the sand sufficient? My chicken guru keeps telling me chicks love dirt, but sand seems so much more practical and easier for my children to help with cleanup.

Our run is squished in a narrow space with only 18" of clearance around it, so I don't worry too much about sand going anywhere.

Much thanks!

P.S. C2chicks, that is such a sweet space!
Thank you--it's a lot of fun! In my experience, the sand is just fine for dust bathing. Since our run is uncovered, when it gets wet, they just dust bathe in their coop sand! We have an area that's dirt, but the girls always choose to roll around in the sand, so I guess they're happy

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