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Outdoor run material

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by EmeraldSkye, Jul 26, 2014.

  1. EmeraldSkye

    EmeraldSkye In the Brooder

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    Oct 1, 2013
    San Jose, California
    We have a coop, an enclosable predator-proof run, and a larger outdoor run area. In the coop I use rice hulls. In the smaller predator-proof run I use pine shavings. In the larger outdoor run area I've been putting down straw. I was wondering which is actually better in this large (@ 900 square feet) outdoor run area: the rice straw I've been using, forage hay, or alfalfa hay. I could choose any of it. I suppose I could put down regular hay as an option too but the forage hay has little wheat seed heads they can scratch for.

    Any opinions about which is best between all of these options? They don't get to free range or forage in grassy areas but I do plant chicken forage materials in different areas of their run to eat.
     
  2. RJSorensen

    RJSorensen Chicken George

    I can comment on part of this, as we don't have rice straw up here. The hulls most likely would be ok, I use pine shavings and just love them. Hay in our neck of the woods will mold if you look at it wrong. So I think it unsuitable for bedding or litter for chickens.

    We farm some, and have wheat and barley, sometimes oats straw. We have always used straw, it cost nothing to speak of, it was already around the place, the family has been using it here for 150 some odd years now. But a lady at the farm store talked me into trying shavings. I like them the best of all, hands down.

    To my way of thinking, straw, hay etc. is like filling a a mud hole with gravel, put in enough and you will at some point be dry on the top, but all the water is still down there. Straw does not adsorb well at all, it just seems to displace moisture. So depending on what you want to do, Straw could keep you dry on top. Shavings will suck up most everything and evaporate it out over time. Your experience with the hulls will be better than mine…

    So something to think on, and depending on your needs, perhaps a nudge in the right direction. If you remove the material often, even hay could work for you. If not, the mold is not a good thing.

    RJ
     
  3. EmeraldSkye

    EmeraldSkye In the Brooder

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    Oct 1, 2013
    San Jose, California
    All of that was very useful. I didn't know about the tendency for hay to mold. I use rice hulls in the coop because I can (and do, every morning) sift the poop out with a kitty litter scoop. I use pine shavings in the predator-proof section of the run because it has a roof over the top and the shavings can stay dry. The larger run area used to be my garden with raised beds and I always used rice straw for mulching in the beds and in the pathways to keep them from getting muddy when it rains. Since I gave the space over to the chickens I've kept using straw in the pathways just because it's what I've always used. But then at the feed store they sell "forage hay" which the chickens can peck through for wheat seed heads and then I was reading some info about giving your chickens alfalfa hay for eating too, at least partially. So I was thinking I could serve two purposes (entertainment and keeping the pathways neat) if I used one of the hay materials. However, if hay wants to mold and the main purpose of the material in that area is to keep it from getting soggy and muddy, then maybe the straw is still the best option. I can always give them some of the forage hay flakes or a flake of alfalfa hay for their entertainment on top of one of the beds.

    Thanks for helping me mull this over!
     
  4. RJSorensen

    RJSorensen Chicken George

    Oh, you are more than welcome. I don't know where you are, but I suppose down in the southeast if you have rice. I throw flakes of hay bales into my birds during the winter season, so I think it ok, but I clean it up when they are done. The hay at the feed store with wheat in it might be just the ticket for you… and if you know to watch for the white/gray mold forming you should be good to go.

    If you raised alfalfa and had to bale it, in such a manner that it can be sold, you would understand that mold is the hay growers worst enemy. I have also offered alfalfa pellets in winter as well, but they will mold too… so buy small bags and don't try to keep them over, in a can or not. If you are humid at all, I would keep an eye out.

    Best to you and your birds,

    RJ
     
  5. EmeraldSkye

    EmeraldSkye In the Brooder

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    Oct 1, 2013
    San Jose, California
    I am in San Jose, in the San Francisco Bay Area. The rice is grown in the California central valley, I believe, and it's nice to have rice products. It doesn't rain from May - October (roughly) so we have many dry months where mold wouldn't be a problem. But I'll sure watch out for it during the rainy season if I do give them hay.

    Yeah, the feed store calls the hay with wheat in it "forage hay" and I have some out there now. I bought a bale of it a while back, gave some to the chickens, and the rest is under cover until I want to give them more. Plus I use the hay in the nest boxes. I was warned not to use straw in the nest boxes because straw, being hollow, can harbor mites. But hay does not.
     
  6. RJSorensen

    RJSorensen Chicken George

    I have been thinking on this for the last day or so… and I have had quite a chuckle with/at myself. You see I hate mites and little things that crawl in the night, real bad. So I go to great lengths to make it hard for them to find a place to live in and or hide. But to the best of my recollection, I have never thought about the hollow straw shaft harboring mites and such.

    Someone in the family, here on the place, has been putting straw into the nesting boxes of chickens for most of 150 years. I don't think I ever questioned it at all, it is just what one does. So thank you very much for helping me to 'expand' my mite hunt. I will change nesting materials shortly.

    A very worth while exchange for me. I hope your decision is or will work out for you as well. One has to just gather as much information as you can, and then just decide for yourself, what works and what does not, for your birds and you. Me too.

    Best to you and your birds,

    RJ
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2014
  7. EmeraldSkye

    EmeraldSkye In the Brooder

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    Oct 1, 2013
    San Jose, California
    This mutual conversation is exactly what a good forum is for!
     

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