Pea gravel in barn: should I leave it or remove it?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Barrdwing, Oct 21, 2012.

  1. Barrdwing

    Barrdwing Chillin' With My Peeps

    Got a question for folks who have worked with pea gravel before. We recently converted a shed barn for horses into a chicken barn by putting in a fence along the open front and adding an overhang. However, the barn is floored in loose pea gravel (anywhere from two inches to over twelve inches: the ground appears to not be very level). Under the gravel is solid clay soil that does not drain at all.

    With winter coming on, I was planning to try out deep litter. However, I can't decide whether I should remove all that pea gravel or leave it. If I leave it, we'll have pea gravel dispersed all through the litter by spring. But if I take it out, we may end up with runoff getting into the barn, and soaking the litter, and it seems to me like that would be even worse! The barn is located on a slight slope and I can just see water running along the surface of the ground and into the barn; there will also be runoff from the roof and walls to contend with. I am pretty sure that the previous owners found runoff to be a problem, and trucked in all that gravel so that their horses would have dry footing.

    So I'd appreciate hearing pros and cons to leaving the gravel in place, and also whether anyone has tried deep litter on top of gravel, and how that worked out. Thanks!
  2. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

    Just a personal point of view, not gospel, but I dislike it greatly. Once it gets mixed with manure and bedding, how are you going to actually clean? The mixture won't be fit for a garden as the gravel will be throughout the mixture. You might consider using a front end loader or skid steer and scrape it out. Use it somewhere else on the property. It has purposes, but even for driveway, it never "sets". It remains flexible and isn't suitable for a driveway, really. It's main purpose to provide a cover in weep fields, drainage tile, french drains, etc.

    I'd replace the gravel with a sandy soil or sand. Once the manure gets mixed, using a deep little method, you could clean the stalls once a year and the mixture would be simply glorious for a garden, etc. Just my $.02
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2012
  3. Bear Foot Farm

    Bear Foot Farm Overrun With Chickens

    Mar 31, 2008
    Grifton NC
    Quote: I thiink the first thing you need to do is work on your drainage/landscaping to divert any water away from the barn.

    Then remove the gravel and replace it with sand and add your litter on top
  4. Baymule

    Baymule Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 1, 2010
    Northeast Texas
    Yeah, what they said. [​IMG]
  5. Barrdwing

    Barrdwing Chillin' With My Peeps

    Drat. I had a feeling that keeping the gravel would cause more trouble than it's worth. Our soil is pretty poor, so I'm counting on the litter to help us improve it. Fred's Hens, what you said about the litter being no good for the garden once it's mixed full of gravel is enough to convince me. I really want good litter to work into the garden next year! We are sitting on top of at least three feet of solid red clay here, and it needs help. In the summer, it's like a concrete slab.

    Okay, so the gravel goes out, and sand goes in. That's good to know: I had been wondering what to replace the stuff with. The gravel can at least do us some good by filling in some of the mud pits in the yard. I sure wish I could get a large piece of equipment through the barn door, but we didn't plan ahead for that; removal and replacement will have to be done the hard way. Looks like there is going to be a lot of wheelbarrow work in my future! I tackled it with a shovel this morning and got about 3 cubic feet removed before I had to call it quits. The barn is 36' X 14'. It's going to be a loooong process. [​IMG]

    Thank you for pointing out the importance of the drainage issue, Bear Foot Farm. You're right, of course: better to divert the runoff in the first place, before it reaches the barn. We're supposed to get some rain this week, which may soften the ground enough that I can get a shovel into it. That, and I think I can get a rain gutter installed along the downward edge of the roof. It'll help.

    Many thanks to everyone for their input! [​IMG]
  6. Bear Foot Farm

    Bear Foot Farm Overrun With Chickens

    Mar 31, 2008
    Grifton NC
    Quote: Unless you plan to use the ENTIRE barn as a "coop", there's no need to clear ALL the gravel.
    I'd partition off just enough for the birds, and do the sand and bedding in just that area.

    You might also be able to get away with finding some CHEAP linoleum to cover the gravel, and put your bedding on that WITHOUT having to use any sand at all
  7. canesisters

    canesisters Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 18, 2011
    You should DEFINATELY remove it. PM me and I'll give you my address - I'll be happy to take it off your hands. [​IMG]
    It's wonderful for all sorts for all sorts of things, but bedding isn't one of them.
  8. BeulahBreezes

    BeulahBreezes Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 31, 2012
    Western NY
    Hi! i have pea gravel in our sidewalks and I absolutely hate trying to pick out the chicken poop from the gravel! The gravel sticks to the poop and I hate having the stones ending up in the composting pile....just my 2 cents....~Beulah
  9. Barrdwing

    Barrdwing Chillin' With My Peeps

    Hmm, linoleum is an interesting idea! Or . . . would it be ridiculous to put sand over the gravel? I imagine it would just end up settling down into the gravel and probably defeat the purpose, but I figured I'd ask.

    We got some heavy rain today, and now I can see all the places that the water is getting in. It doesn't help that the walls are corrugated steel, and the water just creeps in along the grooves because the bases of the walls "float" above ground level. What a mess. This is going to be a bit of a challenge! Does anybody know if that spray foam for filling in gaps would hold up over time? I can use wire to keep the chickens from picking at the foam, but if it's likely to disintegrate in a few years then it's not really a solution.

    I should confess that the whole darn barn is being used for the chickens. We have two separate flocks, and the small flock lives in the barn while the big flock ranges. Because there's currently very little plant cover on the property, even the free-rangers end up spending a lot of time inside. I have plans for experimenting this winter with a cover crop of some kind to give them more comfort, greens, and bugs. I would like for them to spend more time outside, and stop pooping so much on that gravel!

    It's very nice of you to offer to help me get rid of the gravel, canesisters! Unfortunately I'm in California . . . bit of a drive, I'm afraid. [​IMG]

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