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Question about run flooring/footing

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by hyzenthlay, Mar 27, 2009.

  1. hyzenthlay

    hyzenthlay Chillin' With My Peeps

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    So, we're about to build a 5'x8' run with a raised 5'x4' coop over half of it, for 3 hens. The current plan is for the hens to basically spend all of their time in this set-up--that is, we are hoping that we'll be able to let them out sometimes in our yard which is surrounded by a 4' fence, but we're not counting on that (it will depend on how determined they are to escape the fence), so we want to assume that the coop/run will be their home.

    Since they will be concentrated on a small area, we are thinking about digging down about 12" in the run, and filling the hole with about 6'' of gravel, then maybe a layer of sand, then some organic matter on top for them to scratch and dust bathe in, maybe mulch or something like that. The idea would be to give the whole run really good drainage, so as to minimize problems with odors, flies, etc.

    Does this sound like a good idea? Are there problems with it? Is it necessary? Half of the run will obviously be covered with the coop, so it should stay pretty dry anyway, but we plan to leave at least a couple feet of the run with no roof over it (just hardware cloth or something), so that the hens can get some extra sun on our many cloudy Pittsburgh days. The spot where we are going to place the coop/run is generally elevated and flat, and doesn't tend to collect moisture, but we do get a lot of rain here, so that doesn't mean it won't be wet a lot of the time.
     
  2. ChickenToes

    ChickenToes Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 14, 2008
    NE Wisconsin
    If you really want to do it, go for it, but I don't think it's necessary. Chickens wreak havoc on any plot of ground you put them on. Within a few weeks there won't be any grass, then they dig little holes all over, etc. They'll have no trouble scratching up the ground.
     
  3. hyzenthlay

    hyzenthlay Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hmm, well, I'm not too concerned about grass or making it pretty--I just figured I wouldn't be able to keep anything growing in there. My concern is really more thinking of ways to prevent mud/smells/flies, since we're in the city, and this will be close to both our house and the neighbor's.
     
  4. ChickenToes

    ChickenToes Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 14, 2008
    NE Wisconsin
    To keep the flies away you can use those sticky fly traps or make your own fly trap. Try doing a search on here for fly traps, there were quite a few ideas for them last summer.

    Some people just spray the poo away with a hose everyday.

    Use DE, lime, or wood ashes to keep the smell down as well.

    I'm not sure about the drainage issue, hopefully someone else will have a better idea.
     
  5. scooter147

    scooter147 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Missouri
    Honestly with three hens flies and orders should not be a problem. A medium size dog would produce more poo than three hens on a daily basis.

    I have 29 hens and I do not have either issue.

    Just keep the house part of their coop clean. Chickens do a lot of pooping at night so cleaning under the roosts can be done once a week and you should be fine. I use the dropping board method and wouldn't have it any other way.

    The mud part, well, GOOD LUCK [​IMG]

    Here is what I do when the run gets muddy. I keep a couple of bales of straw in the garden shed and spread some of that around in the fall and winter months when lawn clippings are not available.
    In the grass mowing season I keep a good layer of class clipping in the run. If you treat your lawn with pesticides, herbicides or fertilizer then I would not use the clippings. This method always gives the hens something to do, they will spend hours scratching through these clippings and they love to eat some of the grass when it is fresh. At some point in the winter the grass clipping fairy comes along and removes them all for me. [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2009
  6. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Ontario, Canada
    If drainage and a dry run is your goal, and you (evidently) don't mind buying some gravel or gravel/sand mix and doing a little work, you'd be far better off IMO just putting the gravel *on top of* the existing ground, without disturbing that ground by digging or anything.

    This will create a run built up maybe 6" (ish) above the surrounding ground -- obviously you will need some sort of boards or blocks to retain the gravel --but that *right there* will take care of drainage quite well.

    The problem with digging a hole to amend is that it will only really do you much good if you are on a thin layer of hardpan that gets dug through. More likely, either you're on bottomless clay in which case you will be creating basically a bathtub [​IMG], or you're on something already free-draining in which case the effort is basically wasted.

    You can btw chuck garden weedings (omitting toxic plants), etc into the run for them to scratch through and play with, they like that [​IMG]

    Good luck, have fun,

    Pat
     
  7. hyzenthlay

    hyzenthlay Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hm, well, it sounds like the odor/fly issue may not be as big of a deal as I thought. I don't mind spending the money and doing the work if it would help--it's just a small space, so it won't really cost that much of either. I just want to do it up right, so that the neighbors won't complain, and my DH won't regret going along with my latest crazy scheme (i.e. city chickens).

    Chickentoes, I'd read about DE and was thinking about trying to get some. I was also thinking about using SweetPDZ, which is a moisture/odor eliminator for horses' stalls--my friend uses it for her horses and likes it, and I read that someone on here was using it too. I don't think I want to be hosing things too often, though--I'm trying to avoid moisture, right?

    scooter, that's good to know about the smell of chickens vs. dogs. For awhile we had 2 big dogs using our yard for bathroom breaks (one passed away, so now we just have 1 dog), and we never had any kind of smell from that, even when we were bad and didn't clean up the yard very often. But in a few months our daughter is going to be big enough to play in the yard, so we're not letting the dog use it as a bathroom anymore. I have gone over tons of coop plans on this site, and we definitely plan to have a droppings board in the coop, and clean it every week, or every day even if it seems necessary.

    patandchickens, thanks for your response. I think what we have is pretty good draining soil, a little clayey, but not too much. At some point somebody seems to have put a layer of topsoil on our property, because the first 6-8 inches is pretty good and dark, and then below that it starts getting redder. I understand what you're saying about the bathtub effect, but my thinking was that the underground layer of gravel would be better to quickly drain moisture from the surface (minimizing mud), and then would create a little underground reservoir of water that would slowly dissipate into the ground (assuming that we don't have solid clay under there, but something in-between good soil and clay). I'm sort of basing my theory on the way we put rocks, gravel, or charcoal at the bottom of garden pots so that they drain better and the plants' roots aren't sitting in water all the time. My concern with just putting gravel on top is feeling sorry for the hens. I will already feel bad if they do have to be kept in their coop/run all the time, so I didn't want to take away their fun of scratching and dustbathing, too. Do you think that clippings and treats and things would be as good for them as regular scratching/dustbathing?
     
  8. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Quote:You're lucky then <sez person living on a clay bottom [​IMG]> -- in that case, though, I'm not sure you'd see a whole lot of benefit to all the work and expense you're proposing.

    It would still be worth building the run up a little above ground level -- gives you a considerable extra margin of error, and is much much easier to do now than to retrofit next year -- but it is hard to predict how *necessary* it'd be.

    My concern with just putting gravel on top is feeling sorry for the hens. I will already feel bad if they do have to be kept in their coop/run all the time, so I didn't want to take away their fun of scratching and dustbathing, too. Do you think that clippings and treats and things would be as good for them as regular scratching/dustbathing?

    I don't see how building the run *up* with gravel/sand/dirt/whatever is any different than recessing it into the ground so it's flush with ground level, as you'd initially suggested -- I mean, either way, it's the same stuff, right?

    They WILL scratch and make dusting holes in ANYTHING other than pure concrete, so you would not be depriving them of anything [​IMG] and it's not really either/or -- they'll enjoy ALL of it [​IMG]

    Have fun,

    Pat​
     
  9. hyzenthlay

    hyzenthlay Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:Right, I totally agree that it would be easier to do now than to retrofit--the only thing that's lame is that until we have the chix, I don't know if wetness is going to be a problem for us. [​IMG]

    I don't see how building the run *up* with gravel/sand/dirt/whatever is any different than recessing it into the ground so it's flush with ground level, as you'd initially suggested -- I mean, either way, it's the same stuff, right?

    They WILL scratch and make dusting holes in ANYTHING other than pure concrete, so you would not be depriving them of anything [​IMG] and it's not really either/or -- they'll enjoy ALL of it [​IMG]

    Well, unless I misunderstand what you're saying (entirely possible--I get a bit dense by Friday afternoon [​IMG] ), the difference is that in my plan, there would be 6" of recessed gravel covered by about 6" of organic material (wood chip mulch, or fall leaves, or dirt, or some such thing)--whereas I thought you were saying just to put gravel on top of the ground, and give the chix some yard clippings to play with--so their footing in the run would just be gravel. I guess maybe you're saying that I could put gravel on top of the ground, then several inches of organic material on top of that, for less work, same results? Only problem with this is something I didn't mention before--because of our building site, we're not able to make the run too tall--just tall enough to walk in part of it, then the roof will slope down making another part of it shorter (hard to explain, wish I had a picture), so I don't want to build the ground up too much and effectively create less vertical space in the run.​
     

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