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Questions about DE, deep litter, sand, & sanitation - help in humid climates

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by wendyrun, Aug 20, 2013.

  1. wendyrun

    wendyrun In the Brooder

    May 25, 2010
    Gainesville, FL

    We've had an exceptionally wet summer, particularly the last months.

    We have three hens in a small prefab coop that has an area of about 2 1/2 x 6 enclosed with a small roosting area and two nest boxes on top. We added a run that is about 5 x 7 on front. The run has a roof over half the area.

    The girls are free range during the day in our fenced yard in town. At night, they are closed in the run. Initially I thought the area that was sheltered from rain was sufficient but it seems like everything got soaked all summer. The prefab is not high quality, and I've had to shore it up in places, and now need a new cover for the nest box bc the hinges have rotted out, and the thing has not dried out and is a mess.

    We use straw for bedding in the roosting area and nest boxes. This portion of the coop is quite small and the girls use it for laying and at night time only.

    One of our girls was looking weak, and stopped laying, also was going through a really long molt. I took her to the vet and she was overrun with coccidia. We've been treating her and trying to fatten her back up. But dr says she needs to stay away from the open ground, and the other girls until she is fully feathered. We had to treat the other two for worms [​IMG]and we have to treat the indoor quarantined chicken for that as well.

    Doc says DE is good choice for inside the coop area. I've read on here that deep litter with DE is recommended for inside areas that are not exposed. The bottom of the prefab part is on pavers, and the run on dirt. I've been putting in sand to fill in the ground as needed.

    I wasn't sure if it is appropriate to put wood shavings in the roost and nest box area, or if that is just recommended for larger areas where the hens can walk around. Part of the lower level is covered, but the rest is wrapped in hardware cloth so it is open to elements.
    The feeder has been getting soaked too- I made a simple feeder from PVC pipe but I'm going to have to do something else to keep feed dry as well.

    Should I use shavings in roost/nest area or stick with straw?
    Can I use the shavings in the paved area or should I not since it does get wet?
    I'm going to extend the roof over the whole run, and put a lot more sand. All of it is quite dirty in spite of number of cleanings. I know the rain hasn't helped but there are lots of flies as well. I'm assuming I should not put any shavings there, even if I extend the covered area, bc the sides will still be open.

    Last, I am wondering exactly how much DE do we mix in with the sand? Can we put in the nest/roost and do we even need to?

    I guess I was thinking that our girls would not be exposed to much since there are no barnyard animals here, but jeez, it's the same dirt all over. Vet said the stuff they have was all just from being out and about with normal exposure to the outdoors.

    I'd like to try to prevent them from going this again, and help things stay less aromatic. It seemed like it used to be easier to keep clean and maybe it is just stinkier bc the rain makes the poop too hard to find so I can't do a quick once over to keep the flies at bay.

    Anyway, I'm just trying to figure out how to keep things cleaner and healthier for them and am confused if we can use litter anywhere, if we should keep using straw, etc etc

    Sorry this is so long and hanks in advance for any advice!


  2. chfite

    chfite Songster

    Jun 7, 2011
    Taylors, SC
    I am sympathetic. It has rained nearly everyday for nearly 9 months here.

    You can use straw, pine shavings, pine straw in the coop for nesting material or deep litter. It really does not matter so long as it stays dry and is used to manage the poop. I use pine shavings because they are convenient. I would have to buy any of it. DE is useful only when dry, unless it is being eaten.

    I use DE in the food to control flies and to dust the inside of the coop from time to time.

    Having a proper roof to keep everything dry in the coop will help many things, but most of all provide a dry environment for the chickens.

    I use sand in the run because it drains well and does not require cleaning. Anything you put on top of that is at your pleasure. I am sure the chickens like to scratch in the straw or shavings. If the ground does not drain well, the other material will just contribute to a soggy mess. Plenty of sand allows the poop to be turned under in the normal course of the chickens scratching.

    A dry feeder will save money by reducing wasted feed.

    I am sorry to hear that your coop has not done well. You might try your hand at building your own. Many here with all sorts of carpentry skill have made them. The chickens aren't picky.

  3. Hokum Coco

    Hokum Coco Crowing

    Dec 6, 2012
    New Brunswick,Canada
    I have used all types of litter for coops.

    I have not tried sand (sand gets good reviews on this site).

    Of all the things I tried to date wood pellets have been the best. They are super absorbent and swell up and eventually turn to saw dust. The droppings just seem to vanish and turn to dust when it comes in contact with wood pellets.

    Replace my litter and clean my coop every October after I harvest my garden.

    Works for me in my deep litter method.

    I do add to pellets from time to time.

    I have 63 trips around the sun so it is not my first rodeo.

    I have anywhere from 10 to 15 birds housed in my 4x8 coop.

    Through the winter months it froze harder than concrete with -40º temperatures. The poop froze before it could be absorbed by the pellets and there was like a crusty layer of poop in certain areas where they collectively took aim (no smell, messy feet or flies @ -40º). Come April things started to look after themselves.

    Oh I might add I do have poop boards 3½" below my roost that I clean every 2 to 3 days (excellent for catching eggs laid through the night).

    In my nest boxes I fold a feed bag to fit (nest boxes are 1 ft³). When a bag gets soiled; fold a new one; pop out the soiled; pop in the new.

    Easy peasy!.

    Chicken coop is salvaged 4x8 metal shed.



  4. bamdim

    bamdim In the Brooder

    Jul 17, 2012
    I have used shavings for over a year and still have them in places. While checking into different materials for
    runs and coops, I took someone's advice and put sand in the coop and am in the process of putting it also in the run.
    I think everyone who has had so much rain is trying to find a solution. So far, I like the sand. I will say, though, I noticed today that there was a layer of something (mold perhaps) under and close by the waterer. It could be picked up with my hands and was a little bit spongy.
    I'm wondering if it is dangerous to the chickens and if it is indeed mold.
  5. write2caroline

    write2caroline Songster

    Jun 21, 2009
    I live in Jacksonville FL and we get a lot of rain and it is humid here in the summer. I use deep litter pine shavings in two of my coops, alfalfa hay in two of the coops and in the nest boxes. I used sand in the brooder coops and where we live all the dirt on my ground is sand. So the run is full of sand. I like the deep litter for smell control mostly. The chickens prefer the hay for laying. I have played around with using pine shavings and straw in the nest boxes and they prefer to use to hay to the shavings for laying eggs. Mold is a big issue with the hay and the shavings although the hay is worse seems to mold faster. if it gets wet. My coops are off the ground so that when it rains they can go under the coops or up into the coops. For the brooders, I definitely prefer the sand and If it didn't spill through the boards in the coop I would use it in the two coops where I have the deep litter.

    DE - I use it in a cheese shaker bottle like they have at a pizza place. I also offer a kitty litter pan of it in the run for dust baths. They love it. Even when newly feathered out the chicks would dust bath in it. I also use shakers to dust the cats, the dogs and occasionally the carpeting. It is a main ingredient for flea powder and carpet powder. Works great but does need great vacuum to get it up. When we first moved into our house we had a flea explosion until I started bathing the dogs and cats with dawn and occasionally dusting them with DE. The food grade one.


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