Run floor... Don't think I'm doing this right!

glloyd203

In the Brooder
Apr 27, 2017
32
9
19
I'm hoping y'all can help me with the floor of my run... I'm feeling so discouraged right now! :( The bottom of the floor is hardware cloth since we had a raccoon dig under and sadly claim our first ducks. On top of that I have laid dirt and mulch. It gets muddy when it rains, and it's been raining A LOT lately, but otherwise it has only really been wet around the ducks' pool. I haven't been removing the droppings - I guess I thought that they would just become one with the soil over not too much time. But recently my boyfriend mentioned that he can often smell their poop when he enters the backyard. I haven't really noticed it but decided to try to do something about it. I read that it helps to turn the soil often so I went out to do that just now, and that really unleashed the smell! I also read about barn lime being helpful, so I sprinkled some of that in and turned it around in the soil. Am I doing this right at all!? Will the poo decompose and become the soil? Are soil and mulch a good floor? I have read a lot about sand and might try that but need to wait until everything is totally dry. My run is about 200 sq feet so I don't think I'm up for the deep litter method but will try that in my coops for sure. But I'm wondering if sand will be tough with a run that size... any help would be so appreciated! I just want my birds to be happy!
 

SunHwaKwon

Crowing
Jul 19, 2015
5,610
2,680
407
North Central Florida
My run is 750 sq ft and I do a variation of deep litter. My run does not smell and does not get muddy. I put everything from the yard in there (grass clippings, leaves, pine needles, weeds, etc). When I am low on that I buy a bale of hay (not straw) and put that in there for them to toss around. It will help with your drainage and also help balance out the poop for decomposition and better soil. Of course, ducks are messier anyway, because you have so much water and their poop has a lot more water. I would add in some small gravel and/or course sand to help with drainage and then start topping it with the other stuff I mentioned. I also dump my coop litter in there whenever I get around to replacing it (about half of the coops twice a year).
 
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glloyd203

In the Brooder
Apr 27, 2017
32
9
19
My run is 750 sq ft and I do a variation of deep litter. My run does not smell and does not get muddy. I put everything from the yard in there (grass clippings, leaves, pine needles, weeds, etc). When I am low on that I buy a bale of hay (not straw) and put that in there for them to toss around. It will help with your drainage and also help balance out the poop for decomposition and better soil. Of course, ducks are nastier anyway, because you have so much water and their poop has a lot more water. I would add in some small gravel and/or course sand to help with drainage and then start topping it with the other stuff I mentioned. I also dump my coop litter in there whenever I get around to replacing it (about half of the coops twice a year).

How deep does it need to be? And why is hay better than straw? I hate to sound dumb, I'm embarrassed to be asking this, but I'm still not sure of the difference? I attached a picture of the straw that I was using Standlee Premium Western Forage Certified Straw Grab & Go Compressed Bale), I still have a ton left but got nervous because I think the ducks were eating it! The only reason I'm nervous about getting too deep is because the houses aren't raised very high - the duck house is only a couple inches off the ground and the chicken coop is just high enough so that they can all go under it, but not more than maybe 10 inches. If their floor became really deep, I feel like it would start to swallow up the houses!
 

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SunHwaKwon

Crowing
Jul 19, 2015
5,610
2,680
407
North Central Florida
That straw is what I normally buy and I won't be buying it anymore, for a few reasons.

1. The hay at my feedstore is overpriced, but its still cheaper than the straw.

2. The straw does not seem to break down as fast. It mats together into sheets and mildews more readily, in my experience. Because its chopped it doesn't bulk and create pockets for drainage.

3. The straw blows out and everyone in the yard and looks like crap lol. The hay, being longer pieces, does not go out through my fencing and even if it gets in the yard it doesn't look quite as bad and it easier to pick up.

4. The hay has bits of seeds and things so they can nibble on it.

5. The hay stays in the nest boxes better. I constantly have to replace the straw.

Some of these things may not be as relevant with ducks but I'm not sure. I've only had one waterfowl, a goose several years ago, and she left home at four months of age :(

#2 is the main one though. The hay fluffs up really well, yet breaks down well, which is what you want. You want to be helping drainage and balancing the poo (and covering it to limit the flies). Real (unchopped) straw might be okay too, but I've never tried it and I have heard some advise against it in the coop because it can harbor mites.
 

SunHwaKwon

Crowing
Jul 19, 2015
5,610
2,680
407
North Central Florida
I would not recommend going too deep, partly because of how low your houses are but also because of the short legs of the ducks. I would do a thin but thorough covering and then add more as it breaks down.
 

glloyd203

In the Brooder
Apr 27, 2017
32
9
19
I would not recommend going too deep, partly because of how low your houses are but also because of the short legs of the ducks. I would do a thin but thorough covering and then add more as it breaks down.

Thank you so much for all your help! How deep, like just 3 inches or something like that? I'll definitely pick up some hay - it doesn't mold when it gets wet does it? Just breaks down? And if they did happen to eat it, do you think it would be harmful?
 

SunHwaKwon

Crowing
Jul 19, 2015
5,610
2,680
407
North Central Florida
Mine has not lasted long enough to mold. It doesn't pack together into sheets like straw does, so the moisture doesn't stick the pieces together and cause it to hold on to the wetness and allow mold to grow. That is my theory at least! It is crunchier and drier, like dry leaves, so I think that helps. It should not cause issues for them to eat it unless they try to eat a very, very long piece.
 

ChickenMammX4

Songster
Mar 17, 2015
1,044
243
161
SW Ohio
We use straw & hay, whatever we have at the time as well as grass clippings, leaves, pine needles and other landscape debris in the run. The run is covered with a solid roof so it stays pretty dry but blowing rain can get it wet. The chickens keep it turned most of the time but when necessary we fluff it with a stall fork.

Everything, including the poo, decomposes. Each spring we do a total (down to the dirt) clean out and that beautiful compost gets tilled into the garden.
 

JacksonPearce

Songster
Aug 17, 2016
291
237
141
This is a useful thread-- it's been raining buckets here too (are you in the south, OP? I'm in Atlanta and UGH, nonstop rain). We usually have done pine shavings, but they tend to get everywhere and in this weather aren't holding up. We'll try hay.
 

paintedChix

Crowing
7 Years
Dec 15, 2013
717
872
267
NC
A combination of materials will actually break down better (different sizes as well as types) and can include variety of hays/straws, grass & weeds mowed from around your property/yard, garden waste, pine straw & leaves. We've added pony manure (in small amounts - the chickens LOVE digging thru it. Ducks not so much). We found that shredded paper needed to be done in smaller amounts at one time, usually layered with pine straw and leaves if at all possible - shredded from phone books (yes, we still get a lot of those!), newspaper, junk mail, documents that are out of date or no longer needed.

You can "pack" 8-10" of loose material into your run and it will both actually pack down and break down in short order as they move it around and work thru it. For ducks, if you can move their pond/basin around, the water/wet areas will be more spread out instead of always being concentrated in one spot.

Once a decent layer of mulch, we put kitchen cuttings from fruits/veggies, foods turning (bread/buns, veggies, fruit, even meats in small amounts) on top. The chickens and ducks pick through it all and turn under what they can’t/won’t eat, mix it well while digging and poop on it and it’s all good!

As to the heights of your duck and chicken houses - if it's truly a problem, you can raise them on blocks (bricks or cinder type), wood pallets or even evenly cut pieces of lumber or wooden stumps from trees. I think you'll find that it really isn't a problem.

Once you start layering the materials as you use them, don't stir it around - let the birds do it. Any thing that is really wet around the duck's water (waterer or any type of pond/pool or basin), pick up and openly pitch into another area allowing it to dry out a bit and get worked into the rest of the mulch. Then move some of the dry litter around the water area. OR just put that dry material over the wet. It does break down!

I know of folks that have their runs set up so that the ducks have access to their fruit trees. They then use kiddie pools for the ducks to swim and play in. When it gets dirty and they want to change it, they literally dump it into the tree root areas - water and fertilizer in one! Some then move the run (portable) to other trees and do it all over again.

I don't recommend using the lime - is caustic to their feet & webbing and DE (or other products) can do some damage to the good things you want to break down the mulch to better smelling compost.

YES, ducks and chickens will eat straw (think a moment - wheat straw has wheat heads on it - used in breads and other products & oat straw had oat heads on it - some still on the straw when you get it). Eating a little isn't going to hurt them and adds some NATURAL variance to their diets. As long as they aren't actually starving, they won't usually eat so much that it becomes a problem. They also pick thru and eat some of the grasses, weeds and flowers, too. The main thing is to be sure you don't have anything that is treated with poison (don't get grass clippings from neighbors that spray their yards).

Over the past two years, I've found that hay and straw will both mat and can get blown or knocked into the yard. So do pine shavings, sawdust & shredded paper (the worst, LOL). For the matting - it works best to not have large clumps of any one product in one spot. For the "getting away", decide how much is too much and rake up and put back what you don't want in the yard. If it bothers you that much, don't use that product - but remember the DLM way needs to have different sizes of different materials to break down and to break down the poop the fastest (that is what reduces the scent).
 

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