Sand for pen in New England? Poor drainage area with rain and snow.

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Horse Chick, Nov 11, 2012.

  1. Horse Chick

    Horse Chick Out Of The Brooder

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    Oct 20, 2012
    Rhode Island
    We got chicks in May and built a nice coop and pen for them in our fairly level backyard. Our soil has a base of clay underneath and I thought I'd put some sand in the pen (8' x 12') once the chickens had eaten all the grass and I realized I would not be able to grow more. I think my problem stems from having a clay based yard and also that I only put 4 bags of sand in the pen which made it about 1/2 inch thick. The sand I used was playsand.

    I'm been reading the older forums on this subject but not finding exactly what I'm looking for in answers. A few things have happened that I want to correct and not sure if they are sand related. The pen stinks now after getting a bunch of rain and it doesn't seem to be drying out all the way, no puddles but still wet looking and mucky smelling. We also started having a flea problem with the dogs which is now an ongoing battle of weekly spraying, weekly dog bedding washing, along with Frontline and premise spraying house.

    I wonder first off did the fleas come from the sand or is that coincidence? Secondly is the muck because I didn't put enough sand in the pen. And lastly is sand the best option for a 8'x12' pen that has no roof, just chicken wire across the top, in a New England climate in central Rhode Island. We get a lot of rain at times and typically several feet of snow in the winter.

    Any answers or suggestions would be welcomed before I go out and spend money on a deeper sand bed this time. Here is a recent picture of the coop/pen. 4'x8' of the pen is covered by the coop.

    Thank you!
    Heather


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  2. kichohana

    kichohana Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Dec 28, 2009
    Johnston County, NC
    I have 3-4 inches of sand in my run over the existing dirt. I have never had a problem with puddling, mud, etc. It drains very well and even their poop is easy to scoop right out (like a giant litter box). I do sprinkle in some DE every so often. I haven;t had a problem with fleas ever. Maybe try some food-grade DE sprinkled in/on the sand. The chickens will scratch it in and mix it up for you. Should fix your flea problem. As far as drainage, I'd add more sand.
     
  3. cknkids

    cknkids Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jun 27, 2012
    Camarillo, CA
  4. lilchick

    lilchick Chillin' With My Peeps

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    May 23, 2008
    Williamsport In.
    I have a 10 ft. by 10 ft. kennel turn out pen for my serama and bantam cochins. Started out with grass, then bare dirt by summers end. Decided to add some grass hay down to keep them up off the heavy clay soil we have here in this part of Indiana.
    With the price of hay this would not work as I would need to rake out and replace quite often! Too expensive...

    I have used bark chips and stone in some of my other chicken pens with moderate success.

    To experiment I am going to use the rubber mulch (made from tires) that is available now in colors of brick and black. Used in play areas for kids as it is a soft and cushioning. Would work I figure to keep the pen drier than plain old mulch, hay or some other things I have tried in the past...

    Surely water will go right thru it and keep the chickens up out of the mud. Will see how well it works and report back on here in a few weeks....
     
  5. This_chicks_place

    This_chicks_place Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Apr 18, 2011
    Upstate NY
    We use sand here and it's works great! I think you just need more of it. We keep ours about 3 or 4 inches deep, and it drains perfectly.

    As for using rubber mulch, I would be afraid the chickens would eat it. I don't think that would be healthy for them
     
  6. 1ToughChick

    1ToughChick Out Of The Brooder

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    Apr 25, 2012
    NH
    We've been working through some of the same issues and I've found a few things that are working great for us. I don't have pictures tonight and I'm working tomorrow, so I'll try to post some on Tuesday. That being said, here's what we had... I cleared an area in our yard that previously was just woods and brush. This is where we built a chicken coop. As the summer wore on, we began having odor problems after it rained. It literally smelled like sewage. And worse than that, there would be puddles in the run that the chickens would drink out of. I didn't think that could possibly bring about anything but illness. So first I put in sand. This didn't really help much, though this was probably because we didn't put in enough to raise the ground level enough. Then I read about some people having their whole compost pile inside their chicken runs. I had also been reading about the deep liter method. And coincidentally a neighbor was telling me how he built up a part of his yard over time by always raking his leaves to that spot. So I thought I might try a combo of all of that. I built a small retaining wall in a circle for the compost pile over the part of the run that would always puddle up. I throw the compost in. The chickens go through it and eat what they want. And they churn it all up and help it break down stunningly fast. I have been throwing leaves from the yard in the rest of the run. Every so often, I rake them up and throw them in the compost. In some of the other parts that were a little muddy, I threw clean pine shavings down. That worked to absorb the water. Over time, all of this has been breaking down and building the ground up nicely. I just gave the coops (there are actually two coops in the run) a once over today and was very pleased that there are no low/muddly spots left. And the worse part is covered by a nice looking pile of compost. When the ground starts looking a little too moist, I have also been throwing down a generous dose of peat moss. I have thrown a little lime down, too, but only because someone else suggested and I figured it probably couldn't hurt. I've only done that once, so I don't think it did much to solve the problem. So, the two key features of what worked for me were building up the level of the soil, covering the worst spot with compost, and putting down peat moss when the ground looked wet (and it hasn't been raining). I live in the Seacoast area of New Hampshire, so similar climate as yours.

    If I forget to add pictures and you're really interested, PM me. 8)
     
  7. 1ToughChick

    1ToughChick Out Of The Brooder

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    Apr 25, 2012
    NH
    As for the fleas on the dogs bit... I don't know if there is a link. That being said, after waffling for a while, I finally decided to put myself in that camp of people that "de-worms" their chickens every six months or so. I used the pour on ivermec for cattle (spelling that off the top of my head; it's something like that), literally 1-2 drops depending on the size of the chickens. I have not had a problems with lice or parasites at all. (And the standing water in the run after every rain was bad enough for a while that I was worried about this). We just got through all that rain with Hurricane Sandy and I am so happy with how the run handled all of that water.
     
  8. Horse Chick

    Horse Chick Out Of The Brooder

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    Oct 20, 2012
    Rhode Island
    I want to thank everyone for your replies. It makes me feel better hearing you don't link the fleas with the sand. We've been hearing a lot of other people in the area are having issues with fleas when they have not in the past so perhaps it has something to do with the strange warmer weather this fall and just coincidence with the sand.

    I'm going to call around tomorrow about getting a large load of sand delivered, enough to spread at least 4, maybe 6 inches across the entire pen and hopefully have some left over that I can put in a place where it is protected from rain and snow. I'd rather make an investment now in a big delivery and solve this problem. I'm think I will want to skim off the smelly soil as I tilled it some today to try and help it dry (it's not mud but its always damp after we got a lot of rain in the past week) which resulted in the worst it has smelled since putting the chickens out there. So I think I need to remove that top layer of dirt and then put in the new sand. It does look like the dirt and sand mixed and it is clumpy as well as foul in odor.

    We did buy 8 bags of playsand so if I get a load I'll mix that in or save it for later as it is in plastic bags.

    I did read the links to the two articles mentioned, the river sand sounds good, I don't know what kind of sand I'll have available in my area. I'm wondering about the dried leaves. We are surrounded by oaks and let the girls free range supervised. They love digging through the leaves for who knows what...bugs, whatever. At first I was afraid they would eat the leaves as I understand they could be poisonous, but they just scratch at them for goodies underneath. I don't know if I want to mix other things with the sand, the leaves would probably retain water. Most of the pen (8'x8' of it) is not covered and I don't know that a tarp is a good idea as the heavy snow (I would brush it off but can't do it while I'm sleeping) would cave in the roof of the pen.

    I will say we have design flaws in our coop and pen. We're trying to work with them and perhaps in a few years we'll build a whole new setup with a lot more planning this time.

    Thank you for all your assistance!


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