Septic Tank & Drain Lines vs Coop Run Design

Quailsong

Songster
6 Years
Apr 20, 2013
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Heyas,

For anyone who lives just outside the city where septic tanks are rampant, I've some questions for ya. I'll be living on a 1/4 acre mini farmland w/ a septic & drain lines in the area. I believe I can avoid building a run on them directly, but I wouldn't mind using the extra space for the birds (quail). Not like I can plant big trees or keep a root vegetable garden there anyways.

Have you ever built a coop run near or over a drain line for a septic tank? (I'm talking buried pipes, not open drain ditches)

If so:
  1. Do you have issues with compaction due to the chickens?
  2. Have you heard anything about it being unsafe for birds? (just eating the grass or soil, not actually digging like rabbits)
  3. Do you have any tips or warnings I should know about?

I want to keep my quail safe, but so long as the pipes aren't dug up (I may even have a good raised bed for a sandy/wood ash dusting area) I think it should be fine for them. The larger the run the better I think. It'll also be challenging to free-range w/ so many hawks/owls about + they can fly...so I really would like a larger run.

Thanks for reading, and hopefully responding!
 

4 the Birds

Songster
9 Years
Oct 15, 2010
1,490
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Westfield, Indiana
When you say "drain line" I assume that you are talking about a solid pipe headed to a septic tank or absorption field. You can do this but keep in mind if you ever had septic problems then that pipe may need to be dug up or replaced. That would mean that the coop would need to be relocated. If you mean locating your coop on a finger system pipe (or called an absorption field) then I would not do it! The finger system lines should not have any out buildings or plantings with deep root systems.
 

Quailsong

Songster
6 Years
Apr 20, 2013
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158
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When you say "drain line" I assume that you are talking about a solid pipe headed to a septic tank or absorption field. You can do this but keep in mind if you ever had septic problems then that pipe may need to be dug up or replaced. That would mean that the coop would need to be relocated. If you mean locating your coop on a finger system pipe (or called an absorption field) then I would not do it! The finger system lines should not have any out buildings or plantings with deep root systems.
Yeah, an absorption field is what I'm referring to. I still don't know where all the drain lines are, if any. I'm not sure on this septic's model/ability. I do know that the city will come by every week/month? or so and empty it out. So maybe it doesn't have what I'm fearing. That said, the next couple weeks I'll have the exact lines & info so either it'll be something to adapt to if it's there or there's nothing there I'll be in happy-land.

I've read some people putting stuff like garden boxes on top of the lines and to me that sounds very silly. But I don't see much harm in putting an open run (more like an enclosed free-range by the size), save for I'd have to take caution on digging. I've heard shallow bushes are okay with drain lines (like boxwood) but to never use deep-roots or trees (makes sense).

To add: I won't be living there too long though (5 years tops) and I hear sometime in the next few years the small town area may convert to sewer system, so the drain pipes (if any there) won't even be an issue. If that makes sense.

Thank you for your thoughts, 4 the Birds. If you have any more to add I'm all ears.^^
 

Alaskan

The Frosted Flake
Premium Feather Member
12 Years
Jul 26, 2008
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Except for the fact that I wouldn't put a veggie garden directly on the leach field, and I would be super careful of planting anything with invasive roots, and like you said, don't dig a hole into the system, pretend it isn't there.

Truly, except for the three points above, there is no problem. The pipes are at least a foot if not three feet underground. There are clean out pipes that pop out of the ground, just make sure the tops don't pop off, and you are fine.

If the pipes that poke out of the ground are in your coop and run, I might be tempted to put upside down wood boxes or just an upside down plastic five gallon bucket over them, so the chickens wouldn't manage to pop the lids off. But it is totally OK to have a run and coop over all of that stuff (the pipes, the tank, and the leach field).

Well, maybe not the coop right over the tank, just in case you ever have to replace the tank. But a coop, even an 8x8 on skids that only a giant machine can move would be fine, since the giant machines would be there to remove the old tank anyway.

Good luck!
 

Quailsong

Songster
6 Years
Apr 20, 2013
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Thank you for your reply, Alaskan.

That's the thing. When I went to look over the house I didn't see any clean-out pipes, grates or whatnot. I didn't even see any discolouration in the grass that would hint at pipes. I've still no clue how they will drain it. I'll find out this or next week though. Septics are completely new for me as a first-hand experience, so this is going to be interesting.

If/when they do switch over to sewer in the area, they likely won't rip out the old tank (unless they insist & pay for it) so it'll be whatever grows over that. Which would be good, if I do decide to do a coop/run nearby or over.

From what I see, I got a coniferous in the lot over-top of the septic area right by the house. It makes the grass really thin & acidic. From what I understand about septics, esp on sloped ground which I have, this is not good. So one of my big plans is to get rid of that tree and re-plant a deciduous nearby. No willows or poplars for sure. Something that can take drought & won't muck w/ the septic.

The only other plants I'd have in that area (if it was questionable or fine) would be some fruit vines (grapes) or small berry plants. I want to let the quail feel like they're in a natural area so I don't just want a simple grass run. Everything should be able to be re-moved or planted if needed.
 

Alaskan

The Frosted Flake
Premium Feather Member
12 Years
Jul 26, 2008
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Kenai Peninsula, Alaska
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OK, since you are new to septicemia..this is the way it is supposed to be...( ETA spell check changed "septics" to septicemia, I almost died laughing)

All the house pipes (toilets and sinks, unless you have separate gray water=sinks and sewage=toilets systems) consolidate and only one sewage pipe comes from the house foundation, this enters your tank. The solids float to the bottom of your tanks, and the liquids keep going to the leach field and then ooze into the surrounding soil.

Every time that sewage pipe turns, there is supposed to be a pipe that comes out of the ground, so that if there is ever a clog it can be easily fixed. There are also supposed to be one pipe on each end of the tank (so two tank pipes) as well as a few pipes in the leach field area so that you can monitor its health. (I kid you not, you can have a 'healthy' or 'unhealthy' leach field).

Now lots of people hate all of those pipes, so cut them off at ground level and then the grass grows over them and you can not see them to save your life! But sometimes they are camouflaged with rocks, even a totally flat paver if the pipe was cut super short.

Usually the tank has to be pumped out only once every year or every few years, but that totally depends on how big your tank is and how much use it gets.

Only other reason you might have no pipes all over is if you have a nonstandard system. Up here in Alaska there are many crib septics, where all of the sewage goes into a gigantic hole filled with rocks and logs. Even the crib septics can get pumped though, if you stick a clean out pipe in the middle.

Bottom line, there is no sewage coming out of the pipes or the tank (in a well functioning system :eyeroll: ) so a vegetable garden there would be fine. But I wouldn't want to eat stuff growing on the leach field.

Some trees can grow their roots right through a big metal pipe, maybe ask your extension agent which kinds are safest, because a tree planted in the leach field area will definitely always be wonderfully green and happy :D so it would be a good place to plant stuff. Maybe lilac bushes! You wouldn't be tempted to eat them, and they sure are pretty!

Berries and grapes couldn't hurt any part of the system, I just wouldn't want to eat berries growing in my leach field.

Though I guess, in a properly set up leach field, there shouldn't be any actually sewage water close enough to the surface to get into the berry bushes.....but IDK.
 
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Quailsong

Songster
6 Years
Apr 20, 2013
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Wow, Alaskan!

I knew a bit of that info, but you sure filled in a lot of gaps. Oh man, I never thought anyone would cut pipes down lower. Now I've got to be careful. I hope now that we have a non-typical tank and that the pipes are somewhere else, maybe on the side of the house running out to the ditch (we have a ditch-like hill on one side of the house, one further at the back lot.

As a side note, I'd never willingly plant lilacs ever again. We have them here and they are a gardener's/mower's nightmare. They are very invasive in this area and even if we mowed them down, the runners would reach 20' away from the main bush/tree.

I've ripped them out of the ground, laying on the grass to live an entire summer just like that. Most without any dirt covering them at all. They look dead in the summer but fall/spring the branches are flourishing. They outlive the dandelions. If humans could live off of lilacs there would be no hunger shortages. But yeah, no lilacs for me. Even if they are pretty. :)

Since Spring is officially here, it should be easier to see where the pipelines are (if any) in the back next time I visit. Plus, having more detailed GPS/house info in the next two weeks will help.

Drain field, no quail area. Got it. Berry bushes still okay for quail if it was near the septic, or is that too risky?
 

4 the Birds

Songster
9 Years
Oct 15, 2010
1,490
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Westfield, Indiana
Our septic finger system does not have any riser pipes for cleanouts but rather valve boxes flush with the ground that serves as a leveling device for the finger pipes. The finger system will have a perimeter pipe and that is required to tie into a field tile, storm drain, or daylight. Our field tiles are really far away so our system has a daylight pipe at a few feet below the finger elevation. My guess is that your system is tied in to a pipe underground somewhere. The sewer pipe will come out of the house into a holding tank and or a dosing tank that pumps it to the absorption field. Typically nothing should be built on a septic field since the finger pipes can be fairly shallow. If you do decide to add run fencing and dig fence post holes, stop if you hit gravel. The pvc finger pipe will be close by



.
 

Quailsong

Songster
6 Years
Apr 20, 2013
741
81
158
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Our septic finger system does not have any riser pipes for cleanouts but rather valve boxes flush with the ground that serves as a leveling device for the finger pipes. The finger system will have a perimeter pipe and that is required to tie into a field tile, storm drain, or daylight. Our field tiles are really far away so our system has a daylight pipe at a few feet below the finger elevation. My guess is that your system is tied in to a pipe underground somewhere. The sewer pipe will come out of the house into a holding tank and or a dosing tank that pumps it to the absorption field. Typically nothing should be built on a septic field since the finger pipes can be fairly shallow. If you do decide to add run fencing and dig fence post holes, stop if you hit gravel. The pvc finger pipe will be close by



.


Thank you, 4 the Birds! I'll find out soon what's there or not. Thing is, the grass is so weak there due to all the pine needles & erosion from the slope that I'm sure if the pipes were there and shallow I would have seen signs. But we'll see and yeah I'll make sure to stop at gravel if ever I do dig & find one.

I promise to update this thread (with pics), esp if the GPS mapping or whatnot does show pipes. I want to utilize as much space in the back as I can for a food forest, run, etc. So I'll need your folks guidance!
 

HandsomeRyan

Renaissance man
6 Years
Feb 18, 2013
147
21
98
Music City, USA
I'm not a septic expert but I wanted to add that we have grape vines and blueberry bushes planted over the septic drain fields at our house and the fruit is fine to eat. The blueberry bush was transplanted to the current location from a farm down the road in about 1956 and the berries have been eaten from it every year since then with no problems. YMMV but I wouldn't stay up at night worrying about consuming fruit from a plant growing over a drain field.
 

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