Should I use sand or gravel in my sloped run?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by jeremyhodges, Jan 29, 2014.

  1. jeremyhodges

    jeremyhodges Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 29, 2013
    San Diego
    I have 5 pullets in a fairly large outdoor run that surrounds their coop. The run is on a slope up against our house. Our soil is very rocky and hard to work with. So far I've just left the run as dirt. Smell isn't an issue at all, I think that it's large enough that the poop doesn't build up enough to smell bad before it breaks down. But I hadn't accounted for how much impact 5 chickens can have on their run! They've caused quite a bit of erosion. Their constant scratching has pushed a deep layer of dirt and rocks down to the bottom of the run, and the top was getting down to the rock. And the worst part is that EVERYTHING is coated in dust. I have solar paneled Nite Guards to try to keep predators away and I often have to go wipe off the solar panels because the dust is so thick. Also, the chickens themselves are constantly dusty! The brown dirt has tinted all of my birds a different color! I know they like to dust bathe, but this is a whole other level!

    Anyway, I've started adding rock terraces to the run so that the chickens can't pull all of the material down to the bottom, and now I'd like to add either sand or gravel. I want something that is safe, clean, and that my chickens will like. Any suggestions? I've heard many people liking sand, but I don't want it to be too dusty! Other people have said gravel, but I don't have a good concept of what size gravel I should be looking into. And are there issues with the chickens eating the sand or gravel? Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated!




  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    The only issue with them eating sand or gravel is that it is good for them. That is grit.

    Either sand or gravel will work, but it will still get moved downhill. They scratch constantly and gravity moves it downhill. Terracing is a great idea. It looks like those rocks are free so that is an excellent choice for materials. You might want a wall at the very foot of it to keep as much of that stuff in there as you can.

    One potential problem with gravel is that with their constant scratching, they might cut their feet on sharp edges. If it gets infected, that can cause bumblefoot. The way to solve that problem is to use smooth rock or gravel that has the sharp edges worn away, like pea gravel or gravel from a streambed.

    I personally prefer a coarse sand like construction sand instead of a real fine sand like play sand. I think it lasts longer, is better for grit, and that really fine sand can stick to you if you are wet and sweaty more than the coarse sand. If you can legally get sand or gravel from a sandbar in a streambed you are just about perfect.

    Since it will move downhill no matter what you use, I’d be partial to sand. You can always get more, but I could see me at the bottom with a shovel moving some of that back to the top. Sand shovels a whole lot easier than gravel.
  3. LaurelC

    LaurelC Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 22, 2013
    Bothell, WA
    I don't have any birds yet, so I'm probably not a good source on substrate materials, but if you're having trouble with erosion, maybe try planting some greens with grow frames? I don't know if chickens like mint, but it's fairly drought tolerant and pretty invasive, so the root system may help hold the hill together?
  4. cafarmgirl

    cafarmgirl Overrun With Chickens

    Sand, for all the reasons Ridgerunner mentioned. Much easier on their feet then most gravel.
  5. c2chicks

    c2chicks Chillin' With My Peeps

    x2 sand!!
  6. bahamabanty

    bahamabanty Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 9, 2013
    I like how you made the rock terraces, they look kinda cool. I would fill every terrace with sand. They sell that type of rock for an arm and a leg here at the garden center and you have plenty of them in your yard. My leghorns are dusty as well, they are greyish most of the time. The only time they are snowy white is when they come out of the coop in the morning.
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2014

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