Straw or pine shavings

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by pauleberly, Jun 29, 2016.

  1. pauleberly

    pauleberly Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Let me start by saying I want to do the deep litter (one where it makes compost). The run will get wet (when it rains). My run has very very good ventilation.

    Will straw or pine shavings or both be a better suit for me? I want to be able to have some good compost next year. If it's all the same, I think straw will go further for my money.

    Anyone have any suggestions or good input on what I'm trying to accomplish?

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  2. TalkALittle

    TalkALittle Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Neither. I've been doing deep litter for a year and the straw and shavings are the two things that take the longest to break down. I wouldn't use either exclusively. The things that break down the fastest for me are dried leaves and grass clippings.

    I have put straw in occasionally but tossed it in the ground and ran over it with the lawn mower first.
     
  3. Folly's place

    Folly's place Chicken Obsessed

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    Bagged shavings, and other stuff added. Some straw or hay, but not a lot, as it mats down and is a pain to manage. Fix the drainage issues, or anything will be a mess. Mary
     
  4. pauleberly

    pauleberly Chillin' With My Peeps

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    The drainage issues is not something easily fixed. I have the run under my deck.

    I was not so concerned with the amount of time it'll take to break down (I was going to let it sit for a year before I cleaned it out.

    Can I supplement leaves, grass, and straw all into the run have it all break down?
     
  5. ChickenMammX4

    ChickenMammX4 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I wouldn't use any one component exclusively, but mix it up. We use grass clippings, straw, hay, pine needles, leaves and garden debris.

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    This results in some beautiful compost. We clean out once a year and till it into our garden.
     
  6. pauleberly

    pauleberly Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Ok. So throw in a little bit of everything. I do have small amounts of grass clippings and pine needles. Should I alternate between a bale of straw, hay, and a bag pine shavings when I do need to add?
     
  7. ksguy

    ksguy Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Sorry for the long post. I too have a somewhat wet run. Water from the hill behind it runs right through after a heavy rain. Personally I totally avoid pine shavings and pine needles in the run itself (I do use shavings inside the coop, though). If you're looking for something to break down in the run, the shavings take for-e-ver to break down (you'd probably have recognizable wood shavings even a year later), and pine needles are not absorbent at all, they'd just poke your chickens. My preference for my wet run is wheat straw and grass clippings. Lately I've been using mostly yard clippings since straw was in short supply, but I have close to an acre of pasture grass that I can mow and later go over with my lawn sweeper to pick up the clippings. I discharge the clippings, let them dry a day or two, then sweep them up. It keeps my 16'x16' run in good supply. I supplement with straw because it helps keep the girls entertained and aids in a good carbon to nitrogen ratio for composting. I just clip one of the two wires off the bale and let them scratch at it to pick it apart and spread it themselves to get at the seeds.

    Even with good ventilation, after a few rains the floor does get pretty matted, and after we got 4" of rain in 10 days back in May, it was kinda smelly - but we literally had no sunshine and nonstop rain for 10 days. After a couple weeks of dry sunny weather and the girls scratching, it had mostly dried back out.

    Regarding leaves, in a run that can get wet, I can't imagine leaves would help much as they mat worse, even when chopped up. For that reason I kept my leaves in a separate compost pile in the north 40 to make leaf mold.

    Let me ask you this: what do you plan to use the compost for? Veggie garden mulch, soil amendment, flower bed mulch, all of the above? I initially planned to rake the littler from the run and finish it off by hot composting it and using it as a soil amendment in the veggie garden, but did ultimately decide that the straw takes too long to completely decompose for a soil amendment. What works best for me is instead using it as mulch in the veggie garden. Normally, weed/grass clippings and straw are full of seeds that would make your gardening life miserable in short order. After being in the run with my girls for a month or so, though, I'm confident we're 95%+ seed free. A few weeks ago, I raked out the straw/clipping mix from the run and used it as a thick, deep mulch around all of my veggies. In my mind it's perfect. Suppress weed growth, help retain soil moisture, and the added chicken poo helps feed my plants. In the few weeks since adding this to the garden I haven't picked a single weed from around the plants I used it on.
     
  8. TalkALittle

    TalkALittle Chillin' With My Peeps

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    How big of an area is your run? You just don't want to overwhelm the space with too much of any one kind of material. Not only will it throw off the "green/brown" ratio that you'll want to maintain for good composting action, but too much of one material tends to mat down and not allow for air spaces that are also necessary for microbial breakdown of material.

    So, yes, you can alternate but you may end up having to add small amounts of each material more frequently to maintain the balance rather than adding a whole bale or bag at a time.
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2016
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  9. pauleberly

    pauleberly Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Great information guys. My total run is 16X16 (i believe)

    I was hoping to eventually till the mixture into a my garden soil. Here was my original plan.

    Next year, around April, May remove all the bedding and put in new fresh bedding. I was going to take all of the stuff I have now, and finish composting it for the entire rest of the year. Then next year continue doing the same so that I will always have a finish compost pile, a new one started, and so on.
     
  10. mclanea

    mclanea Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I think we're going to alternate. Up until this point I've been using pine shavings in the coop, scattering some in the dirt run. I've got the shavings mixed in with other stuff in my compost box, it does break down eventually.

    My question is about moisture. Here in SoCal we having had rain since April and it might be another month until we get rain again. Is straw going to be problematic when it's dry for a long time? Should I get it wet (in the run) every once in a while just so it starts to break down a bit? In the coop I'll swap it out every 2 weeks so I'm not as worried about that.

    Anything I need to be aware of?
     

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