Substrate options


6 Years
Dec 2, 2014
I expect it's been asked many times but oy, this computer is unbearably slow so I cannot search back too well!

I had been planning a smaller coop/run setup using a dog kennel and run but I've had a bit of a rethink. In my garden I have two garages set roughly 15ft apart, and I'm not doing anything with the space inbetween. So I'll be turning that area into the chicken run and using the kennel inside it as their coop.

The coop will be 5ft x 4ft, the run will end up roughly 15ft x 12ft.

Now in all the time I've been on-and-off planning getting these chooks, I've just been assuming I'll use woodchip in the bottom but as I begin to creep closer to actually getting them I'm starting to look into it a bit more closely.

So, what would people use in a setup that size? Is any sort of woodchip preferable over another, or a different substrate better perhaps? And where would be good to source it for that sized area?

I won't have many chickens - I've looked at breeds and I think to begin with I'll just be having half a dozen ex-battery hens.

Thanks :)
Let me give you some links to look over. Also, don't overlook the brown strip at the top of the page, with our Learning Center, etc. There are a lot of good articles there, and we are presently working to improve it even more.

That is not much space for 12 chickens. I would not put more than 5 full size hens in a coop that size, of open floor space. Your run will accommodate more, though. (See below.)

People use all sorts of stuff for substrate: ground corn cobs, rice hulls, dried autumn leaves, shredded paper, wood chops of almost any kind except aromatic cedar. Really, whatever is cheap and available. Sand is becoming more popular but, besides washing away, it may get too hot in direct sun (if used in the run, obviously.) What determines how often it needs cleaning and how smelly it gets is mostly how much space each chicken has. I rake out my coop once a year.

You may not find all of these helpful, but hopefully some will be. There are also two excellent links in my signature line.
HALF a dozen, not a dozen :) 6 at most, on account of the coop not being huge.

Thanks very much for the info :)
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I agree, with looking at what is around you. We are pure sand for our soil, and I put old waste hay in the run and in the coop. My girls hopefully find most of the weed seed and insect eggs, and latter I use it as mulch for my garden.

Mrs K
Ooh, you've reminded me of another factor - part of the run will be bare earth. I have ex-council concrete slabs to go down but they won't cover the whole area, and I'll be laying them along either side of the front and back walls to prevent digging there from my dogs and the local foxes (will be burying some wire along there too).
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Not sure concrete slabs are a good surface for a run, chickens like to and need to scratch at the ground.

Mine is bare ground except for some grazing frames and I throw dry leaves and grass clippings...some straw once in while...on to the ground to help 'soak up' the poops.

You say 'between two garages'...made me want to mention to think about water run off from the garage roofs, and elsewhere in the yard.
Hopefully you have good drainage and/or a slight slope to the land so you don't end up with flooded portions of run and especially not in the coop.
Unfortunately my sloped driveway carries a lot of rain water down and because of the slope of the surrounding land the only place for it to go is right thru the run.
I have to keep a trench dug into the ground to it can flow thru without forming a very large puddle...and luckily my soil is fairly sandy so it drains away pretty good.
Run-off won't be an issue - the garages are placed oddly (bit of an odd property, really!) so the gap is between the back end of the first (with run-off going to the sides of that one) and the side of the other (run-off goes to the back of that one). if that makes any sense!

Parts of the garden do get boggy with heavy rain but nowhere near this area, and in 8 years (and with one big flood a few years ago) I've yet to see a single puddle in there. Sandy soil like yours too, which helps.
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