Substrate Saga: what to use??

MissGreenJeans

Chirping
Oct 17, 2020
73
200
96
Asheville, NC
Hey, BYC folks. My brain hurts. I’ve been trying to sort out all the new info about chicken-keeping I’ve been sponging up as a newbie. One of the seemingly most debated topics is what’s safe/best to use in a run. Here’s my tale of woe:

Had to put my run on top of a gravel driveway, so I’ve been digging out the gravel. It’s slow going. Nearer to the bottom, there’s some sandy soil and, at the very bottom, red dirt (maybe clay). Got some screened topsoil to replace the gravel (not wanting to have a hole, which seems super bad for drainage reasons). Posted another thread about the pile of topsoil I got growing some delightful dog vomit slime mold (I think) after I goofed and covered it with a tarp while it waited to go into the run. That mold has since dried up, but, trying to be cautious and concerned about remaining spores, I figured I’d get something else. Decided to buy a load of wood chips. Had those delivered today—but they seem kinda stabby, and they’ve got lots of stringy bits as well. Do chickens try to eat that stuff? (Pics attached.) Worst thing, though, is that some of the chips seem a bit damp—and it looks like some are already growing a little mold. Go away, mold!!!!

I’m at a loss. I love my chickens so much and just want to keep them safe. They’re already way overdue to move outside. Very eager to complete their run to make that happen, but I’m not sure what to do! It would break my heart to make the wrong decision about this and end up with sick chickens. I think my current choices are:
- Keep digging out the gravel and then dig up soil from another area to fill the hole. This would take several more days. The waiting chickens may mutiny.
- Leave the gravel for drainage reasons and put the topsoil on top, now that the mold appears to have dried up and died. (That would mean that the gravel would probably be about 6-8 inches below the dirt.)
- Leave the gravel and put the topsoil on top. Then cover it with a thinner layer of the chips, hoping they dry out.
- Some other combo of the above actions.
- Entirely different actions??
- Ditch this horrid, damp land and move to the desert.

What would YOU do?
 

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aart

Chicken Juggler!
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Give your brain a break and......
Add the dirt to bring the hole up to or a bit above the surrounding ground level.
Add a couple-few inches of the wood chips.
I would not worry about the bit of 'growth' in the chips...or the "stabby/stringy" parts.
You could also add a bit of some dry grass clippings or straw/hay to balance out the wood chips.
 

MissGreenJeans

Chirping
Oct 17, 2020
73
200
96
Asheville, NC
p.s. Here’s the run area, including a section at the end where I started to dig up the gravel. I screened it and left the sandy dirt. Also, tons of dirt and tons of chips.
 

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MissGreenJeans

Chirping
Oct 17, 2020
73
200
96
Asheville, NC
Give your brain a break and......
Add the dirt to bring the hole up to or a bit above the surrounding ground level.
Add a couple-few inches of the wood chips.
I would not worry about the bit of 'growth' in the chips...or the "stabby/stringy" parts.
You could also add a bit of some dry grass clippings or straw/hay to balance out the wood chips.
Thank you. My brain feels better already. :)
 

rosemarythyme

Scarborough Fair
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I would do a mix of things, some of the wood chips, some of the dirt. Some gravel underneath should be fine as it'll have 6-8" of other litter over it.

The "stringy stuff" is just shreds of bark, so that's no issue. The mold/fungus on the chips is also normal, though since you just got the chips delivered and probably don't know the age of them I would use them sparingly at first to reduce the chance of any harmful mold forming, and layer it up over time, so the chips dry out as much as possible.

If you start getting dried fall leaves those would be a good mix in as well.
 

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