Using Straw in Muddy Run

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Chez Poulet, Nov 2, 2008.

  1. Chez Poulet

    Chez Poulet Out Of The Brooder

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    I missed the boat this summer by not putting in sand/gravel into the run and now I'm sinking in mud in the run.

    I've read so much on this subject and am still a little confused about what to use to keep the mud controlled and as tolerable as possible. I am not going to put up a tarp at this time. Here is a picture of what we have right now. Stepping stones to the door from the aviary door (now covered in mud!) The girls have dry space below the coop to dust bathe and hang out, you can just see part of the slanted perches under the coop. Water does not pool anywhere, it does run off, but rain in general leaves the surface mucky.

    Whoever said that chickens don't like to get their feet wet don't know mine! I swear, they like to PLAY in puddles, splashing about like ducks. Some of my chickens are so friendly, they fly up on my back, shoulder, head and lap and goop me up with their feet!

    Les Girls have never been around hay or straw. I don't want to use hay because I don't want the weed seeds in the garden after it composts. I've heard bad things about straw. I have a friend who used straw in her run to control the mud and says it's great, others say it makes a big mess. I plan on raking it out periodically. We have big fat maple leaves that have fallen everywhere. Would that make nice run litter? How about ends of pine boughs? I have used carefully selected cut grass and that seemed to keep the mud at bay for a few days, but I can't always put that in. When I have put fresh sod in the run, they ate all the green grass and left the dry long stringy pieces alone, so I'm wondering if I use straw, maybe they won't eat it. I don't want to worry about crop issues. I read that pine shavings don't help much.

    Is it obvious I'm a first year chicken freak? I am not really worried about the mud for their sake, they haven't lodged any complaints as of yet, but it's more of an issue on my end. Thank you all in advance for your input.

    [​IMG]
     
  2. SunAngel

    SunAngel Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 20, 2008
    Chambersburg, Pa.
    Couldn't you still get some sand for their run?

    I just went 2 weeks ago and got a load for my bantam run and want another load or two yet. We live right down the road from a sand quarry though, so I don't know if you have that kind of access to sand.

    I haven't tried anything else in my run yet, so I can't be of much help. Sorry. If you can't get sand, I would think hay would be a good alternative.
     
  3. ozark hen

    ozark hen Living My Dream

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    Ok, here is what we are in the process of doing this weekend. Putting down a huge roll of hay. We want the seeds to drop to the ground under the thick layer of hay. The chickens eat the new sprouts in very early spring, the ground does not thaw under the hay, insects/bugs survive under the hay, and it keeps the muddy areas dry. Well, the hay is deep enough that you don't fall into a mud hole. We didn't bury any wire last year when we installed the fencing so we spent the entire day releasing the fencing and burying it today. We managed to get the hay unrolled before calling it a day as we were totally exhausted...dh was in bed before 6:30 p.m. [​IMG] [​IMG]
    My chickens absolutely love to scratch around in it and on cold but sunny days I find my chickens bedded down in the soft warm hay sunning themselves. I let them free range during the summer months. We did this last year and the entire bale of hay composted over the year. The soil is so rich in there I told my dh we needed to find another place for the run so I could use it as garden space. [​IMG] Now this is my experience with it. But it has to be thick, we just unroll it as is and it works for us. Our run is about 20 ft x 50 ft.
     
  4. RockyToggRanch

    RockyToggRanch Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 22, 2008
    Upstate NY
    I would think that with chicken poop mixed in, the hay seeds would cook up in a composte heap and not be an issue in the garden.
    If it composts right in the run..bonus:) do you scoop it out and replace it? or does it stay, in compost form, right where it broke down?
     
  5. ozark hen

    ozark hen Living My Dream

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    I left it in the run and you can't find any hay by the end of next year when it is time to replace the hay. You will find sprouts under the hay in very, very early spring, that is when the chickens have a ball with the "fresh greens".
     
  6. WoodlandWoman

    WoodlandWoman Overrun With Chickens

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    Wisconsin
    I would just put sand down. Is there some reason why you can't do that now? It seems like that would be the best solution for your climate and situation, with as much rain as you get out there.
     
  7. ivan3

    ivan3 spurredon Premium Member

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    BOCOMO
    Part of this depends on your subsoil and the slope (drainage) of the run. We have about ten inches of topsoil over several feet of clay. The freeze thaw cycle here turns any excess in straw/leaves into bricks when it warms up and is walked on. You all have a lot of rain?

    If it is really muddy and you can't get sand a THICK layer of material (like ozark hen suggested) with some board walkways laid down for human crossing. Large grained sand really is a time saver as, even if you go with straw/hay over that, it is so much easier to rake the material off of sand than not, and aids in speeding drainage if there is any slope at all.
     
  8. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    sand or gravel put onto muddy ground just disappears into the mud. You might think it would still make some difference, at least give you sandier mud [​IMG], but no, it just vanishes utterly. Gotta put it on DRY ground if you want to get your money's worth.

    Chez Poulet, you're in the PNW, you should be able to get hogfuel -- coarsely chipped up tree limbs and bark. What people call hogfuel varies but most of what I've seen is about the best mud amendment I know, because it is coarse and woody and includes a lot of bark (which rots slower than wood, and both rot MUCH slower than hay or straw). You might ask around, maybe talk to the feedstore guy (people often put down hogfuel as a mud amendment for horses etc), see what you can find out.

    Good luck,

    Pat
     
  9. ivan3

    ivan3 spurredon Premium Member

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    patandchickens wrote: sand or gravel put onto muddy ground just disappears into the mud

    .

    This depends on how much one applies. Our `mud season' is nothing like WA west of the Cascades, but planks for humans (distribution of wt.) decreases the damage, regardless (I was wondering from the photo if the pavers were sinking, now, as well). Chooks do very nicely (occasionally get down through sand ) and, as the sand works its way downslope to pile against stones along fencing it can be raked back upslope. The reason I posted was because of the difference in the turkey run in the spring. It is much less muddy (legs clean, no caked chest feathers and beards). Choice of material depends on what type of soil one is struggling to pull one's mud boots outa.​
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2008
  10. Chez Poulet

    Chez Poulet Out Of The Brooder

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    Jun 1, 2008
    Harstine Island, WA
    Thank you everyone for the input so far.

    The pavers have not sunk in (yet), but they are poopy and muddy, so I take a deck brush and scrape it off, also I use a plastic hardware spatula to scrape the ramp. It has been better since I have those. I have to do this a couple times a day. Hey, is that all we do, dish out food, love and scrape? Lucky chooks!

    Still, just wondering about the straw. I have a fresh bale I was going to use in the garden to winterize, and I do like the idea of using hay more now, but could I use the straw temporarily with the intention of raking it out after it is muddy? Again, I'm just freaked out about people saying their chooks eat it. I've also heard of people using their leftover soiled wood shavings in the run, but again, since it's so goopy here, it might be good for one climate, but not for here?

    The hogfuel sounds like a great idea. I'm in Christmas tree and timber country and we have huge gardening/mulching business all over the place in this area. I also have 5 acres with lots of pines, fir and hemlock (the tree) that I can use when my guys come out to trim next week. Just wondering about aromatic resins (sap, etc.) from this type of material.
     

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