Wood chips or sand? Wood chips or sand? Help me choose please!


8 Years
Aug 3, 2011
I can't decide what to use in the outdoor covered run for my ladies. I've heard good things about both. I know my girls like to search and scratch around in our wood chips/landscaping mulch when they are roaming but will that be too much moisture in the run for them. I don't want to grow any nasty stuff in there but I want easy. I like the idea of sand and how it may look but is it really easy? I'm not sure I want to rake the sand everyday and certainly not more than once a day. Do the girls get bored scratching around in sand and not finding anything? We would still have some sand for dusting/bathing purposes. We will have a large run, I don't want to make a costly mistake. My husband says wood chips, a very good friend says wood chips. I'm feeling the pressure here. Please tell me what you prefer and why. Thanks in advance!
Larger wood chips. We will use pine shaving inside the coop with the deep litter method. Just trying to figure out what will work best for our covered run.
I just love sand. Easy to rake up, drains well, doesn't really get stinky if you rake up the droppings every few days.....Good stuff!
By all means, SAND for the outside! Wood chips do absorb the moisture from the air in your beautiful WI summers, as well as from the adjacent wet ground, and they'll breed lots of bacteria that way, and this moisture & bacteria can transfer to the food they drop in the run. Mold can form in the food, which is the worst. Sand dries out quickly, especially when raked around often. Often is maybe twice a week, not everyday. Your chickens will rake as well. They love scratching in the sand, and if there aren't as many bugs in the sand, you can turn over some wood chips or bricks, scoop up the bugs, and throw them into the run for your girls.

Best part: you can order sand by the ton from any landscape supply place. It should run $15 to $20 per ton, not including delivery, and you can use it for a whole year without changing it at all, if you rake the poo & feathers up frequently.
The coarser the sand is, the better the drainage. AVOID mason's sand if possible. It clumps too much.

I think that a ton will cover about 25 sq ft about 4" deep, but I may be remembering wrong. I have 5 tons in my 200 s.f. run
I don't have a full roof.

Good luck.
I agree!! Sand, sand, sand, sand, sand!!! It is very clean, super easy to maintain and NO SMELL. Chicken poop dries up when it hits the sand so their feet stay clean. My girls free range all day long and we have not put it in our run yet, but soon we plan to put it in the run. We currently have it in our coop, and I have not seen a single fly all summer long. It takes me less than one minute to clean with a kitty litter scoop. I do clean mine daily, but for 7 minutes a week, It's not a big deal. Every time I open the door to my coop, it smells like a fresh summer breeze. It is delightful!! Recently, one of my girls had diarrhea and when it hit the sand, it dried right up and there was no smell. Our coop is so incredibly clean, that I don't see a need to change the sand out any time in the near or far future! Oh! I almost forgot. The sand in my coop is only 1/2 inch deep, and totally sufficient. I have 3 Buff Orpingtons and the floor of our coop is 4x4. It's raised off the ground and I don't have to stoop to clean it out. Here's a picture of the inside of my coop:

And here's a shot from the outside. You'll see how nicely elevated it is. Cleaning is a snap, I just scoop the poop and fling it in the woods.


The reason I decided to use sand was because of this guy...Click HERE and read what he has to say about sand.

My Country Chronicles Blog
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Outside run will be a stinky mess with chips or landscape mulch. There is no real way to clean it with out removing the "mulch". The mulch or wood chips will break down and being soiled, will cause a stink. I have 1/4 of our 50x50 run in sand, the other portion is dirt. In all honesty, with such a large area I dont find the sand to clean any easier then the dirt but the advantages with the sand are easily seen when its been raining. Sand is fairly cheap as posted above and when ours is not "clean" I will hustle it to the garden so there is no waste regardless.
Break up a big bale of hay in there and they'll take care of scattering it. They love scratching in it and the poop will break down and you can use it for compost the next season. I have a 12x20 run and I put about half a large round bale in there, forked a little off and they've been playing on it all summer. By end of autumn it'll be all spread out and I'll clean it out and put it in the compost pile next spring and put another in there.
Ditto re: sand over chips ANY day of the week!! See my mud eradiction page (link in signature) for how I did it. Wood of any type turns into MUD eventually and you have to remove it. Ditto hay/straw. Might it become good compost? Yeah, I guess. But I, for one, have NO interest in having to remove all that mucky, nasty stuff several times a year (wait much longer than that and it's risking your chickens' health).

I pick poop out of my sandy run using a horse stall fork I zip-tied hardware cloth to--works like a giant kitty litter scoop, with no bending. Works great and my run is dry, clean, and healthy!

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