Wood chips over pavers over dirt?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by CDcluck, Apr 15, 2017.

  1. CDcluck

    CDcluck Out Of The Brooder

    42
    7
    29
    Sep 29, 2012
    northern Virginia
    We are putting in a new run closer to the house, the site is pretty level and currently grass. I don't want a dirt "floor", it will end up stinky mud. Sand, gravel, pebbles, concrete pad, etc, are all out, too, as I don't want to create so permanent of a scar on the land. I also will not have a rain-stopping roof (this year). The stocking density will be 10 sq ft per chick to start, moving down to 35 to 40 sq ft per bird as we expand the run and decrease the flock size (once we see how many roos are in the bunch).

    My idea is to lay pavers on the dirt (not bedded IN the dirt, but on top) "wall to wall" to keep the birds off the dirt, then to add 4 to 6 inches of wood chips over top of the pavers for them to poop and play in. Maybe a tub of dirt/sand in a corner for dust baths.

    My goals are happy birds, no stench, no mud, infrequent run cleaning, and being able to revert that chunk of land back to grass fairly easily if the chickens are moved again.

    Has anyone tried anything like this?
     
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    20,621
    4,115
    526
    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    The problem is that when poop gets wet it stinks and chickens poop a lot. If water stays in that area pretty much anything you do is risky and likely to stink. Clay dirt holds water, won’t let it drain away. If they can they will dig dust bathing holes in it that become mud puddles. A top will help, but even with a top rain and snow blow in from the sides. My run is on a small rise so rainwater does not enter it flowing on the ground and it’s mostly covered, but enough rain blows in from the sides that it can get pretty muddy when the weather turns wet. Mine is dirt.

    I have not done anything quite like what you are talking about. I think you could help yourself by bringing in enough dirt to raise the level a couple of inches above the surrounding area without permanently marking your landscape. That way it would help keep some water out and may actually drain a bit.

    I would not use pavers, bricks, cinder blocks, anything like that. They can get expensive, are heavy, and take a lot of work to install and remove. You may wind up having to remove them if it does start to stink. If you don’t want a dirt floor, and I would not blame you for that, you can try wood chips, wood shavings, straw, hay, dried leaves or dried grass clippings or a mix of these. Basically anything that will rot. If it stays wet and starts to stink you may have to remove it, but many people make their run into a compost pile by adding stuff like that. The chickens keep it turned with their scratching. How well this works will depend on how wet it stays. If it stays soaking wet for long, it can start to stink just like a regular compost pile. There is some trial and error involved in this, but to me I think it has a decent chance to meet your goals.

    Good luck!
     
  3. CDcluck

    CDcluck Out Of The Brooder

    42
    7
    29
    Sep 29, 2012
    northern Virginia
    Thank you.

    I was hoping the inevitable little gaps and irregularities of the pavers would let the rain drain enough to prevent puddling. The ground is a bit of topsoil over clay on a slight slope, it currently drains just fine even with heavy precipitation. I'm worried the birds having access to the topsoil will change that! The pavers are 12x12 and 18x18 inch leftovers from other projects, so no extra cost.

    How well does wood chips directly on the ground do at protecting the ground from the birds turning it to mud? I figure 2 inches deep would do very little, and 2 ft deep would work well, but what about 6-ish inches?
     
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    20,621
    4,115
    526
    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    I don’t have a good number for you since I don’t do that. Try something and see how it goes. I think you will find you need to renew the wood chips on a regular basis.

    Being on a slight rise will help, but we are all unique in different ways. A lot of the time it is trial and error. Toss some wood chips in there and see how it goes. If it’s not enough toss some more. As they rot or sink in the mud, toss some more.
     
  5. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    36,626
    10,319
    686
    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Even on a slight slope, the wonderful 6" of mixed dried plant matter(deep litter) will migrate down the slope.
    Keep adding material and eventually it will level off and stop 'moving'.

    I have this situation, when I add new material I add it at the high end where it takes care of the poops and the chickens scratch it down the slope.
    I basically followed this premise for 'deep litter' in my run....it's not a 'hot' mix, but it sure 'eats' up the nitrogen to keep stink way down even when wet.
    Here's a great description of contents and how to manage organic 'bedding' in a run or coop...and there's a great video of what it looks like.
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/1037998/muddy-run-help-please#post_16017992

    The pavers under the deep litter(for 'eating' the poops) might work with leaving space(1/2"-1") between for drainage...
    ....and would keep the birds from digging the deep holes they do so love to dig, thus maintaining a fairly flat surface.

    The deep litter if mixed and maintained properly should absorb enough nitrogen not to burn the heck out of the soil,
    so it should revert to grass fairly quickly, tho you'll probably have to reseed the area,
    as being covered for that long will probably kill what grass plants are there now.
     
  6. CDcluck

    CDcluck Out Of The Brooder

    42
    7
    29
    Sep 29, 2012
    northern Virginia

    That's the big hope. I trust a (semi) deep litter system to handle smells, but I also want to be able to "walk away" as easily as possible leaving the ground able to return to it's current state. If pavers will maintain the integrity of the topsoil (for the most part), then abandoning the site is as "easy" as picking up the pavers and stacking them- the litter shouldn't need to be dug out and hauled away like sand or pebbles or whatever.
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2017
  7. rbreininger

    rbreininger Out Of The Brooder

    74
    18
    39
    Jan 2, 2017
    SW Wyoming
    [​IMG]

    This photo was taken before I built my new coop.

    My run is over existing flagstone over dirt which is similar to what you are proposing.

    I have straw in the run. The hens love to scratch around and peck in it. It seems to work pretty good for us.

    Since the cost for you is minimal to zero, I say so for it.. Leave a little gap between the pavers to allow some runoff and I'll bet you are OK.
     
  8. CDcluck

    CDcluck Out Of The Brooder

    42
    7
    29
    Sep 29, 2012
    northern Virginia
    Yes! Like that, but wood chips instead of straw. I have a good neighbor who does tree work, so getting the chips (and knowing for sure what they are!) is relatively easy and extremely cheap.

    Then if we move the birds later, theoretically we only need to rake over the litter somewhat, stack the pavers, rake the litter back, and plant grass (or whatever) next springtime. I guess we'll know in a year or 5 ;)!

    Thanks all!
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by