Chickens part 4
No they are settled, I’m looking at experimenting with 2 things: bedding/flooring and food. What’s the best combo? What makes it easy to keep it clean? What will keep the. Mess and waste down? So many questions and so many answers to find…I love it!
From all the websites, blogs, discussion forums I’ve looked at, most people agree on 2 main bed dings: straw and wood shavings (dust free). Hay, although similar to straw and costing the same, carries a lot more parasites and causes problems – ill go into this later when thinking about the health of the chickens.
Wood shavings are cheap (I’ve found them locally at £10 for 25kg or milburyhill.co.uk are great online pricing, if you order 100kgs of shavings and have it delivered, your looking at £40 roughly) these are all dust free, like rats (I’ve had them, they’re lovey and intelligent, beating a hamster any day!) chickens can suffer with micoplasmosis – a respiratory problem, which if untreated, will permanently damage the lungs, but don’t worry they’ll be fine with a little bit if dust, that’s what nostrils were evolved for.
I have straw in my nesting box, it wraps around them and they can hide their eggs in it, sort of like a nest. They are currently pulling it out, packing it back in and making a right mess of the whole lot! (The picture above shows my coop aft I’ve cleaned it out recently) they’re animals, so expect them to be just like children: free from any problem. The wood shavings I’m using under their roosting area, this is creating a good thermal layer and means I can see and poop easily, provided its not covered by straw.
So far, the chickens are happy and have layer 5 eggs (even though they are not ‘point of lay’ age. These are 3 pullets, again, will expand on this later.) turns out, placing news paper under the shavings was pointless. I thought it might make cleaning easier, instead, it gave the chickens something to dig out and play with, making even more mess!
Now, according to a lovely friend at work, who’s had chickens for decades (not years) she says that ‘the straw can be too long, it can get trapped in their legs or get under the scales, it needs to be short cut straw’ I nodded at the time and thought nothing of it. The straw I have is long, but soft, so it doesn’t really effect them, but I’ll have to consider this for later.
My main issue now is the roaming ground, their pen. The area they are currently using, is the small run that came with the coop, giving about 1.5m squared. Im going to be building a run that covers 4mx2m, so the flooring has to be easy to clean; suffer through the british climate (yes rain, its wet here a lot, but the sun does shine too! unless its snowing;) it should also be good for the chickens; not smell and if possible, Eco friendly (I enjoy my planet and there’s no point wasting good manure, ask any farmer.)
There are so many possibilities here:
-Sand: dead easy to clean, rarely needs changing, keeps the claws sharp and feathers soft. Does require a large amount (1Ton for me!) and it could have an effect on the soil below the run. Also, not so good if you have an open air run, becomes really soggy and will dissipate into to ground quickly. Keep it too dry and can be really dusty. Finally, good for dust bathing!
-Concrete: solid floor means easy to clean, keeps the claws dull and is quick one time job. It does require a good scrub and will smell (I’ve been to a few farms that use this method, but they put hay and wood shavings on top. It still smells.) liquid will brush off of this easily.
– Wood shavings: lose and easy for the chickens to dig through, shows the poop nicely, absorbs the liquid for a quick clean. It rots down in 2 years and is reasonably cheap. (Some people don’t clean it out, they just let it rot down below the run and add new layers of shavings every few months!) not good if you have an open air run, wet and soggy chicken feet.
– Bark: can contain pollutants, but if sourced appropriately, can be a good natural flooring. Harder to see the darker poops, but still. Easy to clean. The chooks like to forage through it. Haven’t read about many people using this method.
-Straw: chopped finely so as not to damage their feet, it is similar to wood shavings, again, becomes soggy and rots nicely. A good mixture for composting. Can be cheap and pricey, depending on your sources.
Soil/grass: the natural way, just get in there and be a bit grubby. Chickens love to scratch and dig and peck. This is them in their semi-natural habitat. Can get smelly and muddy, but they sort themselves out. You will have to use a trowel or shovel to clear up their mess. If it’s grass, it won’t be for long.
I’m sure there are more types of flooring, but these are the most popular I’ve found. Personally, I like the idea of soil, but in the few days I’ve had my chickens, they’ve made a mess of the floor and themselves. So I’m going to try wood shavings, under a roof so as not to let them rot.
Wile I draw up the plans for the run, I need now to think of their diet: do I want a table bird or a pet egg laying machine?