There are multiple options when choosing a suitable flooring for your chicken run. If your run is on your lawn and portable, you can move it around the garden once an area has become worn to allow the grass to recover; though if you have a chicken run that remains in one position or you don’t have a lawn, you may find that after some rain it becomes a bit of a quagmire, difficult to clean and your poor ladies get very muddy feet and legs. We’ve taken a look at few of the options that are widely used:
• Wood Chippings
• Pea Gravel
• Wood Shavings
Coarse sand is relatively inexpensive and droppings are easy to clean from it, most simply by using a cat litter scoop. Some of the sand can wash away or into the soil below unless contained, but as the sand disperses it can be topped up. Many chicken keepers swear by sand as an easy option and rake the droppings into the sand rather than ‘poop scoop’ so that they break down over time, then they remove the top layer every six months and top it up; however, some keepers complain that in uncovered runs sand works into the mud too easily if a thin layer is used and is easily dragged around on wet shoes or wellies, so the use of sand is a little divided.
Wood chips are becoming increasingly popular due the clean, light appearance, free drainage, being almost dust-free and most importantly, chickens love to scratch around in them!
Wood chippings, or Play Chips as they are also known, are easily cleaned and not quickly trampled into the mud; one of the key reasons they are used in animal enclosures and hen runs is that they are excellent at preventing muddy feet.
Wood chippings are natural and will eventually break down over a long period of time so just need a top up once or twice a year depending upon the depth they’ve been laid; hardwood chips will generally last longer than softwood chippings which can break down more quickly. If you decide to move your chicken run to a different position the chippings can simply be dug into the soil (if you’re not relocating the chippings too) as they will break down over time and provide nutrients to the soil.
Wood chips are the white wood of the tree and shouldn’t be confused with bark chips; bark chips/mulch should not be used in runs or enclosures as it can go mouldy and produce spores which can lead to respiratory illness in chickens.
A rounded gravel such as pea gravel can be used, but we wouldn’t recommend using weed membrane underneath. Droppings will be washed through to the bottom by the rain or trampled in which can become quite smelly; it is far better to allow water free drainage through to the soil below. Some chicken-keepers have commented that their chickens don’t like walking on pea gravel, but it is a longer lasting option to wood products - especially if you don’t have any plans on repositioning your run - though won’t have any nutritional benefit to the soil if you choose to dig it in.
Wood Shavings or Straw
Wood shavings and straw are both great beddings for chicken coops and I personally love the smell of clean shavings in a warm coop, but when used as a flooring in an uncovered run, wood shavings and straw can become soggy and work into the ground fairly quickly making the run difficult to clean; that’s if they don’t blow away first!
For some people, finding the best flooring is a little bit of ‘trial and error’ as it’s not only what us humans would prefer to use, it’s all about our chickens being happy and comfortable. The most important things to remember when trying to avoid a muddy run, are to ensure it isn’t located at the bottom of a slope, try to make the area as level as possible and whether you choose wood chips, sand, gravel or another option, be sure to choose a flooring that is free draining.
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