Is everyone out there just on the dirt or has someone had great luck with something else? I'm always looking for ways to keep things cleaner for the girls and keep them occupied :) Thanks for any input!
I'd never go with bare dirt. It's a good way for odor and flies to become an issue. The inside of a coop needs a thick layer of "browns" put down to mix with and "process" the droppings. It should be kept fluffy by the hens' scratching.
I used to buy the big bales of pine shavings, but now I like to use free stuff like dried yard debris. For example, we have a lot of mesquite pods fall from our mesquite trees once or twice a year. When those get swept up they go in the coop and break down nicely to use in the garden later. Occasionally I'll throw some scratch in so the hens mix it up and keep it fluffy. For inside the nesting boxes I keep it topped off with clean shredded office paper to keep the eggs clean.
Thanks everyone! I was just using sand. I'll have to pick up a bale of alfalfa since we moved into a VERY bare lot. Until we plant a garden the chickens, two small trees and shade vines are the only things growing! Back in NC stuff can get really mucky and messy I guess I don't have that problem out here. I have to adjust my way of thinking :)
I use sand (about 4-5 inches deep) in the sunken enclosed run. It's great, I use a kitty litter scoup to clean the big pieces (and add to my compost) every few months and then just rake it under. I don't have flies or any unpleasant odors. It probably helps that I only have 5 hens for a 6X18 enclosed run and a 5.5X6 coop. I use wood shavings in the coop. I have a dedicated mister over the sand that spays for about 1-2 minutes a couple times a day to keep the dust down and provide some evaporative cooling. It's very clean and neat looking. It seems like the poop just disapears, I think they are turning it and it's just breaking down... regardless they look happy and love to dig little dirt nests. Around the sides of the coop I've planted climing tea roses, rosemary and gardenia. I also have 3 window boxes 2 full of aloe and other succulants and the other annuals. I am planning on planting some leaf lettuce in the flower bed just for the girls.
I was reading the discussion on what to put in chicen runs and I saw your reply; everyone I asked about planting inside the run said there was no point, that the girls eat it all so fast that nothing really grows... Have you had your vegetation for very long? I want to put in a garden for the gang at FaithNorth, but have been discouraged by remarks heretofore. We only have three hens, but also have a pair of ducks. I really like the idea of putting vines in, our pen looks so barren and ugly (it is large, about 15' x 15'). I want to try putting in some greens under cover of fencing so the birds cant get to it until it reaches some substantial height... Let us know haow you do with yours and we'll post our results too!
All of my plantings are on the outside of the run. I was hoping to plant some leaf lettuce in a flower bed I have in front of the run, thinking they could peck at it through the hardware cloth. Additionally I would harvest it for them. All around my run (on the outside) I have lots of vegetation, this provides great shade. The only drawback is that the plants block my view of them.