Deep Litter Chicken Run
I'm fairly new at chicken stewardship. Just 4 years in. And I took all the advice I could get for a while and just experimented with it all. I wanted the best of containment and foraging combined. However, after all of that I was glad to read an article from an Australian blogger that described my dilemma. I read it in the winter and have misplaced it or I'd send the link....... But it is still with me as I am trying HER final method now.
She talked about the lovely feeling of having the chickens wandering around the farm, foraging and free. Then, admitted that chickens can be and so often are extremely destructive of fine gardens, not to mention, they are not protected from predators. YES! In the spring, I do let mine roam and the mess they make takes me days to fix once I can get to prepping my garden patches. And, as we live on the edge of a forest, coyotes and hawks are a close and present danger. I've seen them round up baby wild turkeys and run off with them in their mouths. With them all separated and roaming, it is stressful for Mr Darcy (rooster) to maintain safety of his girls.
The article described the closely fenced chicken run and how fast and completely, it becomes hard pack, dusty absolutely desolate. YUP, that happens in no time and I feel badly because I thought I'd be able to have free rangin' chicks eating grass, clover and worms. But again, it is not safe for them or the rest of the gardens. They end up hanging out in the dust and heat in summer months.
So, she came up with a brilliant idea - deep litter outside! I have totally subscribed to this inside the coop. It is wonderful and time-saving to have 12" of litter and not worry about it being a health hazard for them. This year I am trying this idea outside as the blogger suggested. I've had two large round hay bales delivered and I've spread them so deep it's hard to walk. The whole chicken yard is covered over 18 inches deep right now. The chickens are sooooo busy, scratching through it to the cool ground. One of the bales was hay with seed and what a perfect addition, as that stimulated them to go deep into it looking. In the summer, I suspect worms and other critters will reside there on the surface of the ground under the hay and it will also become a source for food. I am loving this idea. What do you think?