The grass in the run was gone in less than a week and we ended up with a bare dirt. I covered the run with hay after reading a chicken composting article in GRIT magazine. It was pretty and smelled great. When there was a smell, I turned the hay or top-dressed it with a little more fresh hay. Then the rain began.
Then the rain didn't stop. With over six inches of rain in less than a month's time, what started as a great medium for the ladies to scratch around in became a wet soggy mess that bred flies by the thousands. The wet hay smell mixed with copious amounts of chicken poo was a nightmare. No amount of turning or top-dressing solved the problem. What now?
Sand seemed to be the answer upon the recommendations of the Chicken Chick and Backyard Chickens. The praises were unlimited. The perfect litter for clean chickens and eggs with the bonus of a built in dust bath. Welcome to Chicken Beach.
Awesome, except for more rain. The poo washed right down through the sand so it looked great, the sand leveled the lot so no more puddles, and the flies were all but gone. Problem solved? No, the odor was unbearable. It was worse than the hay. Next?
I moved most of the sand from one half of the 10' x 20' chicken run to make a four inch deep section under and around the coop. Four plus inches of double ground mulch was added on the 10' x 10' open section of the run divided by a log to keep the two materials separate. A five pound bag of powdered lime was then spread over the sand to help with the odor.
So far, the smell is gone even though the rain is not and the chickens certainly prefer the new layout. They love scratching in the mulch and the new log roosts. And, I think the ladies will spend more time in the sand if it ever stops raining and has a chance to dry out.
Hopefully the mulch and sand combo will be our answer. Stay tuned and try to stay dry.