If you own a flock of chickens, they need several different surfaces in their coop and run to stay healthy and happy. Here are three types of surfaces you should consider when building or upgrading your chicken coop and run.
If your chicken coop or run is set on bare dirt, then the dirt area can quickly turn into a mud bog-swamp after a big rain storm or a winter thaw. When your chicken run or coop turns muddy, your chickens will be walking in mud all day.
It is unhealthy for your chickens to have wet, mud-covered feet for a long period of time because they can get bumblefoot. Bumblefoot is a condition when a chicken's feet get sores and scabs from constantly being wet. Over time these sores do not heal and collect bacteria from the wet environment. The sores will grow larger, spreading to other areas of your chicken's body. As this condition worsens, your chickens will become ill and need to be treated by a veterinarian or they can die.
To protect your chickens' feet from bumblefoot, you will need to create an environment for them that doesn't turn to mud. Paving stones can cover any bare dirt in the chicken run or coop and will keep your chickens clean and dry.
Because paving stones can be set along the ground to create one large paved area, they are perfect for laying a protective ground cover around the coop and chicken run. Unless your chicken coop is already set on a concrete pad or on a wooden foundation, predators can dig under the outside walls to burrow into your coop. Paving stones set around the outside and inside perimeter of the coop and run will keep predators from digging under the chicken run fence and chicken coop walls.
Because chickens love to take dust baths and burrow down into soft dirt, why not add an area of sand to their run or coop? A coarse-grit sand will give your chickens what they need for burrowing and playing in, but will also make the coop and run easy to clean and maintain.
Spread a three to four inch deep layer of sand in the middle of your chicken run where the paving stones end. This will give your chickens a mud-free space. The sand creates a porous surface that will drain well after a rain storm so you don't need to worry about your chickens getting bumblefoot. Once the sand dries out, your chickens can take their dust baths in the sand.
Pouring sand in your coop, over the paving stones, will provide soft bedding for your chickens to scratch in and make cleaning their coop easy. When it is time to clean up chicken droppings from the coop or run, you can use a kitty littler scoop to sift out any droppings from the sand. A couple times a year you can rinse all the sand and place it in the sun to dry for a deep cleaning.
When you have hens, you need to provide nesting boxes in a quiet area where they can lay their eggs. Chickens like their nesting boxes to be lined in comfortable materials. Hay or straw can become scattered around by your chickens and also does not dry out well, promoting mold growth. Wood shavings in nesting boxes provides an absorbent layer to soak up droppings that will dry out well.
A layer of soft wood shavings five to six inches deep in your nesting boxes will protect the eggs from cracking and breaking.
A freshly lain egg has a wet protective coating on it that can stick to many types of nesting materials. Wood shavings are less likely than other types of nesting materials to stick to the outer coating of the egg as it dries. Nesting items such as shredded paper, hay, and straw stick more easily to a freshly lain egg.
Be sure to follow these three recommendations and other ideas from your veterinarian when building your chicken coop and run and you will have healthy, happy chickens.