Need help choosing bedding

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Zlorfik
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Need help choosing bedding

Post by Zlorfik » Sun Mar 19, 2017 11:11 am

Repost from BYC, just in case I'm trying both forums. THank you :)

Hi everyone, I need help with our coop bedding. We are beginning our third year of chicken keeping and have definitely had ups and downs including an ILT outbreak in December. As a result, we will be depopulating this year and doing all in all out. We will then be receiving 40new layers. Yes we sell eggs at work :) I should begin by saying how we are set up: the birds are in a wooden barn with concrete floors. They have about 300 square feet to roam, which is important in considering what bedding we use (it's big). The second big factor, I have found, is climate. We're in south eastern ontario, we get -20C often, sometimes minus 30. Finally, in the summer they're free ranged dawn to dusk, but in the winter we let them out only when it's milder. Last consideration, we want to compost the manure for our large garden...have not really done it successfully yet.

So far we tried two things:
First year, we used deep litter... yeah, that didn't work. We were not disciplined enough to turn often, we had ducks mixed in and making a mess with water, which then froze SOLID and could not get turned, wood started to rot, and as we learned later, without a dirt floor, the composting effect does not really happen.
So, second year, we tried sand. While in the face of it, it could work, what I found to my disappointment is that it will freeze on cold days, particularly where they pooped a bit, and the crusted frozen poop is impossible to remove. I'm not talking about weeks without raking, I'm talking about a couple of days (i.e. if we go for the weekend). And once that's happened, it piles on...literally.

So far, I've not liked either. I would like your thoughts on either something else (I could do, for example, thin layer of shavings, all in all out every week), or how to make those options above work. Input welcome!
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Ontario Chick
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Need help choosing bedding

Post by Ontario Chick » Sun Mar 19, 2017 11:27 am

If you are serious about composting the bedding, your choices are somewhat limited.
Wood shavings are hell in a compost pile, because it's very hard to get the Carbon Nitrogen ratio right, unless you are actually planning to pick out the individual droppings.
Flax bedding is good for composting, but fairly expensive.
I assume you are looking for something economical with easy upkeep.
We use straw in the winter for deep bedding, don't mind turning, and wood shavings in the summer for easy upkeep.
The difference here is that we use bins under the roosts, so most droppings end up in the bins, those can be easily composted, even when the bedding is wood shavings.
New stall bins and roosts.jpg
straw bedding
BTW this is the New improved version :) the roosts lift up to make the bin removal easy
bins divided stall.jpg
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Need help choosing bedding

Post by LongCrow » Sun Mar 19, 2017 11:48 am

How many ducks are in the same pen?
If you can't separate them I suggest you put a raised screened or slatted deck around waterer. Even a small drain to outside if necessary. You need to keep it much drier.
As for bedding I would look for 6-8" total winter depth cleaned out early spring. After clean-out use a thinner layer for summer and top up as needed.

Because you want to use it in the garden I would use mostly wood shavings, a mix of fine and coarse if available. For more absorbency and because it's for the garden I sometimes add a bale or two of peat-moss. This can be dusty/dirty though. Very clean chopped straw works good too but you don't want to transfer weed seeds to the garden.

I would pile the un-composted manure outside and turn regularly over summer and use on garden before fall tilling. It will decompose by spring.
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Ontario Chick
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Need help choosing bedding

Post by Ontario Chick » Sun Mar 19, 2017 12:12 pm

LongCrow post reminded me, something I should have mentioned in the first place, I would not keep ducks and chickens together, simply too much work to keep the pen dry enough for chickens in my experience.
I know some people manage, I couldn't be bothered. :)
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Jaye
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Need help choosing bedding

Post by Jaye » Sun Mar 19, 2017 3:18 pm

Flax bedding. Yes, it's more expensive than pretty much any of the other options, but it goes further, absorbs moisture really well but doesn't hold it for long; i.e., it dries out quickly too, keeps odour down, easy to spot clean, much less dusty than wood shavings and it's compostable. I just spot clean the immediately visible droppings on top regularly and add more during the cold months, then take it all out and replace it after my spring and fall clean.
The down-side is it's difficult to source. I ran out of bags this winter and wound up mixing half and half flax bedding and wood shavings, which also worked well. BTW. for those of you in the Ottawa area, just found out that the Olde Co-op in North Gower is carrying it again.
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KimChick
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Need help choosing bedding

Post by KimChick » Sun Mar 19, 2017 5:46 pm

This is our first year with chickens.
We use course shavings for bedding. I also use some shavings in with the straw in the nesting boxes just for some cushioning.
For the coops (we have two), I tried deep bedding. Well, as deep as I could, which was about 2 - 3 inches. It worked fairly well for me.
Every 2 or 3 days, I scooped the poop and stirred the bedding using a gardening hand rake, getting out the damp stuff as I went. I replaced some of the bedding as needed. If the droppings were frozen to the bottom or side of the pullout floor, I used one of those large ice scrapers that look like flat garden edgers. It also worked well with the damp shavings.
Our chickies do not have access to our barn yet; that will be in the works at some point this year. So this winter, they saw a lot of snow shoveling in their yard.
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Zlorfik
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Need help choosing bedding

Post by Zlorfik » Sun Mar 19, 2017 6:02 pm

Oh my god Ontario Chick yours is the BOMB! I am totally doing that. The roost has been a pain getting in and out to wash anyway.

The ducks are gone... in their own place outside. 1 the risk for health was too great but also, yeah, they're filthy :) The concept of mixed flock is very bucolic, but beyond that not so much...

SO right now I'm thinking, improve ''ahem steal someone's idea'' and improve my roost with poop bins underneath'', then in the winter move to thin layer of pine shaving, removed every so often. Then yeah, I'm going to try to compost the whole thing: I'll follow up in other posts on composting advice.
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Nome89
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Need help choosing bedding

Post by Nome89 » Sun Mar 19, 2017 8:33 pm

I just started using pellet bedding... you soak in water before bedding but it hasn't froze on me yet... mind you you will likely be a bit colder than where I am. It also hasn't made the coop smell. I find some beddings make it unbearable to go in the coop because of the ammonia.
It's $6 a bag where I get it and I used 1 bag for my 10x10 coop and it's pretty deep. My chickens love it cause they can scratch in it and find what fell out of the feeder.
Good luck!!
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