Best Bedding in Nest Boxes and Runs?

bigredhen Junior Member
edited August 2008 in Poultry Health and Welfare
Me again! When I got my hens I listened to lots of people in 'the know' and read lots of articles and books and set up my hen coop and run with all this wisdom ringing in my ears presuming I was doing the best I could for them. They cannot free range due to way too many predators in vicinity - mostly other people's free range dogs which is supposed to be banned in Ireland but that's another days story. I have 6 hybrid hens.

I put shavings in the boxes and a light scattering under the perches to collect droppings. The coop is cleared of dropping every morning as I don't like dirty eggs. An easy job with the shavings but I am aware it can be dusty- not good for the hens.

The run was grass and is now mostly mud and sand. I clip fresh grass for them daily and the whole run gets raked every evening. When the rain stops(?) I give it a soak with Jeyes fluid solution - about once a week. I was giving the girls a bundle of straw to scratch through every morning too to relieve boredom but have stopped this since one hen has become crop bound.

When we had a bird of prey a few years ago the best advice was to keep her on fine gravel inside and out. She had her perch and tether, plenty of food and exercise and never had a day of sickness.

I have my hens a few months and now am treating one for an impacted crop probably due to eating shavings or straw. Not good in my book as it ought to be preventable.

I would rather have well fed healthy animals/birds kept correctly than always trying to repair faults that should not have happened in the first place. Would it not be safer or even healthier to keep the hens on a mix of fine gravel/sand throughout like the Kestrel was? Is there a safer bedding for the nest boxes other than shavings/straw?

What do the rest of you do? :confused:

Comments

  • sharon mc Senior Member
    edited August 2008
    I would suggest wood chippings in the run, laid down to a depth of about 3-4inches on top of clean, raked ground. Deep enough to allow rain to drain straight through, anyway. If you can completely cover at least part of the run with corrugated plastic or something, even a tarpaulin when it's really rough and raining, it's great for the birds to have a bit of total weather-proofing. We use wood shavings in the nestboxes too and have not had a problem there; some people use shredded newspaper.
  • bigredhen Junior Member
    edited August 2008
    How do you keep the wood chip clean or do you clean it out regularly?
    There is an earlier post from someone who had a hen with impacted crop kept on paper. When crop was opened it was all paper. This of course may have been due to the starving nature of the condition and that the poor hen just ate all around her.
  • clairee Junior Member
    edited August 2008
    Hi There,
    I keep my girls on paper in their nesting box, which is proving easy to clean, and we throw woodshavings onto the floor of:) their coop.
    We move the coop and run every two weeks so that they have fresh grass to scrub around in during the day. when we get home from work they are allowed out into the garden.
    Hope this helps!
    Best wishes Claire
  • sharon mc Senior Member
    edited August 2008
    bigredhen said:
    How do you keep the wood chip clean or do you clean it out regularly?
    There is an earlier post from someone who had a hen with impacted crop kept on paper. When crop was opened it was all paper. This of course may have been due to the starving nature of the condition and that the poor hen just ate all around her.
    I clean the hen-houses once a week; nest-boxes as often as required. I put ash from our multi-fuel burner underneath the wood-shavings and the floor is zinc-lined (to stop rats and weasels) so the mess comes up quite easily. It's mainly the space directly under the roosting perches which gets dirtiest but I shovel and sweep it all out then swab it all out with Jeyes Fluid. I've never encountered hens eating their bedding myself, so I can't comment on that except to say as you do that maybe they weren't getting fed properly or were otherwise stressed???
  • Sandy Senior Member
    edited August 2008
    I buy in shell grit.... but really its just sand with shells in it .. and have that as a layer about 3 to 4 inches thick on the ground outside ... in winter the yard turns to mud... so this not only keeps the birds clean but also the eggs and coop... and the birds don't get sick as the water quickly seeps through.. its also great for summer time...

    I do leave a small area that is under cover as dusty dirt... they love to dust bath in dirt .. it helps them to sort of scratch themselves and if they do have any lice to rid themselves ... of course looking after them and treating them is a much better way of getting rid of them

    In the nest boxes... I use shredded newspaper.. its free and can be put into the compost heap once soiled... easily removed.. easily replaced... and with the sand the news print doesn't get wet so doesn't come off onto the eggs on wet days.

    In my early days I also got straw to my horror... once it starts to break down it sends off spores... these spores get into the birds lungs and nothing can save them... and your right it does course the birds to become crop bound ... I never use it now ..
  • bigredhen Junior Member
    edited August 2008
    I like the idea of a sand/grit combo on the run floor. They have an outdoor area under cover which can be left bare for dusting. What do you put under the perches?
    I have shredded paper and will give it a go in the nest boxes. At least it is not dusty. Thank you All for replies....
  • bigredhen Junior Member
    edited August 2008
    I like the idea of a sand/grit combo on the run floor. They have an outdoor area under cover which can be left bare for dusting. What do you put under the perches?
    I have shredded paper and will give it a go in the nest boxes. At least it is not dusty. Thank you All for replies....
  • Sandy Senior Member
    edited August 2008
    All of my roosts are no higher than 2feet... and all on the same level..

    The entire coop has indoor floor tiles... they have a coating on them that make them easy to clean and wash ... I don't put anything on them... I leave them as they are.... nothing to harm the birds when they jump down and with the roosts being low they also have no leg injuries ... settling is done much quicker at night time as they don't fight over being on the highest perch

    I made up a long handled scraper, and I just run this over the floor to dislodge the droppings.. then sweep it up and put it onto the compost heap ever second day... quick and easy... and once a week I wash the floor after cleaning it first of course of any droppings... I wash the roosts and floor with hot water and disinfectant.. once dry I just sprinkle hydrated lime on it and sweep it into any of the cracks and over the floor... removes any odors straight away, any excess I just sweep out side onto the ground..
  • Dave Dee Junior Member
    edited August 2008
    I use a product called 'easibed' on the run floor which is a woodchip supplied primarily for horse bedding (I think). It seems to be OK, however, when I scatter corn for my hens, they appear to pick up and eat the wood chippings as well as the corn. The corn is only given as a treat in the evenings with a continuous supply of layers pellets availlable froma feeder at all other times, so they are not hungry. I just wonder what happens to any ingested chippings if they get into the crop?
    I was using straw in the nest boxes, but after reading about spores etc, have changed to wood shavings as they are a bit softer than the chippings I use on the coop floor and in the run.
  • Sandy Senior Member
    edited August 2008
    With wood chips you have to make very very sure that they don't put any treated wood into the mix... if they do and your birds eat it then they will die or become very sick

    Wood will break down in the crop over time.. even bone will break down.. but it takes time and with it taking time and taking up space it may cause the birds to start to lose weight ... it may also cause a blockage causing crop impaction... so be careful
  • Dave Dee Junior Member
    edited August 2008
    Thanks Sandy, I checked the packaging of the 'easibed' and it doesn't say anything about being treated, but always willing to listen to those more experienced. I have now cleared the coop and outside run from all traces of wood chip just in case.
    Am I right in summising that we should not use wood chip or newspaper due to possibility of crop impaction. Straw and hay should not be used due to spores and possible respiratory problems. Sawdust is also a no-no due to its dust content and presumable risk again of crop impaction if ingested.
    I now have a bare wooden floor coop with empty nest boxes and a bare muddy run due to the British summer we are having.

    My girls are not impressed!

    Are natural bark chippings an option for the run floor or do these create another problem?
    Thanks
  • Sandy Senior Member
    edited August 2008
    Try and get some sand for the coop yard... its good for the birds and keeps them cleaner in wet weather.. also keeps the coop and nest boxes cleaner also

    For the nest boxes... many people use straw.. I have found that the birds tend to try and eat it and some have become crop bound because of it

    I personally use shredded newspaper... they don't eat much of it unless it has broken egg on it or wet and has had food on it they can smell... I've used it for years and never had a problem as long as its kept dry.. easy to refresh and great in the compost heap

    I get newspapers from friends and just shred them with an electronic shredder.. only cost me $24 new... that was 5 years ago... great buy, has saved me hundreds ... quick and easy and lovely and cheap...

    I never use any shiny paper or colored paper, or magazine paper.. only newspaper... the black and white print is now made from ink that isn't poisonous.. thank goodness

    With the floor ... see if you can pick up some hydrated lime... sprinkle it on the floor after you have cleaned it ... it remove all the smells

    See if you can also have made up a scraper with a long handle... bit like a gutter scrapper but with a long handle.. makes it really easy to clean the droppings up and pop them into a bucket and into the compost heap..

    Then was the floor and when dry put the hydrated lime.. you'll be amazed..
  • I agree withh all above comments, all are right in their way. 
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