What is the best ground cover for my chicken run?
Flyte so Fancy’s Hardwood Woodchip(a play grade quality with softened edges and of relatively uniform size with very little bark) can provide an excellent chicken run surface to keep your hens ‘entertained’ as well as clean and healthy.
They will love scratching around looking for elusive bugs and worms and it will, with care, create a clean barrier for them to live on, out of the mud. Image above is our Silver Spangled Hamburgs here at Flyte so Fancy, in our Protection Pen.
If your hens have a fixed run, and they are scratching at bare earth or splashing about in the mud, add a good layer of hardwood woodchip in their run and you will have happy hens!
No need for a Geotextile membrane, you can place the Woodchip directly on to earth or grass. You can also place it on top of paving perhaps as long as it is deep enough, and the rainwater can drain away.
Much better than bark, which we do not advise because of the mould spores, and bark does become slushy after the rain. Softwood would degrade very quickly and work its way into the mud. Hardwood Woodchip will sit on top of the ground and can withstand all weathers. Even though it is hardwood it is still soft enough for the birds and best replicates the surfaces of their ancestral roots in the jungle.
Properly maintained, a good layer of woodchip can last up to a year or more. But, you may ask, how do you get the best from your woodchip?
Raking and Washing the Hardwood Woodchip
With good care, the refreshing of the woodchip may only be an annual task and we find it's best done before the really wet or cold weather arrives.
One of the best ways to keep your hardwood woodchip clean and fresh for your girls is to regularly, perhaps monthly or fortnightly, rake over and rinse with the garden hose (we advise a rose sprinkler on the hose to prevent too much disturbance to the ground underneath).
As the woodchip is lighter than the mud and soil that clings to it, by washing it and raking back and forth, the hardwood woodchip rises to the surface again to create a clean barrier on top of the mud below.
We have made a video all about Changing and Caring for Hardwood Woodchip as part of our #AskPhill video series.
Disinfectant for your chicken run
It's entirely possible that your neighbours will think you've gone a bit potty if they see you, but one of the best ways to keep your woodchip clean – and to avoid nasty smells - is to regularly treat it with a poultry disinfectant.
We advise mixing the disinfectant powder in a watering can and then walking back and forth watering the ground. This is best done in the twilight, on a dry day after the hens are shut in the house.
A good disinfectant, like Net-Tex Virocur Poultry Disinfectant, cleans and disinfects in one application. It is highly effective against fungi, bacteria and viruses and is ideal for washing off the hardwood woodchip. A DEFRA approved disinfectant against all notifiable poultry diseases, it is safe for you and your girls.
Alternatively, you can apply a hygiene powder like Stalosan F Disinfectant to stop the run smelling and to absorb moisture including harmful parasites. Easy to apply, on a calm windless day, just sprinkle over the woodchip after the birds have gone to roost and it will have done its work by morning.
Ground Sanitising Powder for Chicken Runs
Ground Sanitising Powder is an easy to apply option in your run. Use it to treat issues such as worms, eggs, larvae or fully grown, as well as parasites and germs.
Flyte Coop and Run Sanitising Powder is a new generation ground sanitiser containing Yucca and Halamid disinfectant. Effective at keeping the ground clean and fresh.
Sprinkle the powder onto the woodchip and let it settle through to take care of any worms or parasites. Completely safe for chickens (you can use it in the coop too). It is best to do this at night, as it is just easier to do without your flock of girls under your feet.
Doing these simple tasks, once a month (or more frequent raking and hosing as required), will keep the hardwood woodchip clean and sanitised. The Woodchip, with this care, will be good for up to a year, saving on the chore of having to remove and refill the poultry pen.
Refreshing the Woodchip
When the time comes to refresh or change the woodchip, just remove as much as possible – use it as a top dressing on the flower beds perhaps – scatter some Sanitiser Powder on the ground and empty some new bags into your run. And that’s it.
If you have chosen to install your Poultry Pen or Run on a Sleeper & Woodchipbase then this will help to make the managing of the woodchip flooring a great deal easier. It will all be contained within the wide plinth of timber.
Take a look at the various options we offer for this neat solution. It would not only help to keep your chicken run clean, especially if we have another bird 'flu scare and need to 'lock down' our poultry, but also serve as a secure Anti-Fox Skirt to prevent predators from digging into your Run.
Time for some mathematics
A sack of woodchip weighs between 15kg to 20kg, depending on moisture content. It will cover an estimated 10 sq ft with a depth of 2in – 3in. 10 sq feet is an area 10ft by 1ft or approximately 1 metre by 1 metre.
To calculate your run area, multiply the length of your chicken run by the width then divide by 10. This will tell you how many bags you need. For example, a 9ft x 9ft run needs 8 bags.
9 x 9 = 81, divide by 10 = 8 bags.
If you don’t already use woodchip and have any questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 01300 345229 to talk to a member of the FSF team. We can advise on quantities and about treating your chicken run to keep it healthy and clean for your girls.
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Using Hardwood Woodchip for Chickens Runs © Flyte so Fancy Ltd 2022. Author: Anne Weymouth (Director, Flyte so Fancy Ltd).