Keeping chickens has afforded plenty of room for experimentation in the past 2 years. Areas that are easy to experiment with:
1) How to give chickens access to clean, plentiful, unfrozen, poop-free water with minimal work.
2) How to keep chickens eating lots of greens and bugs all year round.
3) How to keep the coop smelling fresh and lovely.
4) How to keep the run and free range areas covered with vegetation, compost, or bedding (except the areas where they like to dust bathe, which should be bare soil, or a box with dusty materials in it) to keep their environment healthy and erosion free, with no leaching of manure.
#1 and #2 deserve their own posts, but I'll talk about #3 and #4 here. I have tried several things in terms of "bedding in the coop"...item #3 on the list. Bedding serves several purposes: absorb moisture and cover poops that the chickens let drop while roosting at night, padding for when they jump down from the roosts, insulating the floor in the winter, and providing heat via composting if you are using deep bedding. This deep bedding idea is what really seemed interesting to me.
|The Garden Dreams Coop. Pop Door and roof vent stays open all winter for ventilation Heated waterer turns on if temp hits 35 degrees and keeps water just above freezing.|
The coop at Garden Dreams has a wooden floor, and the bedding method I use for that coop is a bit of shavings on the floor, throwing some fresh shavings over the poop on the floor every few days, then shoveling the whole thing out once a month and adding those poopy shavings to the compost pile. This works pretty well. The coop stays relatively good-smelling with minimum ammonia odor (which can damage birds sensitive respiratory systems and eyes) and a not-to-terrible maintenance schedule. However, I think there is room for improvement.
|Once a month clean out of Garden Dreams coop|
|I wear a dust mask when sweeping out the shavings and manure|
|Home coop leaf bedding added|
|Home Coop with bare soil covered|
|Before soil renovation|
|Organic matter starting to fill in terraces. Look at that automatic pop door...fancy!|
|Organic matter filling in the paths|
All in all, I can't wait to see how this setup holds up when we move the chickens back over to the renovated area next year. The idea is to leave them in there til they are just starting to beat up the land, and then move them to their second run area so the first can recover and regrow. More experiments to come, I'm sure!