Your chickens are likely to spend their entire lives in their chicken coop and run. For this reason you want this area to provide them with a clean and well-maintained space. There are a lot of different materials you can use inside your chicken coop and run. Here are three items that can help you make their coop and run a clean and comfortable space.
It is important to make sure you allow for good drainage in the chicken coop and run. Excess rain, melted snow, and other water sources can turn a dirt covered coop and run into a muddy swamp. When your chickens run around in a muddy environment for several days, it can be unhealthy for them. Also, when you mix in chicken droppings with wet mud, your yard can smell as bad as a pigsty.
Get enough pea gravel so you can cover your entire coop with about two to three inches. The pea gravel will allow water to drain from the top sand layer, helping to avoid mud problems.
If your chicken coop is already a bare dirt space, spread two to three inches of pea gravel over this area as well. If some or all the chicken coop is already grass, you can leave it unaltered to give them some variety.
A bobcat will save you in a lot of manual labor and time. When a load of gravel or sand is delivered, the dump truck driver may not get it close to your project site, so you will be hauling the material yourself. Instead of using a wheelbarrow, buckets, or a shovel, a bobcat with a bucket attachment will scoop up the material and dump it into your coop run. Then, you can spread it with shovels.
Bobcat rentals with a 50 inch bucket can carry an average of 8 1/2 cubic feet per load, doing the work in a fraction of the time it takes you to do the work manually. The bobcat is smaller than other heavy machinery and will better be able to maneuver around your yard and in and out of the chicken run.
Once you have your pea gravel spread evenly throughout your coop and run, it is time to bring in the load of sand. Using the bobcat loader, scoop it from the load pile and transport it and dump it into the run area. Then, you can spread it through the space.
You will need enough sand to cover your run and coop with 6 to 8 inches. If your coop ground is plywood, use 3 to 4 inches of sand, but 6 to 8 inches if it you are covering dirt. The sand will allow you to scoop out the chicken poop with a mesh filtered scoop to keep their area clean. Because chicken poop contains ammonia, it is a good idea to clean out their sand frequently.
You don't want to use sandbox sand because it is too fine. Construction sand is the best type to use in the chicken coop because it comes it varying sizes and grits. The roughness of the construction sand will keep your chickens' feet buffed clean, removing any chicken poop they might step in. And, your chickens can use the sand to take dust baths, which keeps them cool in the heat of summer.
The sand will also provide the chickens with grit to help them with digestion. Chickens can't digest their food on their own, so they eat grit to help them with this. Instead of purchasing grit specifically for your chickens to eat, they will have access to a yard full of sand.
With a clean, mud-free coop your chickens can be healthy and happy.