Now that I have had my shower and am no longer covered in grime, I can sit and spin a yarn about my Saturday morning....er and afternoon.
Saturday was the biannual cleaning out of the old sand from the chicken coops and runs. We learned a year or so ago that sand: contractor or river sand, is the better choice when it comes to chicken litter. The reason for it's superiority are as follows:
1) Makes for cleaner eggs
2) Keeps their nails "manicured"
3) Easier for them to "Dust Bathe"
4) Easier to clean out chicken poo- Sand dries quickly and causes the chicken poo to dry out as well. This makes it easier to scoop out the poo with a cat litter scoop. Because we can do this, we can use the sand much longer than if we used pine shavings or saw dust, etc. It cost less over all.
5) It composts well- It takes time and energy for compost to break down things like pine shavings or saw dust. Putting only chicken litter with a little sand in a compost pile gives more bang for your buck (cluck?)
In between the big cleanings, we do a coop scoop about every three days or so, putting it all in the compost pile. Today's biannual cleaning cost about $15 for the sand. We used about half of it. The rest will be used for little cleaning jobs over the next 6 months. In the fall we'll do this again before the winter comes. Compare that to the 3 packages of pine shavings we used to use each month: about $14 each month. That's a huge savings besides all the other benefits. It's a win, win.
Our big cleanings basically include:
We tip the large run on its side and scoop all of the old sand out of the 4 X 8 trench in which the run sits. Once all of the sand is out, we refill the run with the new sand. We put about 3/4 of the sand in, then tip the run back in place. Any adjustments we want to make are made at this time. This go around we fixed (I hope) a water problem. They are constantly knocking the water over. We now have the water on a concrete block, but attached by baling twine to the roof of the run. Fingers crossed to see if this works. We also added a laying box in the run. Right now we are getting about 5 eggs a day. By adding a laying box, we hope they won't have to wait in line if they really gotta go. Once done with the run, we clean all the old sand out of the coops. There are two coops on either end of the run. Anything needing to be cleaned is cleaned. Once that's done we refill the coops with fresh sand as well.
It's always comical when we do these big clean outs. We put the chicken in the PVC run and let them roam around the back yard (we can move it around so they get the benefit of free range without the danger to them or my garden). While they do that we get to work. Once finished and everything cleaned up and ready to go, we bring them back to the coop. It's like watching an episode of Extreme makeover home edition. We can hear them in the coop clucking or crowing like they just found something new. They have to go all through it and look at every new thing. Kinda funny.
Then we collect the eggs, add the feed (their water is done before we bring them back), put our tools away, and go get a shower. Let me tell you, we need it! And a Banana smoothie! YUM!