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Chicken run flooring type other than concrete?

 
pollinator
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Hi, I am planning on building an elevated chicken pen with an outdoor run and I am wondering if I can avoid building a concrete slate at all for the floor.
I understand that concrete will prevent other critters (mice especially) to break in and keep the run dry as well and make the run probably more hygienic.
On the other hand concrete has high embodied energy and also seals the soil underneath completely, preventing bugs and worms to enter easily the run,
which I'd like to manage as a deep litter yard.

I've seen videos where they bury a metal mesh underneath the ground of the run, bury the fence line down to some 50 cm or even extend the metal mesh of the fence some 50 cm horizontally on the floor right outside to avoid diggers to get too close to the run, and looked like it could be a nice alternative if only the metal doesn't oxidize too fast.
Any experiences/thoughts/suggestions to share on this?
 
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Hi Antonio, what digging predators are you contending with?  Foxes?  My hens have a bare earth yard with deep litter, but since we don't have any diggers we haven't had to take any precautions to secure it other than fencing (the neighbour's dog has broken into our garden a couple times).  

I don't think metal mesh will last for more than a year or two if buried.  Some people say to peg it down on the ground all the way around the yard, about 30 cm, which might last longer (though probably not here where I live as it's so wet all the time).  Could you put a perimeter of heavy paving slabs/flag stones around the yard instead, outside the fencing, to discourage digging?

It is completely possible to do a deep litter on concrete, or other permanent flooring.  If the worms have a way in, they'll get there, as will the other soil organisms.  Instead of a full concrete slab, large paving stones could instead be laid down unmortared to give the worms a better chance of migrating up, and will still stop predators getting through, I think.
 
Antonio Scotti
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G Freden wrote:Hi Antonio, what digging predators are you contending with?  



Well right know I am concerned with rats. Foxes and other mammals can be stopped as you suggest or by having the fence reach at a depth of 30-50 cm
Don't you think that rats might still dig below those yard perimetral stones (in case I leave the run uncovered by either cement or flat stones?)
Perhaps the good thing here is that the soil where the pen/run will go into is very compacted, which might discourage digging animals....but who knows? rats can be very persisent
if they find an easy source of food in the area and there are loads of them everywhere here.
 
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If money and time weren't limiting, for the overnight shelter, but possible also for at least one run area (having several runs you can rotate chickens through has huge advantages, but a central "safe" zone is critical), I would dig a deep trench (50 cm) and used either poured concrete or concrete blocks to build a wall that will end about 30 cm above grade. Not only do animals dig, but chickens scratch and I've had them dig out the edges of runs looking for good stuff to eat. I'd then use dirt as the floor for both the coop and run, adding mulch as needed to keep things biodegrading and encourage worms to come and party. When/if the deep mulch builds up in the coop area, I'd shovel it into a compost or out into the run to continue decomposing. This is why multiple runs are useful - you can let one decompose for 6 months while using others.

This approach has the added benefit that the acidic/damp poop isn't in contact with the wire, as the wire will be starting 30 cm up. That also gives a marker for when the area needs to be shoveled out.

Yes, concrete has high embodied energy, but metal gets mined which also generates pollution. Doing a "knee wall" as I would like to do, will keep the materials I then use to build a vermin-proof coop and run away from moisture and poop so they will last a long time.

Rats are prey animals for mink family and raccoon. To decrease the risk of a rat problem, we hang our chicken feeder above the perches - higher than a typical rat can jump - and make sure they can't climb the wall to get to it either! I will broadcast small handfuls of feed on the ground for new chickens so they learn to clean up any bits that fall. If I had a big rat problem, I would actually remove the feeder at night to a metal bin. In other words - don't give the rats a chance to find the feed in the first place, and you will decrease the risk that larger mammals will follow the rats to your chickens.
 
G Freden
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Antonio Scotti wrote:

Don't you think that rats might still dig below those yard perimetral stones (in case I leave the run uncovered by either cement or flat stones?)



Yes, I think rats will find a way in for sure.  I think rats will find a way in even if you make it dig proof--they're good climbers as well, and can chew holes in wood, plastic and wire.  Are these rats big enough to take eggs?  If they can't crack open eggs but can only steal chicken feed, I'd probably concentrate on securing that instead.
 
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Rats will take eggs and chicks but shouldn't be a problem for adult chickens
 
Jay Angler
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Skandi Rogers wrote:Rats will take eggs and chicks but shouldn't be a problem for adult chickens

Adult chickens are known to attack rats - the issue is that rats attract larger predators that *can* and *will* attack and kill the adults. My approach is to do everything I can to keep chicken feed away from the rats to break that cycle. That includes having a rat-proof coop. We've stopped using chicken wire in favor of lower gauge (thicker - yes, it goes backward) wire and systems that stop the rats from thinking there might be food in there. We *never* use poisons for rats, as that only risks killing the predators that help keep their population in check. We remove things that rats could hide behind or under. We are in the country, so in a sense, we're trying to "keep the wild rats wild" just like people in bear country keep bears wild by making sure their garbage is bear-proofed.
 
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Skandi Rogers wrote:Rats will take eggs and chicks but shouldn't be a problem for adult chickens



I have rats living in my chicken house right now.  I don't know how many, but I see one occasionally.  I haven't tried to remove them since they don't seem to be bothering the chickens, but I've never had them before this year.  If they start chewing on my chickens, I'll have to do something but for now, I'm not worrying about it.
 
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I've had galvanised metal mesh as the walls of my chook run- going underground by about 30cm, its been there for 4 years and hasn't rusted horrifically yet! It has 13mm holes and 0.8mm wire.
I also have the same galvanised netting laid horizontally on the outside of the run at floor level (its lightly buried)- this stops rats digging in (we don't really have other diggers to contend with here). The vertical underground netting didn't stop rats- they just kept going until they got underneath it, but the horizontal netting seems to confuse them- they can't work out to walk backwards 2ft and then start digging!
 
Jay Angler
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Charli Wilson wrote:

I've had galvanized metal mesh as the walls of my chook run- going underground by about 30cm, its been there for 4 years and hasn't rusted horrifically yet!

One's ecosystem is everything! We are so wet for months, but at temperatures that make metal happy to rust, so I'm going for permanence when I can. If I see Stainless Steel hinges on a discount table I grab them even if I don't have an immediate use, because at one point I ticked off hubby by using some expensive ones on a project. He didn't think a cheap project deserved quality SS hinges. The project sat out in all weather for 10 years before some of the wood failed, but I simply removed the hinges and put them back in the "hinges" box, so there's no waste in that. Dealing with rusty hinges is a much greater and ongoing pain.

I too have a run where I put "hardware cloth" at about the dimensions Charli quoted out flat around a chicken run that wasn't intended to be permanent, but I admit I went a step further and put rocks on top of the mesh. That run is only for day-time use when we've got chicks in the brooder it's attached to so normally it's only in use for a couple weeks at a time a few times per year. That said, we had friends who found that once some local mink decided that chicken tasted good, they were happily digging meter to meter and a half tunnels to get into their run. This is a reason why most of our adult hens and ducks are in portable shelters that move around. Having things that move also seems to confuse the predators. There are designs on the web for small coops that can be moved from paddock to paddock every week or so. I've got a vague plan tilting in that direction, but the paddocks have to have decent fencing even for daytime use around here, so we can't move on that project until I'm sure other permanent infrastructure is properly planned and executed.

Another similar trick I used to stop chickens from digging out from the inside started when I scored a broken aluminium ladder. I cut it to appropriate lengths and bolted hardware cloth on the top, and it lies flat on the ground on the inside of the run. As the chickens dig around, it tends to fill with dirt, but I can just pick it up, rake out the dirt and pop it back down. A similar piece I cut at an angle and made two light ramps which the ducks and geese use to get into their stock tanks. They're light so I can easily move them to dump and refresh the tank every couple of days.
 
Charli Wilson
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I wouldn't have mentioned the galvanised mesh being alright if I didn't think our weather was at least vaguely similar! I'm 6000 miles away but its 12 months of rain here, and it never gets cold  or hot enough to stop rust. Throw in that the entire island has a maritime-significance (salt!) and things here do tend to rust fairly fast!
I did try cheaper mesh, that rusted within a year (and was 25mm I think, very thin wire though).
 
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