Monday, May 25, 2009
There has been recent discussion at the Twin Cities Chicken's list about bedding material for the chicken coop. Options suggested were straw, wood chips, and dry leaves.
Over here at our Midway henhouse, we are in the dried leaf camp. We use them both in the run bedding and in the henhouse. There are a couple of reasons for this. One is dried leaves are plentiful with our large shade trees. Next, manure+leaves augments our compost pile providing the necessary carbon and nitrogen. And lastly, it feels sustainable using what is here. The alternatives may require hauling them away when soiled and upon return, again transporting the fresh bedding, which we would be paying for.
On the maintenance, a few leaves will blow through the chain link on big wind days and do require a bit of tiding. I do scoop the run regularly (few times a weeks to daily) to remove visible droppings. This is a task that is difficult in long blades of straw, making leaves more manageable. I rake out the whole works once/twice a month, usually timing it to just after a wet period as leaves will get sogged out (and can begin to have odor). I find the rain soaked bedding adds useful moisture to the compost bins. I am also finding that neighbors are beginning to request this material from me for their own compost piles.
Using leaves in this manner for bedding may be a bit more demanding day-to-day than deep bedding of wood chips or straw, but of course that does not account for the time to acquire and then dispose of the bedding.
(Photo caption- chicken walking by my daughter and a friend. Not something done often!)