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Recycle your shredded shrubs into deep chicken litter


King Beatyl overseeing his wives

King Beatyl overseeing his wives

Since I started keeping chickens I’ve always used gravel in the 30’ x 6’ run. Gravel provides drainage – when it rains the chicken poo is washed away. If it doesn’t rain you can turn over the gravel and, if you are energetic, worms appear. Special treats for the chickens.

Six bags just cover the run. Applied four times yearly, you are looking at quite a sizable bill. At least £36 for just one a spread. If you don’t buy something to raise and aerate the ground the chickens are standing in foul mud. Diseases increase. And what animal apart from a hippo would glory in mud.

The ground level has been raised by about 3” over the last 7 years. Even though chickens are light the gravel quickly sinks into the mud. I buy the bags – not economical I know – but they are handy and I can just transport them to the wheelbarrow and drag them quickly into the run. Chickens trying to escape to the great world yonder can be a bit of a nightmare. They wouldn’t last a second if they came face to face with a Min Pin or, even worse, a hunting trio.

I was just about to get some more gravel when I read this post from the super blog The Really Good Life.

Sometimes the lateral thinking of a recycling genie completely passes me by. Canny recycling tips can be huge step.

Initially I empathised over all those steps! Then the next morning I began to plot and plan. If I shredded things that were neither poisonous or had thorns, I could use this material in the chicken run. No more waiting for years for things to break down on the Pension Compost Heap. This is our long term heap that never seems to produce anything particularly useful for the garden.

So this afternoon I shredded some of the autumn and spring prunings. There were a lot lying all over the garden and as I wanted to mow the lawn, this session was a priority. I was assisted by Danny who is a wow with the long handled loppers and saved me a lot of time. When the shredded stuff was spread over the run the chickens came down from their roost to inspect. They always love the arrival of the gravel. But the shredded stuff was lighter. Kickable and the most scratchable medium that the old gang had ever come in contact with. Success! The five newbies kept their distance so tommorow I’ll shred enough to cover the run.

I left them at dusk happily playing, searching, sniffing and tasting. The perfect way to recycle our woody trimmings. And they organic, safe and free.

How do I know what is not poisonous and safe for my flock? Check whether you can make wine from the flowers of your shredded shrubs. Easy peasy.

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  1. Hannah

    My ladies live on wood chippings in their run. I had a tipper truck load delivered 18 months ago from an obliging tree surgeon (free of charge, hurray!) and a new layer gets put down when the previous layer gets trampled into the mud. This means nothing much gets added over the summer, but in the winter might be a fortnightly job! I don’t bother digging it out, I just dig it into the soil. We are on heavy clay so the organic matter helps improve the soil anyway.

  2. juliab

    I put a straw bale down every few months. The chickens tramp it down into the mud. When it is good and soggy/tramped/shredded/scratched, i scrape it all up and either add it to the compost or spread it directly on the beds in my allotment for over winter. Its a mucky hard job but it works a treat. By spring, it rotovates in really easily. We have nutrients/manure and ‘roughage’ to break down our heavy clay soil. Works a treat! In the summer they dont need so much straw as the weather is warmer and drier.

  3. louisa @ TheReallyGoodLife

    Glad your chickens like their new “carpet” 🙂

    As we’ve got quite a deep layer at the moment, our girls are having lots of fun digging in it – there’s always plenty of creep crawlies to find.

    My father-not-in-law collects our bark from (I think) a council depot. They sell off their excess for a very cheap price – I think he pays about £10 for a trailer full (about a tonne). We’ve had to add a new batch about once every six months — which wouldn’t be a problem if it wasn’t for all those steps! — but are hoping to top-up with our garden pruning etc this year to postpone the step-a-thon for a little longer 🙂

  4. Charlotte

    I built my coop/run over an old concrete pad that was already in my back yard — probably 8×10 feet or so. At the far end of the run are my 2 compost bins (made from recycled wooden pallets). In winter and bad weather I put straw down for the hens to keep them out of the muck, then every so often, when cleaning out the coop, I muck the straw and all right into the compost. The “girls” strew it all about again fairly quickly, which one could view as a pain, or could view as the chickens helpfully turning the pile. It’s so dry here in Montana that I had no success with compost until the hens went to work. Now I get enough to cover the vegetable and perennial beds at least once a year.

  5. I collected loads of sacks of leaves in the autumn to put in the hen runs. We add shredding as well but we don’t have a huge amount of that. The hens have a whale of a time scrabbling through the leaves and we rake it up every 3-4 weeks and they have broken it down into crumbs which then go in the compost heap and help to improve our soil. We need to top the run up with a fresh sack of leaves every week because of it “crumbing” but clear it out when too much has broken down. It keeps their feet off the the underneath soil when it rains. Free and recycleable. And we have lots of trees around here so we are using what we have available. The neighbours thought we were wonderful when we swept their leaves up for them so we earned kudos there too. We are starting to run out now but at least my collection of sacks of leaves has done us for six months.

  6. Jenny Debeaux

    We don’t have much in the way of prunings in our garden, so we keep our hens on flaxcore and it costs about £10. We used to use hemcore but there’s an official dearth of that worldwide(!)at the moment. There’s also a product made out of rape core but that doesn’t seem to be available on the Isle of Wight. Our hens love flaxcore but we will be using what prunings there will be to augment the bedding!

    Thanks for the tip!

  7. Tamar@StarvingofftheLand

    I can imagine what joy your chickens greeted their shredded shrubs with! What an excellent idea.

    Our run is covered, so we don’t have mud problems. When we built it, almost two years ago, we put a thick layer of pine chips over the dirt, and it’s turned out to work well. The poop breaks down into the chips, and the chickens can dig into it and take dust baths in the dirt beneath. We haven’t had to add anything, but I can see the benefits of a layer of shrub shreddings.

    Now, if only we had a shredder …

  8. My hens are currently living on my recycled lawn, it seemed a really good way to get rid of the turf….

  9. Our ladies live on bark chips. As you say, it keeps them out of the mud and murk. We’re currently trying to find a tree surgeon or landscaper who will bring us a load of chips. The last lot travelled all the way from the other side of the street, but they’re not chopping down any more trees 🙁

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