Newbie chicken keeper Geoff Henshall battles with the Welsh mud producing weather and is installing TerraSofta Mudbuster rubber chippings.
Mud glorious mud! Well we have had a lot more than our fair share this year in the valleys with the constant rain and despite my best efforts including installing a plastic roof and roll up curtains made from thick plastic sheeting the chicken run floor still gets pretty messy.
When I started keeping chickens for the first time back in March this year I didn’t have a clue. So I got lots of books and magazines including Practical Poultry and set about building a run and installing a coop and 6 chickens and this has grown to 2 coops and 12 chickens to cater with demand for fresh eggs from our neighbours. After some investigation I settled on wood chippings for the floor.
I like wood chippings they smell nice (when new) and the chucks like digging around for bugs in them, the only problem was after a few days of rain the chippings and the soil mixed together and pretty soon they get compacted and within a month they start to smell a bit. I did treat them with Jeyes disinfectant and that helped with the smell but not the mud mix.
When I first installed the chippings I had planned changing them every 3 months, so having to change them more frequently meant a lot more work and more expense so I began to look for alternatives and discovered TerraSofta Mudbuster rubber chippings.
There is an amazing variety of rubber chippings and they are available in many colours which are more expensive than plain black.
A quick Google for “rubber chippings” found lots of suppliers so I called a few to check out pricing and also to check on the quality with regards to the metal and fibre content. The chippings are typically made from old truck and car tyres and are chipped to various sizes, typically 20-25mm, and then any metal content is removed by magnets.
Most of the people I called were refreshingly honest with regards to the “string” content but a few said it wouldn’t be a problem as the Chucks wouldn’t eat it. Well mine will eat anything so I wasn’t convinced.
During my research I came across a company called Terrasofta. They market a product that is made from pure rubber mainly solid forklift truck tyres so no metal wires and very little cord. The product is more expensive than shredded car tyres but I think the extra cost is worth it after all it’s a one off investment and is safer for the chucks.
My chicken run is approx 5m x 3m and I have ordered 500Kg of the black chippings which should give me a depth of around 60mm. The cost including VAT, delivery and
enough membrane, which stops the soil mixing with the chippings is £240 this equates to around 2 years of replacing the wood chippings (Plus the work involved) All I’ll have to do is a weekly wash and an occasional disinfect.
Chippings Day has arrived and I am up at the crack of dawn and with help of a fit young lad we start to prepare the ground and the first job is to corral the Chucks on our very small garden using a couple of plastic windbreaks!
Next we had to scrape up all the old, wet and smelly wood chips and bag them up for a neighbour with a local allotment. Next we levelled the run with a slight slope from the back to the front to encourage any water to run off onto the path. A stone chippings soak away was also installed and we were ready to lay the membrane.
The weather forecast had been for sunny intervals - They lied! It rained and it poured and the chucks turned my wife’s neat little lawn into a mud bath devoid of almo
st every blade of grass. I am not very popular!
By around lunchtime we had everything ready then more bad news the delivery was delayed and in fact didn’t arrive until after 4pm (I found out later that for a little extra I could have specified an AM delivery)
I decided to get the membrane installed and leave the chippings till the morning. I was impressed with the membrane it’s a bit like tyvek, very strong and should easily cope with chickens scraping around.
The membrane really is the key to this system as it separates the chippings from the soil. When installing the membrane you need to make sure you allow around a foot all round the edges so that you create a “tray” otherwise the chucks will spread the chippings all over your garden!
Up bright and early the next day ready to lay the chippings which came on a pallet in a large plastic bag about a metre square and with help from my neighbour Cliff we had it all down in just over an hour and it looks pretty good. I have used decking boards to create an edging to keep the chippings in place. Well now it’s down its time to introduce the chucks and see what they think.
They seem to like it and its funny watching them fly down from the coop and bounce a little on landing! I am very pleased with the end result it looks neat & tidy and the chucks seem very happy scratching around in it for their corn treats. The following day I cleaned out the coops and then I hosed down the chippings, it only took 5 minutes and seemed to dry instantly. No more muddy paths and wood chippings in the house! A great result.