A post to Backyard Chickens regarding my take on DLM.
Post by: glloyd253 on Monday – 5 June 2017 – “I’m hoping y’all can help me with the floor of my run… I’m feeling so discouraged right now! The bottom of the floor is hardware cloth since we had a raccoon dig under and sadly claim our first ducks. On top of that I have laid dirt and mulch. It gets muddy when it rains, and it’s been raining A LOT lately, but otherwise it has only really been wet around the ducks’ pool. I haven’t been removing the droppings – I guess I thought that they would just become one with the soil over not too much time. But recently my boyfriend mentioned that he can often smell their poop when he enters the backyard. I haven’t really noticed it but decided to try to do something about it. I read that it helps to turn the soil often so I went out to do that just now, and that really unleashed the smell! I also read about barn lime being helpful, so I sprinkled some of that in and turned it around in the soil. Am I doing this right at all!? Will the poo decompose and become the soil? Are soil and mulch a good floor? I have read a lot about sand and might try that but need to wait until everything is totally dry. My run is about 200 sq feet so I don’t think I’m up for the deep litter method but will try that in my coops for sure. But I’m wondering if sand will be tough with a run that size… any help would be so appreciated! I just want my birds to be happy!”
A combination of materials will actually break down better (different sizes as well as types) and can include variety of hays/straws, grass & weeds mowed from around your property/yard, garden waste, pine straw & leaves. We’ve added pony manure (in small amounts – the chickens LOVE digging thru it. Ducks not so much). We found that shredded paper needed to be done in smaller amounts at one time, usually layered with pine straw and leaves if at all possible – shredded from phone books (yes, we still get a lot of those!), newspaper, junk mail, documents that are out of date or no longer needed.
You can “pack” 8-10″ of loose material into your run and it will both actually pack down and break down in short order as they move it around and work thru it. For ducks, if you can move their pond/basin around, the water/wet areas will be more spread out instead of always being concentrated in one spot.
Once a decent layer of mulch, we put kitchen cuttings from fruits/veggies, foods turning (bread/buns, veggies, fruit, even meats in small amounts) on top. The chickens and ducks pick through it all and turn under what they can’t/won’t eat, mix it well while digging and poop on it and it’s all good!
As to the heights of your duck and chicken houses – if it’s truly a problem, you can raise them on blocks (bricks or cinder type), wood pallets or even evenly cut pieces of lumber or wooden stumps from trees. I think you’ll find that it really isn’t a problem.
Once you start layering the materials as you use them, don’t stir it around – let the birds do it. Any thing that is really wet around the duck’s water (waterer or any type of pond/pool or basin), pick up and openly pitch into another area allowing it to dry out a bit and get worked into the rest of the mulch. Then move some of the dry litter around the water area. OR just put that dry material over the wet. It does break down!
I know of folks that have their runs set up so that the ducks have access to their fruit trees. They then use kiddie pools for the ducks to swim and play in. When it gets dirty and they want to change it, they literally dump it into the tree root areas – water and fertilizer in one! Some then move the run (portable) to other trees and do it all over again.
I don’t recommend using the lime – is caustic to their feet & webbing and DE (or other products) can do some damage to the good things you want to break down the mulch to better smelling compost.
YES, ducks and chickens will eat straw (think a moment – wheat straw has wheat heads on it – used in breads and other products & oat straw had oat heads on it – some still on the straw when you get it). Eating a little isn’t going to hurt them and adds some NATURAL variance to their diets. As long as they aren’t actually starving, they won’t usually eat so much that it becomes a problem. They also pick thru and eat some of the grasses, weeds and flowers, too. The main thing is to be sure you don’t have anything that is treated with poison (don’t get grass clippings from neighbors that spray their yards).
Over the past two years, I’ve found that hay and straw will both mat and can get blown or knocked into the yard. So do pine shavings, sawdust & shredded paper (the worst, LOL). For the matting – it works best to not have large clumps of any one product in one spot. For the “getting away”, decide how much is too much and rake up and put back what you don’t want in the yard. If it bothers you that much, don’t use that product – but remember the DLM way needs to have different sizes of different materials to break down and to break down the poop the fastest (that is what reduces the scent).