I do not free range my chooks as they wreak havoc in the veggie garden. To compensate I have them in a 20m x 3m run with trees and forage plants and I feed them lots of greens, bugs and caterpillars from the garden to supplement their grain and pellet diet.
The drawback with this system is that, even with 6 or 7 chooks, the ground is always completely bare and constantly dug up so that when we have rain it becomes a bit of a quagmire.
Now normally, I can spread a bale of straw over the area and it soaks up the excess moisture and all is good. But his year with a wet summer and autumn the chook run has been constantly wet and muddy and I have had an issue with dirty eggs.
I have been changing the nesting box litter weekly and the chook house deep litter every few weeks but with the run so muddy, the chooks feet are staying dirty and when they climb into the nest box to lay they are putting mud on the eggs already in the nest.
So I thought – we use a door mat to try and stop people traipsing dirt inside the house so why not devise a door mat for the chook house.
The problem being that chooks are such furious scratchers that anything you put down on the ground would be shredded within a few hours.
So this is what I have come up.
- I placed a pile of mulch over the area leading to the entrance to the chook house.
- This mulch is mixed wood chip and leaf, so it will take some time to breakdown and should be effective for 6 to 12 months.
- I then covered the mulch with a square of fine mesh which I have secured to the ground with a number tent pegs- one in each corner and another on each side.
- This ensures the chooks need to walk over the mesh and mulch to get into their house and nest boxes, hopefully scrapping any mud off their feet on the way.
- The mesh is only 1.5 x 1.5cm square, which does not allow the chooks claws to get through to the mulch and scratch it away, but big enough to for dirt to be scraped off as they move across it.
- The dirt falls through onto the mulch.
- The mulch keeps the mesh off the ground and allows small particles of dirt to wash through keeping the mesh clean of mud so it can continue to do the job of cleaning the chooks feet
So far (a week later and three days of rain) it is working – clean eggs!
I will keep you posted as to how well it works in the long term but if anyone has any other ideas please feel free to comment or share your stories via Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest! Also please feel free to Email through your questions.