Pen floor advice

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hip chick
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Pen floor advice

Post by hip chick » Mon Jul 09, 2018 6:58 am

Im looking for some advice/Ideas for my 4 silkies winter pen please.
The pen is a 12ftx12ft wooden frame covered from top to bottom in mesh with a roof on. It currently has a pebbled floor which obviously isn't suitable for chickens to walk on. Would they be happy if we concreted the floor and just had shavings on top. We would have to sort a dustbath area for them, but on dry days they would still come out and have the run of the garden too.
Just thinking the concrete makes a good base for stopping vermin etc digging under, just not sure if the chickens would like it

Any advice appreciated
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Marigold
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Re: Pen floor advice

Post by Marigold » Mon Jul 09, 2018 7:48 am

I would avoid concrete for several reasons. It's hard and cold and doesn't drain, so even if the run has a roof there will always be damp patches in wet weather where rain blows in sideways. Concreting that quite large area would be hard work, given that you'd have to dig it out first and then mix it. You would end up with a big slab of concrete in your garden, which would be there forever whether or not you (or a future purchaser of your house) still wanted to keep chickens on it. If you really wanted hard standing to prevent vermin from below, concrete slabs on a bed of sand would be easier to put in and could be removed if you changed your mind.
When we built my run, we laid 1/2" galvanised mesh over the whole floor area and wired this about 15-20cms up the sides all round. On top of this we laid permeable weed proofing membrane to protect the chickens' feet from the mesh and to give good drainage. Then I added a good layer of Aubiose (shredded hemp, sold as horse bedding, extremely absorbent, easy to poo pick, warm and soft for the hens to walk on and they love scratching in it.) Seven years later, the first lot of membrane was still intact this Spring, when I had a complete clean-up of the run before getting a new generation of chickens, and I replaced it with a clean new sheet for less than £15. Whilst the run was empty of hens, I left a pot of corn out, which was untouched for several days although I knew there were rats under a neighbour's shed next to the run, so the mesh was still working well.
You do need to get lots of metal tent pegs to fix the mesh down flat, unless your run floor is perfectly flat, which ours wasn't. Also plenty more metal pegs to fasten the membrane down round the sides and into the corners; plastic fixing pegs won't go through the 1/2" mesh underneath. These are available quite cheaply on Ebay, as is wide membrane which will go right across the run in one piece. For a 12ft run, get a piece 4 metres by 5 metres, to allow for folding under the ends to prevent fraying when they scratch around.
A lot of us have found that Aubiose is better than shavings, being much more absorbent. If you can find a local stockist from this list,
http://www.aubiose.co.uk/stockists.php you might be able to avoid high carriage charges by collecting a couple of bales in a car when needed. Two or three bales would start you off with a nice thick layer on the floor and a spare one for topping up as it gets removed when you pick up poo. It's good in the nestboxes and coop as well.
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rick
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Re: Pen floor advice

Post by rick » Mon Jul 09, 2018 7:54 am

Ah. My own take on it - slow to post! :)

Concrete is fine and easy to sweep. It would be a bit rough permanently on its own but with a softer layer on top it keeps their claws trimmed when they scratch around. Horse bedding like Auboise is popular but you will probably want to put some planks (8" or so) around the bottom edge to contain it.

... I have block paving but that was down already before the run was built (with two courses of brick as a low wall around the bottom.) Block or slabs are still permeable so get round the pooling problem Marigold pointed out.
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hip chick
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Re: Pen floor advice

Post by hip chick » Mon Jul 09, 2018 8:15 am

Hi thank you for responses. The pen would be watertight as we plan to cover the meshed sides in plastic sheeting for the winter to stop rain/wind getting in. We've also thought for drainage to put vertical piping in the corners which would have drain covers on so we could still hose out and the water still escape. The flags may still be a better idea though, and i'll look into the bedding suggested as I haven't heard of that. Thank you
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LadyA
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Re: Pen floor advice

Post by LadyA » Mon Jul 09, 2018 8:51 am

My big run is paving slabs, with weldmesh underneath. I just continued the weldmesh walls in under the floor. It has stopped the rats getting into the run, but unfortunately, hasn't stopped them tunnelling beneath! There are tunnels here and there under the floor, so eventually, what happens is that the sand under the slab falls into the tunnel, and the slab becomes a bit wobbly! So, once or twice, I've had to lift individual slabs and put more sand underneath. I use shavings on top of the slabs and have a kickboard all around the sides. Has worked well now for many years.
Lead me not into temptation. I can find the way myself!
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Marigold
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Re: Pen floor advice

Post by Marigold » Mon Jul 09, 2018 2:31 pm

hip chick wrote:
Mon Jul 09, 2018 8:15 am
Hi thank you for responses. The pen would be watertight as we plan to cover the meshed sides in plastic sheeting for the winter to stop rain/wind getting in. We've also thought for drainage to put vertical piping in the corners which would have drain covers on so we could still hose out and the water still escape. The flags may still be a better idea though, and i'll look into the bedding suggested as I haven't heard of that. Thank you
If you hose down a dirty run on a solid base, the muck has to go somewhere, and what happens is that it piles up as sludge wherever you've hosed it to. With a roofed run and absorbent bedding, you should never need to do this, whatever type of base you use. Just put down Aubiose, do a daily 2-minute poo pick, and top up the bedding when necessary. Even when Aubiose gets wet when rain drives in, it never goes mouldy and dries out easily.
I used to use wooden battens to fix clear plastic tarpaulins round the sides of my run in winter, and they did help as windbreaks and also prevented driving rain from getting in. The downside was noisy flapping against the mesh in high winds, and a tendency to break free and take off in the worst gales. Last year I changed them for willow screening, which I now have round three sides of the run, fixed by staples to the wooden framework round the edges, and by cable ties through the mesh in the middle. This is much better as it's an effective windbreak and rain shield, which also gives cool filtered shaded in summer. The run is camouflaged and fits into the view of the garden on the covered sides, and the hens have a long perch on the open side where they can sit and enjoy the view.
This is the stuff, you can get different heights but it's best to get whatever height is slightly too short for your run sides, as it's difficult to cut if it's too high. https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_ss ... FE8WF2ZKXC
Don't get reed screening, its much too fragile to do the job and last a long time.
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hip chick
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Re: Pen floor advice

Post by hip chick » Mon Jul 09, 2018 2:53 pm

Marigold i,ve not been able to open your links but what a brilliant idea for the willow screening for all the reasons you mentioned. Ive just had a look and we could easily purchase what we needed within our budget. Thank you so much, looks like we're gonna go with that :D
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Marigold
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Re: Pen floor advice

Post by Marigold » Mon Jul 09, 2018 3:29 pm

Sorry about that, the link does work for me, but you only have to go on Amazon or Ebay and search for Willow Screening. Get plenty of biggish staples, and also cable ties as well, you need one person to push them through from inside and another person outside to fasten them, then trim off the surplus. Fix the screening to the outside of the mesh, so it stays flat against the sides in high winds. It actually strengthens the run sides once firmly fixed in place, whilst letting air through as well.
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hip chick
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Re: Pen floor advice

Post by hip chick » Mon Jul 09, 2018 4:33 pm

Thanks Marigold we,ve just ordered it :D
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hip chick
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Re: Pen floor advice

Post by hip chick » Tue Jul 10, 2018 4:12 pm

Sorry but another question re the membrane. Dont the chickens eventually scratch through it :-)19
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