Monday, January 10, 2011

Mulching the henhouse- How to do it for free...almost

I am known to be pretty resourceful and believe in finding ways to take care of my needs with what I already have and not having to run to the store to spend money.  I have decided that there is a lot of free bedding for the taking if you know where to look.  My best friends property has a lot of pecan trees so I rake up bags and bags of leaves loaded with pecans.  I empty the bags, pecans and all right into the hen houses. Over time the pecans get smashed and the hens love them. They are little hidden treats. Next I will add hay that my neighbor bales. This is not fancy hay but just bailed straw from the fields that surround all the houses on our street. He mows their fields and bales it in return for the free straw. He than will sell me huge bails for 2 dollars and he delivers it. When our lawns get mowed and the bags are full, we empty the mower bag right into the coop.  The mower bag is full of mulched leaves, grass, and what ever other organic matter happened to be on the ground.  I also shred my white paper and old bills stir them in too. Of course I make sure that there aren't any staples, plastic or any other harmful products. Once the mulch in the hen house is a foot deep it has all it needs in it for a while, so we keep the rest of the mulch we make in large trash bags or in piles to be used where ever it is needed – be it in the coop or the garden. Once the coop has all the mulched leaves, grass and straw in it, I add in some sand.  I don’t ever give my chickens grit.  In general the grit is sold in tiny bags with a big price and I just can’t stand that.  So I buy sand.  Contractor’s sand is really good because it’s granules are in all different sizes.  But sometimes all I can find locally is play sand and that works fine too. So anyway, I add in some sand.  This will be all the more important once the weather starts to get much colder and the girls spend more of their time indoors. To finish it off,  I mix in some scratch every few days.  Not a lot, but just enough to get the girls to scratch through all the mulch, sand, and scratch.  In general, it encourages their natural tendencies to…well, act like chickens! I have to say my chickens appreciate this concoction.  At any given time I can look in my coop and find spots where they have made their little round lay down spots.  And I know for certain that there isn’t anything in the bedding that is not natural.  I know I pay for the sand, but I would do that regardless of what type of bedding I use.  So basically, I have plenty of bedding for my coop almost free! Another benefit of the deep layer method is that as the mulch in the hen house composts it warms up. When I walk into the house it does not feel too cold in the winter time. Of course the house needs to be built with a sound structure, leak proof roof, and good ventilation.I say my girls are worth it. After all they feed me eggs.

TIP: When you do clean out the old mulch it will perk up your garden plants and they will actually grow better than they would with some fertilizer that you purchased in the store.

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