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Night Cage

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Author Topic: Night Cage  (Read 3253 times)
newchicken
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« on: June 15, 2009, 03:16:59 pm »

Well, my babies are almost 7 weeks old now.  Some things learned:

Landscape cloth under the pea gravel was a bad idea.  For about 4 weeks, blasting the water hose to clean the pen worked beautifully.  Then, it began to drain a bit slower, then slower still.  Now, it takes about an hour to drain.  The worst part is that the poop no longer "goes away", it spreads out and makes a nice ugly poop pancake in low areas of the stones.  Lesson learned.  Poop does not ever "go away".  It builds up.  It must be removed, or at least allowed to seep into the soil.  Landscape cloth prevents this.

So, I ran to the feed store and purchased three bales of straw.  I cleaned out the pen as best I could, stirring the stones, and blasting water, then letting drain for a few hours.  I removed the kiddy pool, thinking that I now need to go "all dry".  I discovered that a single bale covers a 10 by 12 foot pen nicely.  My ducks, having not ever seen a bed of straw, returned to their cage tentatively.  Then suddenly, they all laid down where they stood, right by the door.  They love it!

I thought great, I'll just keep the pool in the yard for a daily bath when I let them out.  A few days later the weather changed.  Problem:  It's 90 degrees IN THE SHADE!  They sat in their straw pile panting, and ignoring their waterer.  They need to be able to cool off regularly.  A daily visit to the grass yard and kiddy pool wasn't enough.  So, I pulled some straw away from a corner, put their pool back in and filled it up.  They quit panting, played, splashed, and resumed happy sounds and tail wagging.

Now, I just rake and turn the straw to fluff it up, hide poop, and reduce flies.  A word on flies.  If I don't turn the straw, we get little tiny flies hovering low around the pen.  I bring my ducks their layer pellets, and salad just a bit later in the day now.  If I keep the ducks just a little hungry, most of the flies magically disappear.  I still fluff the straw with a rake to allow it to dry, and any remaing flies go away.  It still needs turned twice a day.  If I don't fluff it up and turn it, the ducks flatten everything.  They also get it wet after playing in the pool.  The water simply won't evaporate from the pen with the straw flattened.

I'm wondering how long the straw solution will work.  I have no idea how much straw I'll need to grow/buy to keep up with covering poop for the summer.  I can try the deep litter method.  But won't I still need to remove everything at least in the spring and late fall?  When I do, should I clean or treat my gravel poop?  Should I pull up everything, remove the landscape cloth, and put back the stones?  Then, at least the poop can move into the ground.  But if it doesn't decompose properly, avoiding disease, that could be a problem too.  It is 1.25 tons, literally of pea gravel.  I don't actually want to move it again.  But, I will if I have too.

Should I just cover my stones as they are with a concrete bottom?  Then keep it covered in straw?  That way, when I remove poopy straw, I can actually clean.  Or, can I?  Concrete has issues too, like absorbing odors.  If I did concrete, should I make curved spots for drains, or just all flat and level.  If it's flat, I can just push/spray the water through the wire cage sides.  If I used a vinegar wash, that would be bad for the plants around the pen.  Of course I could limit the vinegar wash to just early spring, before things are really growing, and late fall, when the daisies are dormant.  My pen is entirely cage wire arched above, and mounted on a pvc hoop, greenhouse style.  More cage fencing covers the bottom, under the stones, and extends 2 feet out around the outside base under adjacent grass and plants.  I've got 2 by 6's framing the base inside the cage wire.  I could just fill it flush with concrete to the top of the 2 by 6's.  They'll rot away eventually, but the sides of the pen are anchored with rebar into the ground, not to the 2 by 6's.  

Giving myself a headache with "what ifs"...

Can anyone recommend concrete sealants safe for poultry?
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