One job we tackled at VJP Poultry this November was removing the pea rock in the outside run for both the buff and the black pens and replacing it with fresh pea rock. Both pens really needed it as the pea rock had gotten so high that it was spilling over the wooden frame around the pens and falling out to the outside. This pushes on the chain link and causes it to bend outwards at the bottom. The pea rock packs down on both sides , but has the extra bonus of keeping predators from digging under the fencing.
We have always had pea rock or pea gravel in our chicken runs. It can be purchased in bags at a Big Box store or it can be bought by the truck load and delivered to your house by a landscaping company. Buying it by the truck load is much cheaper than buying individual bags of it. We, actually, load our own truck and then shovel it ourselves back at our driveway.
One thing I like about pea rock is that it is very clean looking. You can keep it looking that way by raking it every couple of days with a steel rake. I rake up all of the feathers and chicken poo and place it in a bucket to throw on the compost pile. By keeping this raking up you can make a huge difference in how your run looks and it will keep your neighbors happy by having something beautiful to look at.
I add more pea rock to the run whenever it starts to look skimpy or muddy. I feel like I always want to add more to it in the springtime when the run is wet from melting snow or heavy rains. I usually will just buy bags of it for cosmetic touch ups and save the truck loads for when we are digging the run out.
I feel that pea rock is a good size for silkies. Bigger rock such as regular gravel is harder on their feet and even larger rock can make for an uneven surface to walk on. Uneven surfaces can lead to injuries such as bumble foot.
Since silkies have heavy feather footing, we want those feathers to stay nice. Clean pea rock can keep the feathers clean. The small rock can keep the foot feathers from breaking off as they might with sharper surfaces.
Once a year we dig out the pea rock and the chicken poo dirt that surrounds it. We dig down to the depth of one shovel head. We use a wheel barrow to move the used rock and dirt to a holding pile. Here we use a sieve to separate out the rock from the dirt. The rock can then be added back to the run and the dirt is placed on the garden as compost.
Other people use sand, shavings or straw in their runs. What works in some runs doesn’t work in others. Pea rock is what works best at VJP Poultry. I think that it always looks clean and it can be a good source of grit for birds that do not free range.
November has been lovely and warm this year in Minnesota. This has given us a chance to extend our outdoor chores before the cold weather comes. There is nothing I like better than fresh pea rock to make for one gorgeous looking run.