Forgive my dumb question, but we're thinking of getting chickens when we move house and I need an answer. Our new house has a large back garden with a lawned area as well as a smaller area covered in bark chippings. Do chickens need to be on grass or can they manage on bark chippings/something else? If they have to have grass, does it completely knacker it? Ta in advance.
THey don't have to be on grass, but they will ruin it if they are.
You need to be careful with bark as it can have small pieces that are not good for their breathing. You would also need to keep replacing it. I would suggest getting wood chips or auboise that you can replace every so often.
If you can put them on grass, i know they ruin it but it is better for them if not for you. I have heard from so many friends of problems occuring with bark, wood chips etc that i just wouldnt risk it now. its just part of the joy of keeping chickens. They love to scratch and eat bugs and things so i would say always bite the bullet and give them some grass to be on. it is nicer and more natural for them.
My chickens are in a covered run which is half concrete flags and half soil (they do love to dig, scratch around and have dust baths) but they free range in the garden for a few hours a day, they do go straight for the grass but don't damage it cos they aren't on there all the time.
Ours started out on the old vegetable patch! within a month, it no longer had any vegetation in it, and was largely full of huge holes where they'd bathed. my recommendation is soil/gravel/concrete with soil over (but it's lovely to start with grass, because they'll do their thing on it... ) you can pick poo every day, and replace it as necessary. if they have access to the garden, then let them have a small area of grass in that. Ours are allowed into the garden in the evening for about an hour, and they've trashed it (but not completely killed it!)