When I was determining where to put the chickens on our property it was important to me that they be in a place where they could get sun and shade. It was also quite important that they be put in a place that allowed us to utilize our available space wisely.
The area that we eventually chose is a steep hill. I haven't done the math to see how steep it is but I can tell you that it was steep enough to be a pretty big pain in the ass to mow!! Not only was this part of the yard the perfect place to put the chickens, it was ideal because we would no longer have to mow there!
About a year into keeping chickens I was reading a blog post on Milkwood that outlined their plan to use a steep chicken run as a gravity compost set up. I knew immediately that this would work in our run. I pulled several downed trees from the woods and put them crossways in the coop.
This photo is taken with me standing at the first row so that one is not shown.
The entire thing has worked great. When I clean out the coop I leave everything in a pile at the top of the run. Over time, the chickens scratch through it and during the normal use of the coop, the material slowly makes it's way down the run.
The logs have been in the run for almost 2 years. Today I went to the very bottom and cleaned out the compost at that level.
The compost was over 8 inches deep! Now, that's not to say that it's completely composted, the top 3 inches still had small bits of straw in it. But, for the most part, it was good to go!
The bottom level is roughly 5 ft by 5 ft. I took 20, yes TWENTY, buckets of material from it!
This picture shows the space after it was cleared of the compost. Our ground has a VERY heavy clay content...you can see where I scraped down to it on the lower left hand side. I probably could have gotten another bucket or two if I had wanted to get really nitpicky about it and scrape the entire area.