The deep litter method is an inexpensive and effective way to keep the floor of your backyard chicken coop clean!
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Life is busy. Sometimes it seems like as soon as one item is marked off the “to do” list 3 more items replace it. Like everyone else we’re always trying to find ways to work smarter not harder!
One great way we’ve found to reduce the work load when it comes to our backyard chickens is implementing the deep litter method.
This method takes very little time, and it’s a great way to maintain the health of your flock and the cleanliness of your coop.
Pleasant Summer Breeze
I love summertime, gardening, and chickens. Our main vegetable garden area is set up directly beside our chicken coop and chicken yard. I love being able to watch and hear the chickens while I plug away at the garden. Chickens bring so much joy… until the wind blows.
Have you ever been downwind of a chicken farm? The odor is less than pleasant.
Even in our own little backyard farm the smell could be a bit much, alerting us that we were late in cleaning out the coop.
But since we’ve started using the deep litter method our coop is cleaner and the smell has practically been eliminated!
What Is The Deep Litter Method?
The deep litter method is a way to maintain the cleanliness of the chicken coop with less work.
Basically, you will put a layer of bedding in the chicken coop. We use pine shavings. They are readily available at our local garden supply store, and they are relatively inexpensive. The chickens will be chickens. They will scratch in the pine shavings, and they will soil the pine shavings. As the chickens soil the bedding you will just add more pine shavings on top.
It essentially becomes a layering system – bedding, poop, bedding, poop, bedding, and so on.
Before adding the new bedding, it’s a good idea to turn the old bedding with a rake. This keeps things from getting too compacted and will help with decomposition. Your chickens will help with this process as they scratch around in the bedding. But you will probably notice areas where they don’t spend as much time scratching.
Instead of cleaning out the chicken coop every day or every other day or so, the deep litter method allows the chicken droppings and the bedding to pile up. Over time the chicken poop will begin to decompose.
How Does The Deep Litter Method Work?
The deep litter method works by combining a high nitrogen product – the chicken manure- with a product that is high in carbon – the bedding. This provides the perfect environment for microorganisms, bacteria, and insects to break down the materials.
How Deep Does The Bedding Need To Be?
The bedding needs to be anywhere from 4 – 6 inches deep. But depending on the style of your coop it could be thicker.
Tips For Deep Litter Method
- Keep the coop dry. You will want to make sure there is not a build up of water in your coop in general. But too much water in the coop while using the deep litter method could cause mold or hinder the decomposition process. This is one of the reasons we keep the food and water outside of the chicken coop.
- Make sure your coop is well ventilated. The build up of ammonia is not good for your chickens or your compost.
- Don’t start the deep litter method with grass clippings or hay. This could cause mold.
- If you can smell it, it’s not working. Chickens do smell like chickens, but the coop shouldn’t stink. If the coop still has an offensive smell, then something is not quite right.
How Often Do I Need To Clean Out The Coop When Using The Deep Litter Method?
Since we started using this method we only clean out the chicken coop twice a year. Typically in the spring and again in the late fall we will clean out most of the bedding and chicken droppings and start the deep litter method again.
Our coop doesn’t smell. Our chickens are happy and healthy. And the deep litter method frees us from having to clean the coop daily.
Starting A Compose Pile
Chicken manure is “hot”. Meaning it has a high amount of nitrogen and is too strong to put directing onto your garden plants. If you were to put fresh chicken manure directly onto your garden plants, the manure would “burn” them. So chicken manure needs time to compose before being helpful in the garden. The deep litter method can help with this!
Once you start using the deep litter method you’ll notice how the soiled bedding begins to change over time. The bedding and droppings will begin to break down and turn into a nutrient rich soil. But this process can still take a little while.
By allowing the deep litter method time to work you can provide the right environment for composting right inside your coop.
Since using the deep little method, Mark and I set up a crude compost pile with some pallets. The pallets act as a container for the compose pile so it doesn’t get trampled and spread out everywhere before it’s time.
So when we clean out the bedding from the chicken coops if it hasn’t decomposed enough in the coop, we just add it to the compose pile. Having a compose pile is a great way to use that soiled bedding to add needed nutrients to your garden fruits and veggies.
Do You Enjoy Backyard Chickens?
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