Originally Posted by Soldier415
I use pine shavings for the litter, and it is completely dry. I turn it every few days with a pitchfork and add scratch grains to it so the girls keep it stirred up very well
Pine shavings take tons of nitrogen to decompose...
the carbon-to-nitrogen ratio of wood shavings can be as high as 500-to-1, much higher than your ideal composting ratio of 25-to-1. Take special care to provide plenty of nitrogen-rich organic waste to offset the high carbon content of wood shavings, or else you'll run the risk of drastically slowing down the microbial activity in your compost heap.
....so you may want to dispense with using pine shavings, particularly in such a small coop and with such a small flock. You'd have to keep those pine shavings for years to get enough nitrogen to get good decomposition of the shavings. I've plowed wood shaving up out of my garden for~literally~years...same with straw. Those materials are too woody and densely constructed to decompose well.
Different types of compounds decompose at different rates. This is dependent on their chemical structure. For instance, lignin is a component of wood, which is relatively resistant to decomposition and can in fact only be decomposed by certain fungi, such as the black-rot fungi. Said fungi are thought to be seeking the nitrogen content of lignin rather than its carbon content. Lignin is one such remaining product of decomposing plants with a very complex chemical structure causing the rate of microbial breakdown to slow
Since layers only produce 35 lbs of nitrogen per ton of manure, do the math. LOTS of poop from your hens before that pine is going to decompose.
Originally Posted by Den in Penn
OK lets not confuse a compost pile for a chicken coop. They serve two different purposes. A compost pile needs a higher moisture level to work well, a chicken coop needs a much lower moisture level or you will run into things like ammonia and frost bite. I don't think aart puts that water in her coop. When I think of deep litter I think of a dry mix. The chickens poops will break up in to a finer particle size and will become part of that mix. There will be much less "decomposition" going on in the dry coop as there would be in a wet pile. There is always some going on as the poop dries. That might account for that ammonia smell if your ventilation is not enough. I would not count on any heat from that dry litter to keep the temperature up. It is more the insulation value that will help with the temperature.
I'd beg to differ. Ventilation is key to composting in a chicken coop and, with correct ventilation and air flow in the coop, not only is frost bite prevented but the warmth at roost level is as much as 10* warmer than the outside air...and that's with all the ventilation open. A composting deep litter, when built deeply enough and with moisture trapped into the bottom levels, will continue to decompose and generate heat all winter long...even in temps below zero.
Originally Posted by lazy gardener
BeeKissed has been doing DL successfully for years. Her set up is hoop coop over dirt floor, perfect for DL management. She routinely adds moisture when the litter gets dry. She has a nice video. I'll invite her over here to chime in, and perhaps she'll bless us with her video.
Here's that vid. This was filmed in the winter with snow on the ground. My thermometer continually measured a 10 degree difference at roost level both day and night than the outside temps...and this is in a hoop coop covered with a tarp. No insulating in this building whatsoever and with enormous cracks, windows and spaces open to the air.
For many others who are currently doing DL in their coops, with successful decomposition of the materials therein, you might try reading in these two threads....keep in mind that the information improves the farther you delve into the threads due to the learning going on as time lapses and people experiment more and more with materials and methods of managing the composting of the litter:
For the OP, my advice would be to remove your wood shavings, place some good, active soil in the bottom of your coop and proceed with using materials with different levels of decomposition....leaves, dry grasses, twigs, pine needles and cones, a little sawdust to retain moisture in the bottom level, weedy trimmings from the yard, bark, hair, etc. Stop stirring it. Lightly flip dry bedding over the manure under the roosts or just flip the manure~ and the bedding directly under it~ over. Add moisture into the bedding when need be by just dumping your old water in the coop floor when you refill/clean your waterer. My coop is intentionally leaky so that any time it rains or snow melts, I get moisture added right where I want it. I can also open windows to allow rain to come in to the litter under the roosts when I so wish...all of that is incredibly valuable for my composting DL.
By using materials of different size and nature, you create air spaces in your litter to aid in decomposition. By leaving the material alone and building it at least 6-10 in. deep, you retain that moisture in the bottom layers. By flipping your manure under the top layer of bedding, you encourage the bugs/worms living in the bottom layers to consume/disperse the manure into the carbonaceous materials and the moisture below, where the nitrogen content can bind with the carbon and the microbial life supported in that layer can speed decomposition. Open up ventilation that is adjustable at all levels of the coop, but particularly at the bottom and top, so that fresh air that is taken in below can move upwards through the coop, removing the moisture and warmth of the composting materials upwards and out at the roof level. That warm air moving upwards warms the birds as it goes by and also removes the moisture the birds themselves generate as they are roosting close together. All that results in birds that stay warm...and dry...with fresh, warmed air moving past them all winter long.
Pics of decomposing DL...has no smell except of earth, no flies, provides food for the chickens and healthy footing underneath as it holds healthy bacteria/yeast/molds that outnumber and consume any harmful pathogens and molds.
Edited by Beekissed - 10/6/15 at 10:46am