Hi everyone, I need help with our coop bedding. We are beginning our third year of chicken keeping and have definitely had ups and downs including an ILT outbreak in December. As a result, we will be depopulating this year and doing all in all out. We will then be receiving 40new layers. Yes we sell eggs at work I should begin by saying how we are set up: the birds are in a wooden barn with concrete floors. They have about 300 square feet to roam, which is important in considering what bedding we use (it's big). The second big factor, I have found, is climate. We're in south eastern ontario, we get -20C often, sometimes minus 30. Finally, in the summer they're free ranged dawn to dusk, but in the winter we let them out only when it's milder. Last consideration, we want to compost the manure for our large garden...have not really done it successfully yet.
So far we tried two things:
First year, we used deep litter... yeah, that didn't work. We were not disciplined enough to turn often, we had ducks mixed in and making a mess with water, which then froze SOLID and could not get turned, wood started to rot, and as we learned later, without a dirt floor, the composting effect does not really happen.
So, second year, we tried sand. While in the face of it, it could work, what I found to my disappointment is that it will freeze on cold days, particularly where they pooped a bit, and the crusted frozen poop is impossible to remove. I'm not talking about weeks without raking, I'm talking about a couple of days (i.e. if we go for the weekend). And once that's happened, it piles on...literally.
So far, I've not liked either. I would like your thoughts on either something else (I could do, for example, thin layer of shavings, all in all out every week), or how to make those options above work. Input welcome!