I'm curently using the deep litter method in my girls coop. Every few days I'll sprinkle another .5" of shavings. I've only had the girls for 12 weeks now so the bedding is only about 3" thick. How deep do you let the litter get, and when it's finally time to change it all what do you do with it? How often do you do a complete change?
Deep litter method?
Featured Stories on BackYard Chickens
I can't tell you yet how deep, or how often, as I haven't reached that point myself, but as to what to do with it: Make a compost pile, and use the compost in the garden. Awesome results!
I keep mine at least 12 inches deep, building up to the deepest measure one layer at a time. Using a pitch fork turn it over, mix it up and let it dry out in the summer heat (put the girls out in the run for a few hours and don't let them back in to poop on it yet). Sprinkle with a good dose of food grade DE. As long as you keep it deep, dry, clean, turned, sprinkled with DE you might be able to make it through most of the year without having to rake everything out and start over.
When you do get to the point where you feel like (or it smells like) you need to clean it all out make sure you put it in your compost pile and let it breakdown over time. Next spring you will have amazing soil material to add to your garden, plant beds or flower pots.
I have an 8x8 shed I use as a coop for 12 birds. I buy the 12 cubic ft bales of Suncoast pine shavings from the feed store for $5 or $6. They are large, clean shavings wihout all the sawdust and junk I see in some of the other brands. That lays down a layer 2 or 3 inches deep. Every few days I'll stir in whatever droppings are on top with a garden rake. After 6-8 weeks it really starts getting loaded up with droppings and I'll throw another bale on top and spread it out and repeat the process until I have gone through 4 or 5 bales and its a foot or deeper after 6 months or more. It's nothing exact. I just pickup a bale if it looks like it could use a fresh layer and clean it out when I have some spare time and it's looking pretty deep.
I took a length of chicken wire and bound the two ends to form a circular bin about five feet in diameter and fill that with the litter when I clean out the coop. I do it in a corner of the yard behind the garage where the smell and flies don't bother anybody. I fill the bin, moistening the layers with a hose as I go. When the pile cools afer several weeks I peel the chicken wire from around the pile, put it together into a bin again a few feet away and turn the pile into it trying to put the uncomposted material from the outside to the inside of the pile and make sure everything is moist. After a few months I spread it on the garden. It is not completely composted at that point, but more like a fine black mulch.
I have a 4x7 coop, of which 4x3 is sectioned as a drop pit. All that for 4 chickens. But they spend all of the daylight time in the run so the shaving section barely has any poop in it! The drop pit works wonderfully. Basically, they just go straight to the roost above it at bedtime and then out to the run during the day time. The feed and water are outside in the run. I'm not complaining!
But when it starts to rain, I have to move the feed inside and then will see if I need to stir up the shaving a little.
Hi, I don't know if I need to start a new post or not but I do have some questions regarding the deep litter method...
When the litter starts getting deep in the coop do you remove some of it and then add more or do you just keep adding shavings?
When you add more shavings do you add the whole bag or just a 1/2 inch layer like fellow member 'domromer'?
How often do you totally clean out the coop of shavings and start all over?
I'm new to the deep litter method and am using it for the first time. I just don't know if I'm doing it right ... Thanks for your replies!
There's no right or wrong here, it's whatever works for you. Everybody has different size coops and number of birds. I just keep adding, and maybe clean it out every six months and start over. I don't mark the calendar or anything... After it gets really deep and really loaded down with droppings and starts flowing out the doors (I have boards across the sills that keep most of it in) I clean it out. It's really whatever works for you. If you keep it dry and add shavings on top you can let it build up for a long time.
Thanks, Mac, for that great description of your compost pile. I have kind of just a pile, but not contained, but don't want to buy one of those big fancy deals. I have lots of chicken wire, so this will work good!
- Lost in the Woods
Is this "deep litter" method just for the droppings pit or can it be used for the whole coop floor? Thanks!
It can be used for the whole coop floor.