Originally Posted by Gonda
Thanks, Beekissed and Daisy8s, for your responses. I appreciate it and it's good to read the varying perspectives and the rationale you each provide. To clarify, the floor isn't overly wet, but damp enough that the shavings get noticeably moist when it's raining. I did have a problem with rodents burrowing under this coop a few years ago, and I wonder if that has resulted in tunnels or channels underneath, for the rain to get in there. Not sure what to do about that. But I'm glad to hear from Beekissed that this may not be a deterrent to the DLM, but may actually contribute to success. I'm sorry to hear though that you don't recommend shavings, as I just bought some more, and I thought that would help add the dry element,especially since the compost and leaves are now wet. We have a week of sunny dry weather in the forecast so I'll stir up the pile and will cover it with a tarp to prevent rain from landing right on it in future.
Beekissed, it sounds like you're not concerned about the compost being moist. And you also mention mold. I have a composter which has dry compost (leaves, grass from last mowing) and to which I add kitchen scraps, some of which were moldy, which is why it didn't go to the chickens. Would you add that to this mixture? I thought to add it since it's dry but then was concerned about the moldy items that have been added. This is a tumbler composter so I can tumble it regularly, but it's not really composting because the temperature isn't warm enough and it didn't build up any heat.
I'm also wondering what you consider a well ventilated coop. This coop has some open space at the top, and there are lots of tiny holes in the walls (like nail holes) as it was made using metal sheeting left over from a barn construction. And there is a window but I don't open the window in winter. Should I be opening the window a crack, let's say, during the day? But that makes it colder. How important is it to keep the coop "warm", i.e. minimize draft in winter? I have a lamp on for 14 hours during the day (a 60 watt bulb, but it's an LED lamp that doesn't give a lot of heat).
I've learned the art of composting using a tumbler composter, which supports the concept of creating ideal conditions for composting. This is a new challenge, recreating the conditions in a coop in winter. I had forgotten that the chicken manure will add the "green" or nitrogen, as will the kitchen scraps. Thanks for that reminder.
Good ventilation is ventilation that provides for constant movement of air in the coop, no matter what season...air that moves isn't exactly a breeze or draft, but just fresh air intake and stale air outtake opportunities. Cold is not a problem, but humidity is and stale air is. Chickens are ideally suited for cold if they've been allowed to grow a winter coat, some chickens are more ideally suited than others for this.
To give you an example of how much ventilation I call good, the whole top half of my coop door is open air, as well as are the two small windows on either side of the door, as well as many large cracks at all levels, a square foot pop door open at all times right under the roosts, and 4 in. wide roof vents on either end of the coop...one of which is pretty much level with the chicken's heads if they are on the top roosts. And temps can dip to 17 below zero here and stay subzero for a couple of weeks at a time. Even with all that going on my coop is normally 10 degrees warmer at the roost level than the outside temps. And no frostbite...nada, none, zip.
And that's just my ventilation in the winter months....in the warmer months both sides of the coop are opened up, as is all three large windows and two smaller windows. In other words, as much airflow as possible comes through that coop. DL has some humidity and warmth to it, just as any compost pile will, so removing those is key....but that warm air rising past the birds can also act like a nice, balmy source of heat in the winter, just as long as that humidity is moving instead of settling on the birds themselves.
Mold is a fact of life in compost and it's never a problem in a coop unless it's black mold and the air is not moving. The molds in good compost are healthy and can be found in any forest floor, most healthy soils, etc. I don't mind a bit for mold or moldy food in my coop and the chickens will consume different types of mold without any problems. Mold is an over exaggerated danger in my world...I have plenty of air flow and mold spores are just not a problem. I'm actually encouraging the formation of these fungi in my coop in order for the organic material to be composted.
I know it sounds contrary to any chicken book or site advice you've probably ever heard, but it most closely mimics the forest floor conditions a bird experiences in the wild and it can be done as long as they have plenty of ventilation to accompany it. It's about the only salvation for a damp coop where mold will form anyway...it might as well be a healthy form of mold that benefits from that dampness instead of a less beneficial type. Good fungi most often keeps more harmful fungal growth in check.