Well, I figured I'd dig up this old thread and post one last update to complete the circle, so to speak.
It's been a full year since my last post and I am pleased to report that the deep litter run came through the winter just fine. The girls had plenty of lovely leaves and dried grass that I bagged in the fall to scratch around in all winter. I added a bag every time it seemed that things were getting shredded up or if they seemed bored. I have 2 bags left that I never used. I'll use them this summer to balance out the grass clippings.
We got far less snow than the previous year's record so I didn't have to deal with as much water from snow melt. It wouldn't have problem though as the litter is able to handle a lot of moisture with out causing any problems. I even found myself periodically spraying it down during the dry summer and fall. I never thought I'd ever find myself saying "the run could use a little more moisture" but I have and that's cool.
Most importantly, I have experienced ABSOLUTELY NO STINK since starting the deep litter. That includes the "drier than last year but still pretty wet spring" I've had. (Don't forget I live on the edge of wetlands. The water table is very high right now. I have a vernal pool about 15 feet from my run that won't completely dry up until August.)
I'm up to 6 LF hens and 3 bantams. I recently lost a bantam to a hawk and the girls have been confined much more. Thank goodness the deep litter gives them something to occupy themselves digging through. Sand never did that.
I just got finished applying some of the composted litter to my little raised garden bed. I raked aside the top 8 inches of litter down to where it was all nice and broken down and scooped and screened the good stuff into a bin. It probably could have cooked for longer down there. There was more bits of uncompleted straw and shavings than I would have wanted, but it makes sense there would be as that was all the material I had access to when I first started. Even if it is not completely broken down, it'll be a nice amendment to the garden soil.
I did encounter my layer of sand deep down there. In retrospect, it would have been better if I could have dug it out prior to doing the deep litter but at the time I still had 3 feet of snow on the ground so it wasn't practical. It makes no difference in keeping the chickens on it, it just means I have sand mixed with the compost. Not actually a bad thing though as I think it will help break up the clay soil that I'm adding it to.
Now for some pictures.
This is the top layer of the litter.
Here's one of the ladies "helping" me to screen it.
And here's the final product.
Like I said, it probably could use a little longer down there to really make rich compost, but I wanted to remove some to bring the level of the litter down and make room for this summer's grass clippings. We'll see how it goes.
So, if you've made it through all this, thanks for reading. If you have found yourself in a similar situation as mine and were looking for a remedy for odor or contemplating whether to use sand or deep litter, hopefully this thread helped you in your decision. If you're one of the many that posted tips, recommendations, or advice along the way, I thank you and so do my chickens.