Deep Litter Method The Easiest Way To Deal With Chicken Litter Dlm

Deep Litter Method is basically a method in which you allow your coop litter to build up over a period of time.
  1. Dawn419
    Deep Litter Method

    DLM is basically a method in which you allow your coop litter to build up over a period of time. As the chicken manure and litter of choice compost, it helps to heat the coop, which in turn helps keep the chickens warmer. I had never heard of this before BYC and cleaning the coops once or twice a year, as opposed to weekly cleanings fits our lifestyle.

    I began using the DLM in early September '07, when we moved most of our Bantam flock from the Teacup Pterodactyl Townhouse into the main coop. I started out by adding 4 - 6 inches of pine shavings to the coop floor. After laying down the shavings, I used my sifter to sprinkle a fine layer of food grade DE over the litter, then stirred them together. I'm using the DE to help dry the pooh faster, which helps eliminate odor and reduces the fly population. The DE also helps protect the flock from mites/lice as they love to dust-bathe in the shavings/DE mix.

    Litter first added to coop in September.


    I added a "kick-board" to the doorway to help keep the litter in the coop. I just used a piece of scrap 1/4" plywood that we had handy. It's 10" tall.

    I stir the litter every few days, sometimes everyday, it just depends on how much time the gang spends inside and how much pooh there might be. The Banties do a great job helping me keep it stirred when they're dust-bathing in the litter, which helps cut down the work for me also.

    About once a month, I'll add a fresh layer of pine shavings and food grade DE. Again, this varies depending on how much time the birds spend inside. That's what I like about using the DLM. There are no set rules, you do this however it works best for you.

    Before adding new shavings...


    Layer of food grade DE on stirred liter...

    Layer of fresh pine shavings...

    At this point, I just let the flock stir in the new shavings and food grade DE. I don't measure how much of the shavings I add, I just add it until the old stuff is fully covered.
    As of today (11-20-07), I've been building the litter up for just over 2 months. There is no chicken smell in the coop what-so-ever, which really surprised visitors. It is approximately 6-8 inches deep at this time. I may do a clean-out in spring, but I may let it go will all depend on smell, how deep it is, are the shavings covering up the pophole door (just kidding)...

    I've had some dust issues, nothing major though. I just use a plant mister full of warm water and mist the shavings before stirring them up to help keep the dust down.
    I'm also using DLM in the Chick-N-Barn. I just added a few pieces of wood in the access door to help hold the litter inside. I won't be able to go very deep, about 6 inches, so I'll probably have to clean it twice a year. Only time will tell.

    Deep Litter Method Threads:
    Deep litter ChrisnTiff
    Deep litter method ? domromer
    Deep litter method? Help Sunny Day
    Deep Litter Method, Please explain, ? from sunnynparadise
    Can I use the deep litter method with Southeast Texas humidity? bionic_chicken
    Deep litter and linoleum floor? ebonykawai
    Getting mixed up...deep Sunny Day

    Thanks for stopping by! I hope more people will make a page showing how they use the DLM.

    Dawn & Skip
    updated: 4/12/08

    Coop & Run - Design, Construction & Maintenance Forum Section

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  1. Robert G
    I really enjoyed reading this article, but the only DE I could find was at Tractor Supply. Is this what is needed to mix with the wood shavings? It says "Diatomaceous Earth Food Chemical Powder"
  2. Liz Birdlover
    I've been using this method, but we've had so much rain this winter, and after 2 months of cold, below freezing weather, we had a few days of 60 degrees weather, weird. Anyway, it got a little stinky with ammonia smell, so I cleaned it all out, then put the stall dry Sweet PDZ on the swept, wood floor 1st, then added fresh wood chips. It did help a lot. About a month of freezing weather passed, then we got another warm, wet, rainy week, and I noticed it smelled a bit, and the litter was nasty, so I cleaned it all out again, repeated the PDZ and fresh wood chips. So while it is lasting longer with the PDZ, I don't think the deep little method is working so great, and I'm wondering why. The chickens scratch and move the litter quite a bit. If they didn't, I'd simply remove the poo clumps when I collect daily eggs, but every day it's mixed around. It usually is not this wet, usually not this rainy that why it's not working as well? I also may have too many chickens in this small coop, but I'm definitely moving and prepping a 12x24 shed, currently storing unnecessary stuff, (the building itself is a very nice shed) when we get more cooperative weather. Shed moving and mud do not mix! Once I get it moved and set up, it will be their new coop with plenty of room for them. Any thoughts on dealing with rainy, humid weather?
    1. Lady of McCamley
      Rain is not an issue with DLM, at least not in my Oregon, but DLM works best with dirt contact. It needs the microbes from the soil to work best. When it gets too poo covered, add more bedding. If in a wpod floor, adding soil works.
      Liz Birdlover likes this.
  3. ChickenyChickeny
    I'm trying to do this, the 'cover up the poop with new wood shavings', and my chickens scratch around and stir it up (sometimes they scratch and stir it up so much there is heaps in a corner and bare floor in another LOL), but I can't tell if it is decomposing and all that.
    1. Ketty Ash
      It's slowly composting and creating heat. Trust what nature does.
      ChickenyChickeny likes this.
  4. ThatParrotLady
    Does this work with hay? I get more compacted mud and poop with Hay and the chickens but if there's a better method to not having to clean the coop all by myself every two weeks I am down for this.
    1. Ketty Ash
      I only use shavings because at the end of winter, it will go in my co post pile.
  5. Featherbrain1986
    Can I use a little well seasoned compost to mix in to start the good bacteria going? Or is this completely unnecessary? Like a culture?
    1. Ketty Ash
      I don't think it's necessary.
  6. Ankhdad
    This is a great piece!
    I have been using this method for several years now and LOVE it. I have played with the mix from time to time. Currently using a hay, pine shavings, and..Stall Dry! Keep it mixed every few days just by walking in it. Gets changed every 4/5 months and the best part, no smell.
    Would highly recommend this method.
    1. Pawpaw&Mawmaw
      Hello! how's the moister in the coop during the winter?
    2. Ankhdad
      I live in NW Ontario where are winters are very cold (-30 C). My coop is 10'x15'. I keep the upper 4 vents open about 3-4 inches all winter and that seems to keep the moisture under control. I also use the Stall dry under their roost which makes for easy clean up.
      I also keep the mixture 'fluffed' up every week.
    3. ChickenyChickeny
      wait, is Stall Dry a thing you add to the bedding, or did you just mean it keeps the stall/coop dry?
  7. Pawpaw&Mawmaw
    I use pine for our chicken coop and pick up everyday. Yep, it's a little work, but I enjoy taking care of them. It has also become part of my personal time. Personal time with chickens, hee, hee! Question, moister causes frost bit on combs. How does the DLM fair in the winter as far as frost bit on combs?
  8. elaineinspain
    I would leave out the Diatomaceous Earth as it can kill the good critters (insects) in the Deep Litter and prevent successful decomposition and composting.
      hooktontravel likes this.
    1. hooktontravel
      it can also be really bad for the birds' air sacs. i think it's only approved as an anti-caking additive for feed. I know lots of folks use it for bug prevention but it is very low effectiveness and high inhalation risk for humans AND the animals. really bad for your lungs!!
  9. ChicChaser
    Thanks for sharing, love seen it mentioned but until reading this post I didn't understand.
      TheSavage1 likes this.
  10. SuperK
    Wonderful article! I was sure that letting the coop cleaning "go" for months at a time would mean horrendous smells and unsanitary conditions, but wow! We got hooked on this after JoAnn and I visited a farm down the road a piece that had 200 chickens in a Deep Litter coop that was a delight to be in. We have just started this method ourselves here in Hawaii and the high humidity here isn't defeating the wonderful benefits to this style of coop care. The smell of the chickens in the coop is markedly reduced (almost zero) and the lack of poo smell results in lower numbers of flies. Once we got the DLM in place in the coop, most of our chicken odor issues are now in the run due to the high rainfall mixing with the little dirt we have, and the chickens manure. This method requires the litter to stay dry to keep it's odor absorbing ability so monitoring water systems and keeping the rain out is very important. Due to an over active bout with Chicken Math, we are enlarging our coop and run area and will be enclosing the entire space with roofing so we can keep the run dry for a modified DLM system. We are going to be using a method called the Korean Natural Farming system. This method is a modified DLM in that we apply, use and encourage the beneficial natural bacterial flora that attack the fresh stinky manure and it's odor causing bits and convert them into a more inert form decreasing the smells in minutes. There are a few things to know before starting this method, but once started it is an easy way to be able to spend more time with the birds and less time cleaning.
  11. JDisme
    Best way to go! If you have a door that goes all the way to the floor, tack in a board about 10+ inches high in front of it. It keeps the mess in!
      Liz Birdlover likes this.
  12. ewaugaman
    What is DLM I read the article and I was wondering what the DLM was.
    1. 6PeckinChickens
      Deep Litter Method
  13. jrun808
    I love this idea, I will give this a try very soon.
  14. OB OBrien
    I use construction grade sand from HD or Lowes. Then mix in some PDZ. That's the stuff horse people put in their horse stalls to soak up and eliminate any odors from urine or poop. It works very well in controlling odors. We clean the chicken droppings out from under the roosts about twice a week. Use a small child's play rake as a sifter. It works something like a kitty litter scoop. Only clean it all out about once a year. We just add PDZ every once in a while.
      MissNiss and JustRambling like this.
  15. Lesli Hodges
    Are you doing this inside of the henhouse where they lay the eggs or in the chicken run ? I have a small chicken coop about 4 1/2' x 8' long . Trying to figure out the best way to keep the chicken run smelling good clean healthy and most definitely the flies away .
  16. addyor
    what is DE ?
    1. PastaChickenBoo
      Diatomaceous Earth. It's a white powder that people say really helps keep away bugs, although some people don't like it. Personally, we use it in or around our coop, but the decision is yours.
      medicperkins and Egg-citable like this.
    2. Egg-citable
      Quick question. Where can you get the DE?
    3. PastaChickenBoo
      You can get it online or at tractor supply. Make sure it's food grade.
      Ketty Ash likes this.
  17. cra-zchicknlady
    This method is a lifesaver during the winter months! I don't do it during the summer because of the heat it puts off. We do a thick layer of alfalfa hay, then pine shavings on top, and add more pine shavings as it becomes necessary. Then in the spring, onto the compost heap!
      Ketty Ash and flwrldy like this.
  18. Lady of McCamley
    Further...DE is not a good choice for the DLM method as it inhibits the microbes necessary for the good composting within DLM.
      elaineinspain and EclecticLadyy like this.
  19. Lady of McCamley
    @Linda V Just curious as to WHY anyone with chickens would use "food grade" DE instead of the Chicken Grade DE which not only has DE in it, but a certain amount of ash wood!
    Food grade DE is chosen because it is highly refined so that it is safe to use. I'm not sure what the "chicken grade" DE is that you refer to, but anyone buying DE should ask questions to be certain of the kind and quality of DE they are buying. Some products in the feed stores are food grade DE with additives, but make sure if it is really cheap that you are still getting a quality food grade DE.

    Non-food grade DE, such as pool type, contains high silica content and often heavy metals such as lead. Non-food grade DE can cause silicosis (a type of permanent lung damage from fibroid build up in the lungs) as well as lung cancer. Therefore, anything other than high quality food DE should never be used for animal or landscaping purposes.
  20. Linda V
    CONSTRUCTION SAND is a lot easier to find and buy than this "washed river sand" I keep hearing about. In fact, I've never found that any where! We buy 40 pound bags of "all purpose" sand at Home Depot and it's perfect for them! We would never use play sand, aquarium sand or any of the others as we don't want our girls to die. This sand thing is SERIOUS if you can't get a 40# bag of "general purpose" sand at Lowes or HD, don't use anything unless you know what it is. Their lives depend on it.'s a rough mixture of different grades with small pieces of rock or grit in it....and the girls love sitting on it during the hot days and sand DOESN'T FREEZE in the winter either! How anyone can only use anything else is beyond us.
      Questor, Chickenrunlady and stacyh40 like this.
    1. Chickenrunlady
      do you put it in the coop also?
    2. Beyond Yonder
      Why would you say the sand would kill them. I use play sand under their perches and clean it every day like a kitty litter box.
    3. MissNiss
      I use sand in my coop, along with DE. So far so good, it's been 4 months since my girls moved in and they seem to like it. It does get dusty. What do you do with the poop? I've been throwing it into our municipal compost waste bin, but I think it's not really allowed and I'm hoping to get into composting.
  21. Linda V
    Just curious as to WHY anyone with chickens would use "food grade" DE instead of the Chicken Grade DE which not only has DE in it, but a certain amount of ash wood! I put some under their nests and then every day, I stir the wood shavings with the DE so the nest stays airy and fluffy....better to lay on, better to keep birds warm! We consume DE ourselves each day but it is human grade only of course. The Chicken-grade DE is inexpensive and comes in a handy, plastic, pour or sift screwed on lid and I keep it outside by the coop!
    I also put some on the special grade sand in the bottom (ground) level of their 2-story coop so when they dust bathe in it...the DE is going into their feathers! This way, when they groom themselves, they are consuming small amts too - which kills/prevents internal and external parasites! It's a win/win for everyone! My coop, which includes the nesting area, roosting area and the downstairs are is 100% free of bugs - especially ants!
    On a side note...I am beginning to wonder if my two hens are the ONLY HENS in the world who do NOT poop in the coop! We've had them 5 months now and they never used the bathroom in the lower area - but then they stopped about 5 weeks ago - from using the bathroom anywhere in the entire coop! Figure that one out!!
    I also put 2" of that special sand for chickens with the DE in it under their roosting perches to kill pests.
    Any one ever heard of hens who do not poop in their coop at all??? :)
      MissNiss likes this.
  22. Yardwork
    I designed my coop with this method in mind. I made the coop larger than most allowing 20sqft per bird. I do keep rabbits in the same coop but they are in cages hanging above the floor area. I cover the floor with a couple hay bales and the chickens spread out the rabbit litter as they scratch mixing it all up and keeping the material turned. I don't always let the free range simply because they will tear up my garden in the spring. So having a larger coop and only having to clean it once a year is perfect. Living in Alabama there is little cold temperature issues. My coop is not closed but designed to block the wind off the birds and allow the winter sun in. This coop has been very easy to maintain.
  23. AlienChick
    DLM works great! I've been using it for 6 years now. I clean the coop once or twice a year (depending on how many chickens are housed). The key is to keep the litter DRY to avoid any odors. I use regular pine shavings from TSC and keep adding a bit more shavings as necessary throughout the year. Using DE will help keep it dry and you can also use Sweet PDZ Stall Dry. I put my waterers on pallets to keep the water away from the litter inside the coop. The chickens will keep things stirred up, but if there are areas that are getting compacted and moist, just grab a rake and do a quick stir. I can't imagine cleaning out a chicken coop every day or even every week - I have way too many other farm chores to take care of. So the DLM method fits very well into my farm lifestyle.
      Yukidongo, EclecticLadyy and Questor like this.
  24. rngrbill
    Love the DLM. Started using it in MA for my flock of 6 and now in KY with my flock of 8. I also use a poop board under the roost and this keeps most of the Poop out of the litter. I has 1" sides on it so holds quite a bit. Usually clean out 2 -3 times a year depending on condition.
  25. birdman55
    try using zeolite or keeps the smells down and works great. tsc has it and most of your feed stores should carry it
  26. byfarmer
    I use the DLM for my goats and great, will have to try this year with the added food grade DE. Didn't realize it was safe to do this with the chickens. Thanks, you have saved me a whole lot of work.
  27. Stormimay
    What about sawdust? I have a free source for that I would love to use it for deep it safe? It is from non-treated wood.
  28. jackcooper
    nice I use it
  29. The Yakima Kid
    I use cheap landscaping soft wood chips (NOT bark mulch) in the run where it also slowly decomposes. I use a blend of pine and cedar shavings in the coop - cedar shavings are not a problem for chickens - talk to the poultry professors in the animal science department at Oregon State University where regional chicken farmers have used them without problems for decades.

    I'm not all that fond of DE because it can cause respiratory problems, so in my run I simply use agricultural or stall lime (the kind that doesn't burn), and sprinkle it over then rake the shavings to mix them up. I have gone more than a year without changing the run out. I tend to do the coop more often because the coop I have is essentially only large enough for roosting and laying.
      Liz Birdlover and Questor like this.
    1. Liz Birdlover
      I have coops with wooden floors, painted with a polyurethane so they don't get saturated. I've been using pine and cedar wood chips on the floor. I've been reading about the DLM and some add lactobacillus and PDZ, too...what do you think of those?
  30. Lady of McCamley
    I find the pine shavings work a lot better where I live...but that is the wet NW so I have trouble with mold more than dust. The pine shavings keep the smell much better as well as compost a lot better and keep the mud under control much better. The straw sits on top and does not mix well and gets soggy leading to sour smell.
      Liz Birdlover likes this.
  31. Phoenixxx
    ... and I see I just repeated myself with half of what I just wrote! Lol, oops!
  32. Phoenixxx
    I use whatever I can rake up from the yard, such as leaves, grass clippings and moss. A month ago when the trees finished "leaving" and the moss was too wet to use in their nests I bought a bale of hay. Naturally, a good portion of that has since wound up on the floor. Every few days I rake everything back towards the back of the coop (under the roosts). Now, I have not "cleaned" my coop since september or october and so far, so good! The hay actually smells really nice and it doesn't contain any harmful oils/vapours like pine and cedar shavings do. Despite living in a damp environment (atlantic coast - literally!) moisture has not been an issue for me yet. I have 18 birds in a 6x8x8 wooden building with a dirt floor.
      joyandkids1 likes this.
  33. CoopersCoop
    I believe it may depend on where you live to which is better. We use only Straw. They year we used shavings our chickens had bronchitis problems from the dust. But yes, the alternative is that dampness causes upper respiratory problems too.
    If you plan on using the bedding for your garden compost straw is deffenitely better than pine shavings, coming from a master gardener. I didn't read everyones posts but I'm sure everyone has great ideas for this method :)
  34. fireflyhatchery
    This sounds like a great idea but I would like to know more about if pine shavings are better or not than other sources like hay or straw.
  35. Phoenixxx
    Interesting stuff... I have a dirt floor and use whatever the chickens scratch up around the yard for litter and nesting material (moss for nests, leaves and/or used nest moss for the floor under the roosts). I may try this once it gets much colder; it'll certainly be much easier to just toss in another layer in the winter rather than trying to shovel frozen poo!
  36. cluckcluckluke
    Great Article. Thanks!!!
  37. chickenlily13
  38. ttdavis86
    I have a wood floor on my elevated coop would this work fo me or just rot out the floor faster
  39. Gemoriah
    I came across this on youtube about Korean Natural Farming - Lacto Bacillus, this added to a deep litter method eliminated all smell from our coop.
  40. CibolaChooks
    DLM has been amazing though. Its the only way to go if you can keep the rain and snow out of it. Duhhh Lady of McCamley answered The DE question for me.
  41. Lady of McCamley
    DLM method works great in our run area (I prefer to change the hen house regularly to keep clean boxes but dump it into the run).
    In order for DLM to work best, it needs to be in contact with the natural bacteria in the soil. DE can interfere with that bacteria and keep the DLM method from working its best. I like using pine shavings as they breakdown very nicely with the manure for compost with our clay soil.
  42. RoseMarie1
    I'm also using DLM and it's amazing how the poop disappears in the stuff. Totally amazing! LOVE IT! Although I do not use DE in mine because I want to keep the good bugs in mine.
  43. brushfloss
    I use the deep litter method and have since my flock of 10 moved into the coop out of the brooder. They have been in the coop for 5 months. I use DE with pine shavings and I also mix in Sweet PDZ every 2 weeks. There is no smell, the bedding is dry and no bugs. I am not going to clean out until the spring as I see no need to at this point. I add new pine shavings as is necessary and keep the bedding at a level of about 6 inches. My poop board under the roost keeps most of the dropping from getting into the litter, but "it" happens.
      Kaywieny likes this.
  44. Sam3 Abq
    I keep hearing that sand is the way to go - will have to compare the two more closely.
  45. itsbob
    I would assume DL method is similar to the gravel on the bottom of fishtank, or how a septic tank works.. In both you never 100% clean out or replace what's there. A fishtank you normally don't change out more than 30% of the water, or overclean the gravel as you get rid of all the good bacteria the tank worked long and hard on building.

    I would assume (i'm new to entire chicken thing), if using the DL method, you would do the same. Never replace more than a 1/3 to 2/3 of the litter that way there is always a good base of good bacteria already present and you aren't starting all over again. If you replace 100% you go back to zero beneficial bacteria, and your flock has to adjust, and their immunities will degrade.
      EclecticLadyy likes this.
  46. itsbob
    I would think the DL method is similar process to a fish tank. You're building up bacteria in the litter the same way you would build up bacteria in the fishtank gravel..

    In that regard you would NEVER want to remove all of the litter, or you'll be removing all of the good bacteria and starting again. I would THINK (I'm new to this) that you'd want to remove at most, 2/3 of the litter and replace with new. I would even go as low as 1/3rd at any time. That way you always have a thriving colony of good bacteria, and not starting over again, at which time your flcok would be more vulnerable.
  47. armorfirelady
    No reason to use DE. Just add different kinds of bedding material. I use grass clippings, leaves, weeds, pine needles.....whatever is free around my house. I also bag them up to use all winter. Once a week i may stir the DL to get the poop mixed around. Right now they have a dirt base with a little shavings in it. The poop dries & breaks down really fast with no use of DE. There is no smell and no flies. I also have plenty of ventilation even around the perimeter of the coop so that helps keep it dry. So easy to do and great fro the ground underneath, the hens and my garden in the spring :)
  48. Haida
    I've never heard of this, and it sounds wonderful! I have to give it a try!! Thanks for posting!
  49. chicknnugget
    I tried sand in the bottom of my coop. Bad Idea! It got really smelly, and needs to be cleaned everyday. DLM is way easier and a lot less smelly.
  50. ghostwolf211
    I got turned onto Sweet PDZ here on these forums and I use the deep litter method...I love it!!

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