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.
By Dawn419 · Jan 11, 2012 · Updated May 1, 2012 · ·
  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. Itzlinda
    I am rather new to chickens. What I have done seems to be working great. I used Pine shavings and construction grade sand and some PDZ. I have had this down for about 2 months and there is no smell and is working well. Thanks for all the great info on this site:)
    1. MROO
      Did you mix your shavings and sand or layer them in?
  2. MROO
    DON'T USE CEDAR! It's toxic to chickens!
  3. anunusualwoman
    is there something i can use instead of pine (or cedar) shavings? I have an allergic reaction to pine and a lesser extent to cedar.
  4. MROO
    Question about Deep Litter Method (DLM) and diatomaceous earth (DE.) We use DLM in our coop - a converted playhouse/sandbox - and were warned against using DE because it kills the beneficial bugs and bacteria that break down the litter (and create heat in the winter.) Does anybody have a good "scoop" on the "poop?"
    1. elaineinspain
      I've been using DLM successfully for over a year now and have never used DE with it (although I do use DE in the dust bathing patch out in the yard, and also in caring for my dog and cats and for myself) For the DLM to work correctly it must compost down, and, like you say, DE would kill the beneficial bugs who help with the composting process.
  5. 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"
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
      Liz7 and ChickenyChickeny like this.
  8. 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.
      hempsteadjb likes this.
  9. 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.
  10. 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?
  11. 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?
  12. 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.
    1. Karen Miely
      Sounds interesting. Where can I read about the Korean system?
  13. ewaugaman
    What is DLM I read the article and I was wondering what the DLM was.
    1. 6PeckinChickens
      Deep Litter Method
  14. jrun808
    I love this idea, I will give this a try very soon.
  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.
      hempsteadjb and Ketty Ash like this.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. birdman55
    try using zeolite or keeps the smells down and works great. tsc has it and most of your feed stores should carry it
  20. 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.
  21. 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.
  22. jackcooper
    nice I use it
  23. Phoenixxx
    ... and I see I just repeated myself with half of what I just wrote! Lol, oops!
  24. 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 :)
  25. 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.
  26. 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!
  27. cluckcluckluke
    Great Article. Thanks!!!
  28. chickenlily13
  29. ttdavis86
    I have a wood floor on my elevated coop would this work fo me or just rot out the floor faster
  30. 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.
  31. 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.
  32. 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.
  33. Sam3 Abq
    I keep hearing that sand is the way to go - will have to compare the two more closely.
    1. SpringDaleChickenLady
      You would need to treat sand like cat litter can clean out the poop. With wood shavings you don't have to clean out the want the poop to add all that great nutrients to the compost.
  34. 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.
  35. 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 :)
  36. Haida
    I've never heard of this, and it sounds wonderful! I have to give it a try!! Thanks for posting!
  37. ghostwolf211
    I got turned onto Sweet PDZ here on these forums and I use the deep litter method...I love it!!
  38. lindychick
    I am absolutely going to try this. I get pine shavings & DE of my horses. Seems simple enough.
  39. Nutcase
    Awesome article! I have to try this.
  40. BirdbyGavin1103
    Going to give this a try come cold weather. My only question is can I add the litter I clean out to my composter or the pile of grass clippings I have composting?
  41. Yello
    Using DLM for the winter and will clean out once the weather gets warmer. My question is What the heck to do with the used shavings/poop when I clean out the coop? Any suggestions?
    1. SpringDaleChickenLady
      Add them to your compost pile!
  42. MrsWolfe
    Thank you for information, this will help this newby when it comes time to add the chicks in the coop.
  43. LoveChickens123
    it does work i even do it
  44. LoveChickens123
    we do the same thing
  45. Chicks Galore3
    Thanks! This answered all my questions!
  46. Rattie
    All, this is a fascinating thread and I've learned a lot! I only have four chickens but I'm adding DE to the pine shavings in my minicoop today - any reason it shouldnt work in a coop that's about 5x5 (not including nest boxes)?
  47. Gittx
    I have cats, so when I heard about the Deep Litter System about a year ago, I piled the sand/dirt mix from the yard, on the floor of my coop. The ladies love it and do an excellent job of keeping it stirred up for me. I used about 5 inches of the sand/dirt and although I use DE, I've never needed it for the coup floor, unless it's needed for their dusting activity :D
  48. chicks are me
    neat..... I'll have to use that. it's starting to get cold :p
  49. CoopersCoop
    it needs to be open air. We did DLM over winter and our flock got bronchitis!!! Too much dust and too much moisture. Shavings are horrible for your chickens ,,, BEWARE!
    1. SpringDaleChickenLady
      You shouldn't have moisture if your coop is well ventilated and the DLM maintained properly. Where wood shavings could possibly get wet, such as around the water stations and entrances, needs to be monitored and removed and replaced if it gets wet. You won't have any issues if you do this.
  50. blondiebee181
    IDK about hay, but I use straw with my ducks and I deep litter and it works great! Of course hay is moister so I wouldn't reccomend it and I also live in Idaho where it's dry, I wouldn't deep litter in moist environments.

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