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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Recent User Reviews

  1. jbowen53
    "Had No Idea About This Method"
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Jul 20, 2019 at 8:13 AM
    Just a great article with very helpful information.
  2. Kate Shaw
    "Great info!"
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Jun 5, 2019
    Newbie here. Thanks for the simplified info!
    Iditarod likes this.
  3. Celticdragonfly
    "Good bedding article"
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Jun 3, 2019
    This is a good article, that encouraged me to try this.

    I would have liked more information on the pros and cons of DE - I've seen a lot of questions about using it on other threads. I am using PDZ on the poop boards, and am unsure whether adding that to the litter would do as well.

    And extra points for naming your bantam coop the Teacup Pterodactyl Townhouse!
    Iditarod likes this.


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  1. 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?
      Liz7 likes this.
  2. 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.
  3. Phoenixxx
    ... and I see I just repeated myself with half of what I just wrote! Lol, oops!
  4. 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.
  5. 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 :)
  6. 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.
  7. 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!
  8. cluckcluckluke
    Great Article. Thanks!!!
  9. chickenlily13
  10. ttdavis86
    I have a wood floor on my elevated coop would this work fo me or just rot out the floor faster
  11. 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.
      Liz7 likes this.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
      SpringDaleChickenLady likes this.
  15. 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.
    1. SpringDaleChickenLady
      You want the poop in litter!! That's what makes the compost great!
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. 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 :)
      Jan in the Pines likes this.
  20. Haida
    I've never heard of this, and it sounds wonderful! I have to give it a try!! Thanks for posting!
  21. 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.
      SpringDaleChickenLady likes this.
  22. ghostwolf211
    I got turned onto Sweet PDZ here on these forums and I use the deep litter method...I love it!!
  23. lindychick
    I am absolutely going to try this. I get pine shavings & DE of my horses. Seems simple enough.
  24. Nutcase
    Awesome article! I have to try this.
  25. 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?
  26. 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!
  27. MrsWolfe
    Thank you for information, this will help this newby when it comes time to add the chicks in the coop.
  28. LoveChickens123
    it does work i even do it
  29. LoveChickens123
    we do the same thing
  30. Chicks Galore3
    Thanks! This answered all my questions!
  31. 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)?
  32. 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
  33. chicks are me
    neat..... I'll have to use that. it's starting to get cold :p
  34. 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.
  35. 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.
  36. americanvalkyrie
    I just started using DLM and it's great for heat. When I add fresh litter, I toss in some scratch grain so the chickens stir it up for me. During dry days, I open the main coop door wide (they free-range) to get a bit more air going on everything. I need to get some DE out there!
  37. earlybird10842
    do you ever have to clean the coop?
    1. SpringDaleChickenLady
      Yes, once or twice yearly. However it's not a maintenance free system as you need to look for areas that might get wet and remove the wet bedding and add fresh. Stir every few days with a rake, even if chickens are scratching and redistribute the bedding. It works great!
  38. atira
    Side note for those who use shredded great as a replacement of cat can generally get shredded paper from businesses for nothing other than the asking. Might try this with my girls too...
    1. SpringDaleChickenLady
      Like hay or straw, that can get wet and cause issues with chickens or ducks slipping on it and causing leg injuries. Would also be concerned about ink in the paper.
  39. DaphneNL
    Straw is good! Been using it for years now. I only use this method for the winter months, so I start building up in september/october and clean out the coops in march/april. I started trying this because we use kind of the same method for the horses in the winter months.
  40. Nottinghamranch
    wow, I had never heard of this. Thanks for this article. I will definately try this once I get a good flock going.
  41. Ladybug922
    Is Straw good for the DLM? I have been using shavings, but I would rather use straw to compost for the garden. As it is starting to get to winter I would like to use a less intensive cleaning method so I'm not freezing my arse off cleaning the coop all winter!
  42. Jwakeford
    Just a word, I wouldn't use hay for deep litter method. Shavings compost quicker which keeps the smell down. Hay is not as absorbent and anytime the litter is damp it will get smelly and grow bacteria!
  43. LeelaK05
    Thanx ScottN73!!
    Paper shredder is a GREAT ideal for the layin boxes! Gonna start saving my shredded paper now...& save me $$Money!! :D
    DLM is a Great Method....been usin it for years!...Cant afford to keep buyin 8.0 cu. ft pine shavings for TSC every week!!
    My girls work kick the pine shavings outta there layin boxes & I add new every other day...after awhile...I just pick it up off the floor & put it back in their nest...hehe
  44. ScottN73
    I've been using shredded paper from my micro cut paper shredder. It's a cross cut shredder so the shreds aren't long. Using this paper with the deep litter method seems to be working very well so far. The paper clumps to any messy poops and is extremely easy to clean up with a shop vac when I'm ready to give the girls a fresh roosting area. I also use it as bedding in the lay boxes. It really cushions the eggs and doesn't attract mites or lice. Best of costs nothing to replace and the ladies love it!
  45. pollitaroja
    What about the rive sand method?. I think it will be much better. I will try it when my babies are big enough. I have a converted dog run with a nice roof. I just need roost boxes and voila!
  46. allygb99
    i have been using hay for bedding. but it dosent asorb and gets EVERYWERE!! i used pine chips before but there a pain, what should i use, and also what do you use? thanks!
    1. SpringDaleChickenLady
      You can use sand, but it needs regular sifting like cat litter. Sadly, farming is messy!
  47. galinhaprincess
    It is a great method! Very easy to do!
  48. pumphousehill
    I've been using the deep layer method since last fall and it works great! The hens, and now baby chicks, are constantly stirring it themselves! I never have to do it for them. I have to hang my feeder higher and put a wooden box upside down under it for them to step up to the feeder, because they would fill it with straw and pine shavings as they are scratching for bugs. I also occasionally throw in some scratch (cracked corn and seeds) for them to find. Even if I don't they still stir it up, looking for bugs. My later is actually one shrink wrapped bundle of pine shavings and one small bale of alfalfa (there was no straw at the farm store that day) and it has nicely filled my coop floor with about 6 inches of layer. I assume I will have to add new material more often, once my 8 chicks are bigger. The wonderful part is that there is no smell. The only time it started to smell like urine was when the hens went broody. I highly recommend this method!
      EclecticLadyy likes this.
  49. Nychickenfam
    Not a problem... We start it late fall through winter... the first warm day in April we empty... You might want to use a mask when you empty your coop. : )
  50. auntie tee
    Thanks, Nychickenfarm

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