Abandoning Deep Litter Method...

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by MichelleT, Feb 21, 2016.

  1. MichelleT

    MichelleT Chillin' With My Peeps

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    So, with our small coop the deep litter method (combined with adding a south window during the daytime) has kept the temperatures in the coop pretty steadily at 10 degrees warmer than the outside. Yeah! But the mice continue to come. I think I've got them taken care of using a variety of methods and then 2 weeks later a new wave moves in. Our property backs up to a field/open space, so this will probably always be the case.

    Anyway, the problems I am having (mice, constant dustiness) appear to have caused a bit of a respiratory problem in the flock. I am treating that now, and I feel I have been both incredibly blessed by the resources here and dumb luck. I have not lost a hen in almost 2 years! Worms, mice, yowza. Constant vigilance is our motto!

    Anyway, what to do? Our coop is small (5 hens, approximately 20 square feet of floor space + nesting boxes and roosts) and not insulated. I'm thinking I'm going to start keeping the floor clean (daily, ugh) and hope that the temps don't drop too low in the next few months.

    Deep litter experts, do you have any tricks for a.) keeping the dust-levels down and b.) keeping mice out or at least deterring them? Our run is predator protected, but the mice still dig through...
     
  2. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    On mouse side try to reduce availability of food, especially at night. You may need to revisit your ventilation.
     
  3. MichelleT

    MichelleT Chillin' With My Peeps

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    We bring the food (and water) in at night already, but I"m sure there are plenty of nuggets that drop into the bedding.

    I agree with the re-visitation of the ventilation; When I do a deep-cleaning I am going to do some serious searching for entryways. Since we leave their run door open until they roost (and sometimes later), I know that they've got free entry. I try to search (pitchfork in the bedding) for them - and sometimes find one or two and scoot them out - but they seem to reappear during the night.
     
  4. junebuggena

    junebuggena Chicken Obsessed

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    For the respiratory issues, it's not deep litter or mice related, it's more likely ventilation related. It's difficult to vent small coops properly.
    For the mice issue, don't use poison. Chickens may eat mice that died from poison. Don't leave food out. Make a bucket trap or get an electric trap. And turn that litter over weekly. Kill any mice that you can with that pitch fork. Mice reach reproductive maturity just a few weeks after being born, so every couple weeks, you have a new generation to deal with. Dealing with mice is just part of keeping chickens. My flock hunts and eats mice, so I don't have much of a problem. Maybe next time you find a mouse in the coop or run, do your treat call. See if your flock figures out what the 'treat' is.
     
  5. ChickityChina

    ChickityChina Chillin' With My Peeps

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    [​IMG] I like it.

    I also like the electric trap idea. I will look into this for my own coop and see what's available that won't be a danger to the hens.
     
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2016
  6. Lady of McCamley

    Lady of McCamley Overrun With Chickens

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    x2 that it is not the deep litter method drawing mice nor respiratory issues, if you are doing it right, deep litter over bare ground. (The litter needs to touch the bare ground for the microbes in the soil to do their job.)

    Mice come with chickens being the opportunists they are. Here I have rats...and they come and go in waves. Your hope is to keep them at bay and remain vigilant, removing food/water sources and blockading as best you can.

    Query...are you using DE? If so, don't do that with deep litter as it kills the microbes that do the job for the deep litter and can cause respiratory problems in chickens.

    Also, what are you using for litter? Some litters have a lot more dust than others. I personally prefer pine shavings over straw. Some brands of pine shavings are better than others (and no, I have never had an issue with pine shavings causing respiratory problems). Straw draws critters with the grain heads. Some of the pellet litter is especially dusty.

    I too think your culprit will be ventilation...you need a good cross flow of air above their heads (not blowing under and over their bodies).

    My thoughts.

    LofMc
     
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2016
  7. MichelleT

    MichelleT Chillin' With My Peeps

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    We actually do not have the coop on the ground - it is raised so there are no microbes in the soil doing their job in our coop. :-( Is it pointless to do the deep litter method if the coop is not on the ground?

    Ventilation - tricky in a small coop as others have said. It's a short coop really, so their roosts are right at ventilation height. In the winter we cover one of the "window" vents with a vent cover - like those you see on the side of a house - so that the wind doesn't blow in but air can still escape. The other vents are small holes (covered in hardware cloth) on the opposite wall. The holes are not placed to blow directly on the roosting chickens, but the window is at their roosting height. I'm not sure how to fix this to be better...

    I have been using a mix of Aspen shavings and dried leaves. Last year I used only the shavings and the dust this year (with some leaves) is not any worse, and it's free. I had heard that aspen was better than pine, but I"d be willing to switch if I knew what exactly I was looking for (as far as a "good" brand).

    I guess I feel like the litter is what's drawing them because of the hole/digging. Last year they made a nest and had babies (which the hens had a good time munching - yuck!) and this year I have been very vigilant about turning the bedding almost every night, to discourage the nesting at least. But the tunnels are still there almost every morning/evening. No food left out and no water means they're after the little bit of food that falls under the feeder before it's removed and there's not much I can do about that.
     
  8. Lady of McCamley

    Lady of McCamley Overrun With Chickens

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    Deep litter is best on soil so the microbes can do their job, otherwise it can be prone to stagnation (with resultant fumes).

    I do not believe you have enough ventilation with that set up. If you see the prefab coops, most have a little steeple roof that has wire on both sides so that the air can vent...above the bird roosts so wind does not blow directly on them. Some recommend having a complete open (wired) wall on the south side. Birds create a lot of humidity and ammonia.

    Yes, I agree the mice have found the deep bedding an ideal place to nest. I actually do not deep litter inside the coop but only in the run. I have raised coops (about waist high) and pull out all bedding every 2 weeks dropping it into the runs to compost and be turned by the birds in a deep litter method. But I do not live in a really cold climate (now) where I am wanting the composting to create heat...but then we are back to the soil microbes needing to be in contact with it to do their job best.

    I don't know what to tell you if you are fighting really cold weather. It will be hard to keep critters out of that. I used to live in a mobile home in the middle of 5 acres in snow country...and boy did we have mice in the walls, in the cupboards, in the drawers. I gave up and put everything in sweater boxes to try to keep stuff sanitary. No manner of trapping or poisoning could keep up.

    You may need to find a way to heat the coop and pull out the litter regularly.

    I do suspicion your free Aspen shavings are not dust controlled. The stuff you buy in the package at the feed store has been kiln dried and sifted to rid dust.

    Just thoughts as I don't have any clear answers for you.

    LofMc
     

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