avoiding mold in deep litter


May 21, 2017
This is our first time with chickens. I attempted deep litter in the brooder after reading about all the benefits. I used a cardboard box and put in a layer of finished compost with the idea of inoculating the mix. Then I added some plane shavings (mostly maple and oak) and dry leaves I saved last fall (both free) and topped with the larger size pine shavings. My thought was that I wanted to use available materials as much as possible, but I thought pine shavings might be easier for very young chicks to walk on.

I picked out bedding that was obviously wet and turned in soiled areas and added additional pine shavings. Around the 3rd week it began to smell of mold and it was mostly directly on top of the compost. So I dumped the whole thing and started over. I had to use the same box, but I peeled out most of the floor, let it dry, put new cardboard on the bottom and filled with dry leaves.

For about a week I was putting out everything soiled or damp I could find. Then we got busy and the chicks have been in the run during the daytime, so I wasn't as careful. And today, at week 5, I found mold again.

What I don't understand is that it wasn't that wet. It doesn't seem wet enough that it could even compost properly. I never had an ammonia smell. Is there something about cardboard? They will be moving to the coop this week and I want to get it right there. It has a painted plywood floor. Thanks!
I'm not sure why what you are doing is creating mold on just the top, but the poop is where the wet is. Also, they are probably spilling their water - creating wet spots.

That said - you want mold! That is what makes the DLM (deep litter method) work. It's what is in the leaves that causes them to break down so quickly. In all actuality, you don't want to move out the wet spots - just shift dry bedding over the top of it. You also don't want to stir it up any more than your chicks already do. You want the lower layers to be undisturbed, only moving the top layer(s) enough to cover the poop. You could have shifted some of the dry bedding to cover the mold, but I wouldn't do more than that.

This is in a cardboard box brooder? How deep did you make your litter? Are you adding leaves to it? Even with baby chicks, using the DLM, I believe you want at least 3" in the bottom of your brooder, possibly more. Also, if your chicks are out in the run most of the day, they aren't moving around what's in the brooder - and again - that is what creates the DLM and makes it work. The chickens turning in the wet spots and poop...

I have chicks right now, that 3" in their brooder pen (on the ground) isn't enough! They move it around, kicking it into piles in some spots, bare in others. But the DLM is working overall. They are in a corner of a coop that already had the DLM stared and I added shredded paper, leaves & pine straw to it when I put them out in the "new pen".
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