Back Saving Idea for Cleaning Deep Litter in 6X12 Coop

gtaus

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Mar 29, 2019
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I wanted to fluff up the deep litter in the coop today. I was thinking about my options and believe I came up with the (almost) perfect tool for the job. First of all, at my age, I always think about protecting my back. So I either limit the amount I try to lift, or I look for a tool that helps me do the job. The job today, was to fluff up the deep litter which is a way of cleaning the bedding. The litter in my 6X12 coop is about 6 inches deep.

My first option was to use a shovel. But turning over the bedding with a shovel was slow going and the wood chip bedding is a bit heavier than just pine shavings like I used in the brooder.

My second option was to use a hay fork, which is like a pitch fork but has many more tines. Like the shovel, this too was slow going and a fork full of wood chips can get heavy after a short while. Also, I did not want to snag and rip the linoleum on the bottom of the coop. So, with both the shovel and hay fork, I had to be very careful not to stick the tool too far down into the bedding and rip the lineoleum.

My third option was to use my small Ryobi 18v garden cultivator.
Ryobi P2701 Cultivator (2).jpg

Turns out, this was the perfect tool for me. As you can see, it is not a tiller. The cultivator tines go down about 4 inches. They have a back and forth motion, so it is like stirring up the soil, or in this case, the bedding. Not only was this tool really fast in fluffing up the bedding, but it also keep the dust down due to the back and forth motion and not lifting and dropping the bedding. I was so impressed with the service of this cultivator, that I thought I would post it for anyone else who is maintaining their deep bedding and maybe looking for a better option than a shovel or pitch fork. It's a back saver.

The bad news is that Ryobi no longer sells this P2701 18v Cultivator, but there are other brands out there selling similar cultivators. I bought my cultivator a few years ago, and it is only good for fluffing up already tilled soil. If you need to break sod, this is not the tool for that job. This cultivator is my main tool in my raised garden beds. I also have small powered tillers, but I did not want to use them in the coop because I was afraid they would quickly dig down into the wood chip bedding and rip up the linoleum.

In summary, this Ryobi 18v cultivator was able to fluff up all the deep litter bedding in my 6X12 coop in a few minutes, did not raise much dust at all, and I had to lift zero bedding and put no strain on my back.
 

gtaus

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Mar 29, 2019
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Northern Minnesota
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So those 'tines' not only spin but move laterally?
I love tool 'toys'!

Do you just have shavings in there...or other organic matter?

The tines do not spin. They just move back and forth laterally. Which is why I do not call it a tiller, where the tines do spin 360 degrees and really turn over the soil, break the sod, etc.... This small cultivator mixes the material in a much more gentle manner, and is best used on already worked soil. It worked perfectly in my deep litter because my goal was really to break up the surface poo and mix it down into the bedding.

As far as my bedding, I use a dry deep litter system that is based on wood chips. It is not a composting system where I am breaking down green organic material. The only other thing I have added to the wood chips is paper shreds, as an experiment. I thought the paper from my office paper shredder would break down really fast in the deep litter. However, since this is what I am calling a dry system, the shredded paper shows no sign of breaking down after 2 months. If I had green organic material in the bedding, and made it a composting system, I am sure it would break down fast.

Another thing I would like to mention about my dry deep litter system is that this is the first time I have fluffed up the bedding - after 2 months of use. The coop still smells like wood chips, but I thought I should go in there and do a little maintenance work. I thought there would be some, if not a lot, of poo under the roost bars. To my surprise, the bars were completely clean and there was hardly any poo under the roost bars. I don't know if the chickens are naturally scratching the bedding and the poo is working itself into the litter, or if they just don't poo much inside the coop.

A number of people have suggested that I add a poop board under the roost bars and clean it out everyday. I don't currently see any need for that. After 2 months, and this was my first cleaning/fluffing up of the litter, there was hardly any poo to be found. So I am more than happy with my decision to go with the dry deep litter method.
 

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