composting deep litter and chicken health

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by finestservice, Mar 10, 2014.

  1. finestservice

    finestservice Out Of The Brooder

    Oct 5, 2013
    my question is I have read in the learning center about how cleanliness in the coop and run keeps the chickens healthy. how does this work with composting and using deep litter method? I lost two chickens last year too what I believe was coccidiosis and I don't understand how they don't keep getting sick if there always around there compost. plus will this attract lice and mites?
  2. chooks4life

    chooks4life Overrun With Chickens

    Apr 8, 2013
    Health is more likely to exist in dirty surroundings than excessively clean ones. A dirty environment is necessary for immune system strength as well. As long as the beneficial bacteria, fungi, microorganisms etc are dominating the harmful, your deep litter will do its job, just like any forest floor is doing. This is what keeps the birds healthy.

    The problem with cleaning coops is that due to the chemicals etc people use, bad bacteria etc become resistant, stronger, and come back quicker than the good ones. This is solved by lots and lots of cleaning, regularly, but all that cleaning confers weak immune systems on the animals because you're protecting them from life, in normal terms. Still, if you're willing to do that, it sounds like it works well enough for some, not that I'd personally place much value on their stock as far as robust immune systems go. But each to their own.

    Deep litter isn't guaranteed to be healthy just because it's deep litter, it needs to be healthy, living deep litter. If it stinks, it's sick, i.e. overwhelmed by pathogenic organisms etc.

    There is some belief that deep litter doesn't work, or can't work in the tropics, but I've done it for years in the tropics even during monsoon and it was fine. I had more disease issues back at the start of my poultry keeping, when I was trying to keep the coop floors clean. That said, it can help when you're starting up your deep litter to remove the top layer and lime what's left, or dig lime all through it.

    I also used forest leaf litter to gain 'beneficials', which I think made a big difference. After all, even tropical rainforest floors don't stink, do they? Even when there are massive resident populations of feral dogs, feral pigs, fruitbats, etc like there was at our place. Powerful beneficials in that mulch, to compete with that inhabitant-overburdened little patch of remnant forest. Once you've got the litter 'going' it should take care of itself with minimal maintenance. Occasional liming is all I did once mine was going.

    I'd not vouch for the likelihood of chemically sprayed or artificially fertilized litter ever becoming healthy, so if your soil's possibly been sprayed, dig it out and replace it. Some artificial fertilizers, pesticides and other sprays can damage soil indefinitely and inhibit healthy life. This sort of information is freely available from various generally accepted authorities like the CSIRO, and has been for decades; it's not a secret, just something people forget about. Sprays have been shown to inhibit uptake of some essential things like copper, sulfur etc up to 100% in animals. They can continue to do this many years after the sprays were applied, too.

    Hydrated agricultural lime was my deep litter assistant of choice. When I first started using deep litter, it got stinky a few times like it always had gotten when I was cleaning the coop, but instead of cleaning it out, I limed it and left it, and after a few months or so it never got stinky again. Poops vanished like magic. The only time we removed litter after that was to pinch some for the garden, lol.

    If deep litter is not working for you, try sand. It's a great alternative.

    Best wishes.

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