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Composting for heat

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by jhartist, Nov 8, 2013.

  1. jhartist

    jhartist New Egg

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    May 9, 2013
    I am trying to keep my chickens warm this winter by composting the coop shavings, but I'm not sure it is working well. The coop stinks! I really would like to just clean it out. I have been composting it for about 2-3 weeks or so so far. I just want to make sure that there is not too much bacteria in there to be causing more of a problem than solution. I keep laying new shavings and straw on top and moving it around. I have 8 chickens in a medium sized coop with plenty of room for them. They are free range chickens all day long and don't go into the coop at all except to lay their eggs and be in there at night.

    The coop door is open all day, and after they lay their eggs, I open up two windows in the coop as well, so there is plenty of ventilation during the day.

    Maybe I am not doing this correctly? Please advise.

    Thanks!

    Janine
     
  2. Kessy09

    Kessy09 Out Of The Brooder

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    Jun 16, 2013
    Rural Manitoba
    The vents should be left open at all times, never closed. Also, your litter is definitely not composting. Straw and shavings do not compost or break down fast. So, in 2-3 weeks there is not a chance that they are composting. You need to have a combo of brown and green materials that compost easily. Not sure where you are but if it's chilly it will be very difficult to start a new compost. Basically with the materials you're using you're just layering poop and straw and that is definitely going to be smelly! I would definitely clean it out and start with a proper deep litter. I use moist grass clippings mixed with dry leaves. Works beautifully.
     
  3. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Chicken Obsessed

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    Nov 23, 2010
    St. Louis, MO
    Compost to warm the coop is a clever idea but it really doesn't work.

    In order for compost to heat to the point that it would raise the room temperature from aerobic microbial action it needs to be moist. Moisture in a coop is the source of frostbite and possibly a reservoir for bad bacteria.
    If it stinks then it isn't being turned enough and is building anaerobic bacteria.
    Proper turning is essential for composting and would be quite difficult in a coop.
    Large farms compost waste and dead animals in buildings but they use heavy equipment to do so and they don't raise chickens in there.

    As the previous poster said, the chickens don't need the windows open during the day when they're outside, they need big openings at night when they're in there.
    Could what you're smelling be ammonia? If you get your nose down around the height of a chicken, do your nostrils burn? Imagine what that does to tiny respiratory tracts all night in a closed up coop.

    The inside of the coop needs to be bone dry with huge ventilation - year round.

    Chickens' ancestors- jungle fowl - are adaptable to a wide range of climates including the Himalayan foothills. The breeds that evolved from them have been bred in all corners of the globe except Antarctica and all climates - without heat. They don't need it.
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2013
  4. jhartist

    jhartist New Egg

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    May 9, 2013
    Thanks so much for the replies!

    I have cleaned out the coop and will now go back to usual practice.

    There is ventilation aside from the two big windows that are open during the day, so there is always some air flow going on day or night. This is our first winter with chickens, so I'm trying to be extra attentive to the "warmth" factor, as it is cold here at night.

    Janine
     
  5. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Chicken Obsessed

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    Nov 23, 2010
    St. Louis, MO
    Pick up a bird when it's cold outside and slip your hand under a wing and see how warm they are. They have a down coat on.

    They're probably not in the coop much during the day. I reiterate, they need the windows open at night when they are in there. Opening a door once in a while isn't ventilation.
    They're susceptible to heat and bad air - not cold.
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2013

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