Considering deep litter method

Kaesi2020

Songster
Premium Feather Member
Hi all! Our six 7.5 week old chicks have been out in their coop permanently for about a week now (we live in upstate NY) and they are loving their freedom! They free range when I am home to supervise, otherwise they stay safe in the run and coop. I've been working remotely so I've had extra time to acclimate them and consider the coop and how I want to run it.

Till now, I've been basically scooping out the bigger poops in the run and coop everyday (like you would do in kitty litter for cats) and sprinkling a little fresh pine after. I see how this could get frustrating, especially when I'm back at work and busier. I am considering the deep litter method. My concern is...the chickens will be walking on the poop, the build up of poop in high trafficked areas, and the smell. Anyone who does this method- could you speak to any of that? Do you add fresh bedding only once a week? Could I do it more often or would that defeat the purpose?

Thanks!!
PS. Here is a picture of the hens eating plain yogurt!
 

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3KillerBs

Crossing the Road
11 Years
Jul 10, 2009
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North Carolina Sandhills
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There is a difference between deep bedding, which is dry and stays dry, and deep litter, which is a form of cold composting.

When I had my little, in-town coop I did deep bedding in my coop and deep litter in my run.

For the coop, I would start with a thick layer of shavings and then add to it every couple weeks as it seemed to need it (judging either based on odor or visual inspection of the poop-to-shaving ratio). I would either stir it around with a fork a little to break up any crusts under the roost or throw some scratch into it an let the chickens do the stirring about once a week more or less. I changed it every 6-12 weeks depending on weather, my level of busyness, and what bedding I'd used (straw having a much shorter life than shavings).

For the run I used a mix of materials: wood chips, shavings, pine straw, straw, and whatever other compost "browns" came to hand. I just kept adding layers as it seemed to need it -- any time it seemed dirty or damper than it ought to have been or any time there was any odor.

The slight dampness of the lower layers and the contact with the ground will begin the cold composting process, enabled by the fact that the mixed materials and the chickens scratching will keep it loose and aerated so that the good bacteria work properly.

I only cleaned it when it got inconveniently deep -- trying to come out over the doorsill and/or blocking the chickens' access to the under-coop section of the run -- or when I needed compost for the garden. :)
 

aart

Chicken Juggler!
Premium Feather Member
8 Years
Nov 27, 2012
95,321
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SW Michigan
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Yes, poop happens and needs to be dealt with.
Just wait until they get to laying age, their poops will triple in size!


What kind of bedding you use may depend on how you manage the manure.
This is about cleaning, but covers my big picture
-I use poop boards under roosts with thin(<1/2") layer of sand/PDZ mix, sifted daily(takes 5-10mins) into bucket going to friends compost.
-Scrape big or wet poops off roost and ramps as needed.
-Pine shavings on coop floor, add some occasionally, totally changed out once or twice a year, old shavings added to run.
- My runs have semi-deep litter(cold composting), never clean anything out, just add smaller dry materials on occasion, add larger wood chippings as needed.
Aged ramial wood chippings are best IMO.
-Nests are bedded with straw, add some occasionally, change out if needed(broken egg).
There is no odor, unless a fresh cecal has been dropped and when I open the bucket to add more poop.
That's how I keep it 'clean', have not found any reason to clean 'deeper' in 5 years.
 

NatJ

Free Ranging
Mar 20, 2017
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Do you add fresh bedding only once a week? Could I do it more often or would that defeat the purpose?

You can add more bedding anytime you want--the worst thing that will happen is that you will buy a lot of bedding, and it will get so deep it becomes a nuisance (falls out the door, or causes you to bump your head on the roof.) But it won't hurt the chickens unless THEY are bumping their heads because it's so high :lau
 

rosemarythyme

Scarborough Fair
Premium Feather Member
Jul 3, 2016
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Obviously everyone manages their set up a little differently.

For the coop (deep bedding), I really only have poop under the roost area, so I simply scoop it up in the morning. I don't add more litter, litter gets added when I do a clean out twice a year.

For the run (deep litter), I choose to pick up big obvious poops daily, however it's not really necessary and I don't sweat over the poops I miss. They get composted down into everything else in the run anyhow. I don't have a schedule of when I add materials... I simply add them as I have them. Sometimes it's just a handful of weeds, other times several wheelbarrows of dried leaves.

Smell is at a minimum and even people who come over and see the chickens are amazed that there's actual animals in there, because they don't smell "farm animals" like they think they would.
 

David61

Songster
Jul 27, 2019
692
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Mississippi Gulf Coast
How big is the floor? My 6x14 gets 3/4 to a block of pine flake shavings from TSC once a month. I start by changing the nest box shavings to the floor. Then I spray the nest box with permethrin and fill them with new pine Flakes. Unless its been raining a lot 3/4 of the bail does it. I take mine out every four months. Most of it goes on the wood chips in the 10x30 outside run or the compost pile as needed.
PDZ stable fresh is on my poop boards and used around the coop and run as needed. My sister was over the other day and said "there is no smell. I thought it would smell."
I have three compost piles. One with dry brown leafy things, one green clippings and the third is and combination of the two with poop from the chickens. Dry and covered is a good thing.
 

Chickidee26

In the Brooder
Apr 15, 2020
60
32
43
Hudson Valley NY
I'd like some help with the deep litter method for my run as well. We live in NY (about an hour north of the city). The ground is very hard (rocks of every size imaginable in, on and under) and almost a clay, no issue with puddles or mud. I have added some dried leaves, grass clippings and some small amounts of hay but was wondering how much should I have for them? Our run is 16x8. Do I rake it around every now and then or just let them do it? Do I add to it or remove it to the compost and how often? They seem to find spots to dust bathe in, should I be providing a separate space for them to do it? I had read that grass clippings are not so good, they should take small pieces of grass when they are out free-ranging. Without the grass I really only have dried leaves for them. I'd love to make it work, just not very educated in it yet. Thank you.
 

Kaesi2020

Songster
Premium Feather Member
Ou
You can add more bedding anytime you want--the worst thing that will happen is that you will buy a lot of bedding, and it will get so deep it becomes a nuisance (falls out the door, or causes you to bump your head on the roof.) But it won't hurt the chickens unless THEY are bumping their heads because it's so high :lau
Thanks for the reply. I add a little bit each day but may cut back. I've been taking and mixing it more as well as adding some scratch for the chickens to stir it up on their own.
 

Kaesi2020

Songster
Premium Feather Member
I'd like some help with the deep litter method for my run as well. We live in NY (about an hour north of the city). The ground is very hard (rocks of every size imaginable in, on and under) and almost a clay, no issue with puddles or mud. I have added some dried leaves, grass clippings and some small amounts of hay but was wondering how much should I have for them? Our run is 16x8. Do I rake it around every now and then or just let them do it? Do I add to it or remove it to the compost and how often? They seem to find spots to dust bathe in, should I be providing a separate space for them to do it? I had read that grass clippings are not so good, they should take small pieces of grass when they are out free-ranging. Without the grass I really only have dried leaves for them. I'd love to make it work, just not very educated in it yet. Thank you.
I'm a NYer too, further north than you but we have the rocky hard soil here as well. It was so hard doing the trench and screen because of this!
 

Kaesi2020

Songster
Premium Feather Member
How big is the floor? My 6x14 gets 3/4 to a block of pine flake shavings from TSC once a month. I start by changing the nest box shavings to the floor. Then I spray the nest box with permethrin and fill them with new pine Flakes. Unless its been raining a lot 3/4 of the bail does it. I take mine out every four months. Most of it goes on the wood chips in the 10x30 outside run or the compost pile as needed.
PDZ stable fresh is on my poop boards and used around the coop and run as needed. My sister was over the other day and said "there is no smell. I thought it would smell."
I have three compost piles. One with dry brown leafy things, one green clippings and the third is and combination of the two with poop from the chickens. Dry and covered is a good thing.
Thanks. I like your idea of adding the old bedding to the run. I might try that out. The PDZ cleaner, do you just spray it or spray and wipe with a cloth?
 

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