Deep litter: is a bigger coop better?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by amk3000, May 6, 2009.

  1. amk3000

    amk3000 Out Of The Brooder

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    May 6, 2009
    NE PA
    Hi,
    I'm brand new to chickens, although I've been a wanna be for about 30 years. Our Buff Orp. and RIR are less than a week old. I've begun to build a coop for them, and plan on using deep litter.
    I read somewhere that at 5 sq ft per hen, a coop with deep litter should require almost no maintenance.
    If I build generously and supply 10 sq ft per hen, is there a possibility that the hens will ignore parts of the coop and leave it unscratched, leaving their poops on the surface instead of incorporating them into the litter?
    Thanks,
    Adam
     
  2. DarkWolf

    DarkWolf Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Nov 11, 2008
    Murray Kentucky
    You're not going to be 100% maintenance free.. You'll have to 1.) give the litter a mix now and then and 2.) Add more litter as it starts to settle and break down.

    Having 10SF per bird will surely mean more time in between having to mix things up and add more though.

    As far as getting things mixed up, you CAN let the chickens do alot of the work. Just throw down some scratch from time to time and they'll mix it up a bit. Just toss on the left side one time, and the right side the next time.

    Eventually you'll need to give it a turn though.. Most people turn their shavings and mix it up when it starts to stink. In the event that turning does not correct the stink in a few days they add more shavings.

    Using stall fresh or DE (though I don't understand how DE helps moisture) will help with the smell as well and can be tossed down before the shavings are mixed.
     
  3. WoodlandWoman

    WoodlandWoman Overrun With Chickens

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    Wisconsin
    If you want to do the least amount of maintenance, you might want to start with just a couple of inches of litter to start. Really, just enough that you aren't seeing the floor as you and the chickens walk or scratch, shifting the litter. Keep a bale or other container of litter in the corner, with a feed scoop in it. Add a little clean litter on top, as needed. If you're allowing a lot of space, you'll most often be adding it under the roosts or around the feeder or waterer, where they're going to spend the most time. If you add clean litter on top of the areas that have the most droppings, the chickens will walk on them more often and work it all together. The chickens shift the litter around and it mostly levels out.

    Traditionally, one of the big reasons that litter needs to be turned, is because you start with a thick layer of clean litter at the bottom, then develop a very poopy layer on top. You stir the clean (or cleaner) litter up from the bottom, to incorporate it with the poopy layer on top. Maybe once a month you add another good layer of clean litter on top.

    I don't add as much litter to start. I add it as the coop needs it, on top, where it needs it. I add lighter layers, more frequently, where it needs it. Think sprinkling, once or twice a week, only where it needs it.

    If you ever smell ammonia escaping, you have an imbalance in the litter and need to add more shavings. With the traditional method, you might need to stir or stir and add shavings.

    I think allowing 5 square feet per chicken as a minimum is a great idea. The less space you allow, the more poop crusting you get on top of the litter, that has to be manually broken up, with the traditional method. You can certainly give them more room and they would love it. I think you'll be able to manage your coop no matter how much room you give them. You might just need to tweak what you're doing.
     
  4. Chicken Fruit

    Chicken Fruit Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 25, 2009
    Echo Homestead
    That is an insanely huge coop. 10sf a chicken? Thats huge.

    We have about 3.5 per chicken- 13 chickens in a 9x5 coop. I use pellets to deep bed. I find it works best without any smell or wet spots and its the least amount of up keep.

    I just throw down another layer once a month.
     
  5. DiVon80

    DiVon80 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Feb 23, 2009
    Pearl River,Louisiana
    Quote:Sounds like a good plan. One question will they have a yard to exercise in? I am making some changes in the way I keep mine. We have lost so many trees and now have wide open swoop room.
     
  6. amk3000

    amk3000 Out Of The Brooder

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    May 6, 2009
    NE PA
    Thanks for the replies.
    Amosunknown, what are pellets? And how deep is the litter you start out with.

    The reason for my idea of a large coop is that we don't really have room for a run. I could only let the chickens out in the back yard when someone is there to supervise. (We live in town, and have a very small lot.) I thought they might be okay spending lots of time in the coop if it were bigger.

    Also, the coop itself is not that large, it will be 3-1/2 X 6, but that works out to 10sf per hen, for two hens. (We're only allowed two).
     
  7. Chicken Fruit

    Chicken Fruit Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 25, 2009
    Echo Homestead
    Quote:I use equine bedding pellets, but other people use corn stove, or pellet stove pellets and then burn the litter when theyre threw with it.

    I just cover the floor. no magical depth. Just cover it. Those pellets soak up anything wet, so even if its just an inch deep it still does the job. You'd probably need 2 40# bags to get a good base layer in that coop. Toss another bag down when it starts to look bad or smell. It takes a good long while for it to get like that. Even when my birds are in all day and night it lasts for weeks on end.

    Good stuff, that.

    this is my favorite right now But I use any kind they have.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2009
  8. WoodlandWoman

    WoodlandWoman Overrun With Chickens

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    Is there any way you can build one of those coops that has a run underneath the coop? That wouldn't take up more square footage in the yard. Or maybe give them just a couple of feet of run? They really like being outside. If you keep them confined all the time, you're going to have to have a really good ventilation design for the summer heat. What area of the country do you live in?
     

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