Deep litter - keep or start over?

Buffberry

Chirping
Jan 4, 2021
15
66
89
New Zealand
I am planning on rotating my chicken's yard area soon. I am using the 'dueling gardens' system, where the chickens spend a year on one half of my backyard, and then the next year on the other half. I have four pens that will be moved, and each has a good amount of litter material in it. My question for those more knowledgeable is, should I transfer some or all of this material to the relocated pens in the new area, or simply start afresh? Usually I have started afresh as I figured that the idea of rotating yards is to avoid parasite build-up, and there could be parasites (worms etc) in the litter. But then I am wondering if this is so how do the deep litter authorities continue to use their stationery coops year after year with the same deep litter and no problems? But then they have field rather than garden rotation and I wonder if this makes a difference... Advice very much appreciated!
 
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Personally, I don’t use the deep litter method, because of bacterial infections it can cause after a while. I use a light layer of alfalfa (I chose this material so that, if my chooks eat some, it’s okay and won’t hurt them), and clean my henhouse out every day, putting a fresh layer of alfalfa. This helps keep their feet dry and bacteria free!
However, in answer to your question, I’d start fresh every time you move your pens. I think it’s good to clean everything out and start over. It would be very beneficial to let things start anew
 

Mrs. K

Free Ranging
12 Years
Nov 12, 2009
10,872
17,752
726
western South Dakota
This is a good time to think about getting them moved, as it will let your garden area age over the coming winter, which will break down into the soil. Oh wait, I just checked where you are - and I am assuming you are going into spring. Your litter may be too 'hot' and 'rich" for a garden. Fresh Chicken bedding can be too much and needs to age before being applied to plants 3-6 months.

A lot depends on your bedding, your soil and the timing of your rotation. I would do my chicken rotation into the garden, as soon as I complete the final harvest. Then, I would rake to the side, the less broken down material to use as mulch, and rototill the more rotted into the soil. Wait the winter, and then plant and mulch.

Mrs K
 

FloorCandy

Crowing
Apr 15, 2020
3,804
7,688
451
I am planning on rotating my chicken's yard area soon. I am using the 'dueling gardens' system, where the chickens spend a year on one half of my backyard, and then the next year on the other half. I have four pens that will be moved, and each has a good amount of litter material in it. My question for those more knowledgeable is, should I transfer some or all of this material to the relocated pens in the new area, or simply start afresh? Usually I have started afresh as I figured that the idea of rotating yards is to avoid parasite build-up, and there could be parasites (worms etc) in the litter. But then I am wondering if this is so how do the deep litter authorities continue to use their stationery coops year after year with the same deep litter and no problems? But then they have field rather than garden rotation and I wonder if this makes a difference... Advice very much appreciated!
I have quail, and last winter I moved a pen to where I planned to start a raised bed. I did deep litter all late summer, fall, winter, and early spring. I moved the birds and decided I wanted the raised bed in a different area, so I shoveled up all the litter and moved it in the wheelbarrow. I had asked in the gardening forum here about how I should set it up, and I ended up spreading it over the area, putting container soil over that, kind of raked it together a bit, then added a couple more inches of container soil, then I topped with topsoil. The garden is growing like a jungle! The plants seem to respond well to the setup, I was a bit worried the poopy bedding would be too much for the plants, but nope. I would use your dirty litter for gardening, extra I would compost for future use. Let them have a fresh start, in my experience, they love to muck up a blank slate.
 

U_Stormcrow

Crossing the Road
Jun 7, 2020
8,160
28,536
776
North FL Panhandle Region / Wiregrass
Start fresh. Begin a new deep litter process where you are moving your birds to.

The old deep litter, to the extent its completely composted, can be used as dressing on the garden you are about to plant. If not completely composted (to top layer), chicken droppings are high nitrogen "hot" fertilizer. Either turn it in to a garden you plan to leave fallow this season and let it age, or pile it up and let it continue to compost somewhere.

and if you have a hot compost (50/50 green/brown) pile somewhere that's "stuck", add a couple piles of partially composted deep litter and most of a bottle conditioned beer (the kind with the yeasty sludge in the bottom) to kick start it back into gear. Drink the rest.
 

3KillerBs

Addict
Premium Feather Member
13 Years
Jul 10, 2009
19,073
54,535
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North Carolina Sandhills
My Coop
My Coop
I'd start afresh in the new area, raking out the less well processed bedding for compost unless I had time before planting to rest the area so that it's not too "hot" and making sure to balance the pH with lime as necessary.

I'm just starting to set up this kind of rotational system myself, but my daughter's mother-in-law had great success with her 2-pen rotation. IIRC, she moved them in late fall so that the compost would finish over the winter to be ready for spring planting (in our part of NC it never freezes for more than a few days at a time).
 

Buffberry

Chirping
Jan 4, 2021
15
66
89
New Zealand
Thank you everyone for your help - I guess I will start afresh in the new area. Even though we are technically in the middle of winter here spring is definitely in the air, the chooks are all coming into lay and we are all keen for a fresh start! I'm looking forward to planting the spring garden!
 

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