deep litter method!


11 Years
Apr 3, 2008
Hi everyone, I am in MN and winter weather is quickly approaching us here unfortunately.

Last year I used straw in the coop and I am really hoping to NOT go that route this winter unless you all feel its necessary to keep them warm. We didn't lose even one of our chickens last winter even with a week of -40 temps so we must have been doing it right last year

However, the mess the straw caused I hope to do without this year.

The coop right now as it stands:

concrete floor with pine shavings on top. Either needs to be cleaned right now or if I am able to try the deep litter method for winter can I start off with the bottom layer being dirty and just start throwing more shavings on top?

If we do use straw does anyone have any suggestions for keeping the straw drier? Does that stall dry do the trick on keeping straw dry?

What do the rest of you here in these cold states do? I want to make sure they are warm enough and my hubby doesn't think that the pine bedding is going to do they really did enjoy scratchin around in the straw last year!

When should we start offering scratch to them do you think?

Also another question is that our chickens are just getting done with molting, I HOPE, and some of them were getting their feathers back in and the Roo managed to interfere with some of that....will they be ok if they have bare skin on their backs this winter??


Free Ranging
14 Years
Feb 14, 2008
This world is not my home.
I tried to DLM with straw/hay a little last year and unless you really stay up on it, it gets too damp for my liking.

After that, I just kept my coop raked out every other day and went with a clean, dry floor. It didn't seem to make any difference in the warmth in my coop.

My chickens always go into winter with bare spots and I think this even makes them feather out more quickly and more lush. I often wonder just how cold they must be, but it never seems to matter much to them.

I wouldn't start with a dirty bottom layer, as this layer may form a cap and start to mold...then you have a whole other problem. I'd start fresh with the shavings on a clean floor and go from there. Maybe even put in a light sprinkling of straw to keep things fluffier?

I'll be going with bare floor again this year but might contemplate adding a few pine shavings now and again.

Scratch? Do you mean, at what age? Or what time of the year? Sometimes at low egg laying times in midwinter, I'll fill out my feed bill with some cracked corn/rolled oats mixed in their layer ration but I don't ever feed entirely scratch. Mine free range, so they get a good variety of food sources already.


11 Years
Nov 24, 2008
Hagerstown, IN
I used pine shavings in my coop last winter and didn't lose any chickens. The coldest it got was about -12 for a couple days. I would, however, suggest you start with a clean floor and add pine shavings to it as needed.


Flock Mistress
12 Years
Apr 20, 2007
Ontario, Canada
I am not a big straw fan either (from horse barns), it is much more annoying to clean out IMO than shavings. Chopped straw would be better, but unless you have a convenient method of chopping it that won't help you much

So given that you have *tried* straw and not liked it, I would strongly vote for just putting in a good thick layer of shavings. A thick bed of straw has no benefits over a thick bed of shavings in terms of warmth etc (why does your husband think there's a difference, if I may ask?). If you want to leave the current shavings down and just add more on top to start a deep litter pack, you can, but personally my preference would be to wait until you just *have* to start Winter Bedding Activities, and then start with 100% fresh new shavings.

Honestly unless you are letting it get pretty deep and POOEY and moist in there, you will not get much heating benefit from it, and there is a fine line between 'litter moist enough to compost and heat up' and 'litter pack is humidifying air and causing frostbite'. While a deep litter pack CAN be used for some heat in some coops in some circumstances, I do not think it is a good general-purpose strategy.

As for scratch, if you are using it to con the birds into keeping the bedding turned over and aerated, toss some around whenever it starts to get packed; if you would be using it as an evening caloric supplement, they should not need that til it starts getting into the teens or twenties at night *inside the coop*, at the earliest.

Good luck, have fun,


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