Deep Litter with Chickens AND Ducks?

happygoldenyears

In the Brooder
Nov 17, 2018
4
18
28
Idaho
Hello! We have a big 10x20' dog kennel and our ducks and chickens live together in there. We have tried doing the deep litter method and have added about 5-7 bales of hay and 2 large bags of small wood chips on the floor in addition to the original 8-ish inches of bedding... every time we add more bedding, within hours, the ducks have it all matted down with mud. I was sick for a few weeks and my husband was taking care of the birds for me. When I finally went out there, I asked him what he did with all the hay and chips. Nothing! It is just so matted down, it looks like bare dirt! It also STINKS like crazy... but one of the main reasons we even went with the deep litter method was because it was supposed to reduce the smell.

We changed waterers so the ducks can't make such a mess. We removed their pool now that it's cooler and they just have a small wash bin of water (besides the 8 gallon waterer) so they can get their nostrils submerged, but it's in a corner that's at a lower end of their run so if it spills, the water flows under the gate and down toward the street instead of pooling in their run.

Anyway, it looks terrible, stinks, and now it's so muddy that the chickens can't do dust baths and can't get themselves clean. It's going to be snowing in just a few weeks (I'm in southern Idaho), so leaving a pool out isn't an option because it'll freeze. What can I do to keep it clean and smelling okay? The first article I read about deep litter said you only have to turn it every 6 months, but I've watched some YouTube videos and some people turn it daily, others monthly, others every other day. Which is it? Or is deep litter impossible with a bunch of clumsy ducks?

Also, I have a large pile--about the size of a large washing machine--of large wood chips in my backyard. Would mixing those in with the bedding do anything to help keep it from matting?

Thanks in advance for reading and responding to my novel!
 

llombardo

Crowing
Mar 11, 2018
3,015
4,803
346
Illinois
Where do they sleep at night? Is it possible to divide the areas? I have chickens and ducks and I keep them seperate because of the water.

Here is a view of the pen from above
image.jpg


For the ducks I use River rock in heavy water use areas. I just redid it today.over time the rocks seem to disappear, they sink into the ground. I try to rake them up, but that is a mess.

image.jpg


The rest of the run is a mixture of leaves and mulch. I have straw in two corners and I built them a shelter that has the pool in it. I put a hole in the pool on accident so now it's full of straw until spring when I can get another pool set up.

image.jpg


The chicken area stays dry because the ducks are not in there. I add wood mulch as needed. I very rarely even see poop in there, because of the scratching they do. I turn it every couple days

image.jpg


I added mulch today to both areas

image.jpg
 

feathermaid

Egg Obsessed
Feb 5, 2018
3,126
23,288
942
Northwest Oregon
My Coop
My Coop
Deep litter and ducks may not go together at all. In order for deep litter to be effective, it has to remain relatively dry. I don't have ducks currently but hope to get them someday... I really like @llombardo 's idea of using the river rocks in their pool area.

I use pine shavings in my chicken coop and covered run area and large wood chips in their yard. The shavings are on bare dirt and I would hate to see what terrible mess happened if they ever got wet. The wood chips are used outside to withstand the weather and keep the mud away when it rains. The best way I found to achieve this is to lay down some sort of barrier first. Mud was a long time foe of mine, especially when I kept horses. Layers upon layers never seemed to work.

So I found this great mud management solution from Newland Poultry in the UK and stole the idea! I covered my ground with PVC poultry netting before covering it with wood chips.
As you have discovered, scratching chickens or clumsy plodding ducks will smash and mix the bedding down into the dirt… or deeper, which is fine in a dry environment like a coop or covered run. But rain (or duck water) on top of bedding on top of bare ground gets stirred up into a muddy wood chip stew, which just sinks down and disappears, leaving another muddy and really stinky mess. Believe me, I have experienced that!

Try the poultry net barrier! It keeps the bedding separate from the ground, no matter how much they scratch. Chips on top, dirt underneath… no mixing! I prefer the plastic version over wire because it won’t rust or hurt my birds’ feet, then I fastened it to the ground with landscaping pins.

So I hate to say it, but I think you might have to move all that muck and prepare the ground before piling the bedding on top.

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112b.jpg
 

llombardo

Crowing
Mar 11, 2018
3,015
4,803
346
Illinois
I might try that poultry netting in the Spring. Stuff disappears all the time. I keep thinking where does this stuff go. I think the netting might solve that problem.

When turning the chips, does the rake get stuck in the netting?
 

Soon2BChixMom

Herding ducks and Wrangling chickens
Jan 8, 2017
9,131
19,837
842
Where do they sleep at night? Is it possible to divide the areas? I have chickens and ducks and I keep them seperate because of the water.

Here is a view of the pen from above
View attachment 1593130

For the ducks I use River rock in heavy water use areas. I just redid it today.over time the rocks seem to disappear, they sink into the ground. I try to rake them up, but that is a mess.

View attachment 1593132

The rest of the run is a mixture of leaves and mulch. I have straw in two corners and I built them a shelter that has the pool in it. I put a hole in the pool on accident so now it's full of straw until spring when I can get another pool set up.

View attachment 1593133

The chicken area stays dry because the ducks are not in there. I add wood mulch as needed. I very rarely even see poop in there, because of the scratching they do. I turn it every couple days

View attachment 1593134

I added mulch today to both areas

View attachment 1593135
How do you keep your umbrella standing up?
 

happygoldenyears

In the Brooder
Nov 17, 2018
4
18
28
Idaho
Thanks everyone for your responses! Looks like I have quite a bit of work to do over the next couple of weeks!

Here's my only option for moving the ducks. It's about 8'x20' and there's a peach and a cherry tree planted in there. Any reason that wouldn't work, other than the occasional bonk on the head from falling fruit?
 

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feathermaid

Egg Obsessed
Feb 5, 2018
3,126
23,288
942
Northwest Oregon
My Coop
My Coop
I might try that poultry netting in the Spring. Stuff disappears all the time. I keep thinking where does this stuff go. I think the netting might solve that problem.

When turning the chips, does the rake get stuck in the netting?
I know right- where does that stuff go?! I guess the earth just has a way of absorbing and taking everything back... the beauty of compost.

Over the years, I've seen and tried so many different methods to keep stuff in place. The first thing that made sense to me was watching how landscapers laid paving stones over a layer of landscape fabric (and sand and gravel). but the fabric seemed to keep everything from sinking over time. Plastic sheeting is the worst because there's no drainage. I even tried using the landscape/weed fabric under the shavings for my chicken area but because chickens are constantly scratching and digging, that just made fluffy chunks of it sticking up all over the place, leaving patches of bare ground (aka mud) in all the spots where they scratched it up.

So anyway, back to your question about raking the wood chips over the pvc netting... I just mostly rake the top layer to smooth out the potholes they create.
20181118_150432.jpg
My sturdy metal garden rake does catch somewhat on the netting if I rake too close to the ground but my leaf rake doesn't do much at all. I haven't found it necessary to completely turn over the chips. I rake everything level on the surface and that's enough to turn the top layer of poop over and then the rain washes the rest down underneath. The guy from Newland Poultry recommends using a sanitizer and spraying it but I haven't done that yet. I know eventually all this will decompose, so when it gets to that point I plan to remove it and put all that compost around my garden beds and shrubs in the landscape (because that stuff keeps disappearing too!). I've already practiced moving it and a snow shovel works great to smoothly scoop it all up over the netting.
 

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