fixing ammonia smell with deep litter method

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by blissed, Feb 3, 2014.

  1. blissed

    blissed Out Of The Brooder

    13
    2
    49
    Jul 22, 2013
    S.F. Bay Area
    We started with deep litter method at the start of November. We're not doing it right, because we're starting to smell ammonia.

    What we've done:
    -- 10" of straw in coop with linoleum floor
    -- turning weekly with rake and sprinkling Sweet PDZ
    -- adding fresh straw every week or two

    The coop is well-ventilated — we keep the screened door and four windows exposed all the time.

    I moved a bunch of the soiled straw out to the run, which is partially covered and gets stirred up more by the hens, in hopes that it will air out and get broken down faster more quickly. The smell in the coop is almost gone for now.

    Do I need to completely clean the coop and start over? Are pine shavings really a must? Straw seemed a more cost-effective option for our spacious coop (4'x8' for 5 birds), and I thought it would be quicker to convert to usable compost.

    I've been reluctant to throw scratch into the coop to get them to churn it up more ... mixing food and poop strikes me as a poor idea.

    Thanks for tips. We tried a poop hammock and daily scooping, and DLM seems so much easier!
     
  2. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe True BYC Addict

    22,048
    3,092
    506
    Nov 23, 2010
    St. Louis, MO
    I prefer pine shavings and IMO they actually convert to compost faster than straw. First of all, they mix with manure much better. Shavings seem to dry better than straw.
    I would think a 4X8 coop for 5 birds with pine shavings and good ventilation should solve your problems. I only have about 3-4" of shavings most of the time. Before I need to go deeper, I usually just compost it all and add new. That's usually about every 3 months or so with similar stocking density.
    Don't buy the pet type pine shavings as they're too pricey. Get the more coarse horse stall shavings.
    I get a bale of stall shavings for about $6 and is 4 times the size of the pet shavings that are $24.

    Keeping tabs on ammonia is brilliant. That is key to controlling respiratory and other health problems.
    In your climate, you can probably have huge ventilation which should eliminate all ammonia issues.

    Screen is good for keeping flies and mosquitos out but it tends to clog with dust.
    Hardware cloth is more secure for predators and better ventilation.
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2014
    starchicky, LeslieDJoyce and blissed like this.
  3. KayTee

    KayTee Chillin' With My Peeps

    926
    157
    171
    Sep 21, 2012
    South West France
    My indoor coop is about 4' x 12' with a concrete floor (also for 5 girls). Initially I covered it with a thick layer of straw, but this was too hard for the girls to jump down onto from the perches, and it was also a pain to clean, so this summer I spent 15€ on a trailer load of sand, which I spread all over - a good 3 or 4 inches deep. That was perfect when it was hot - the sand kept the coop cool inside, and it is so easy to clean. I use a cat litter scoop, and on a daily basis it takes me less than 3 minutes to clean the poops out of the sand.

    However, this winter I found that the sand is very cold, and the girls didn't like standing on it, so they would go outside even in bad weather to find somewhere warmer for their feet! I bought one bale of horse stall wood shavings for 10€ from the local farm store, not expecting that it would go very far, and started to spread it over the coop floor (on top of the sand). I was amazed to find that about a third of the bale gave me a good inch or so covering all over, including in the nest boxes. As the shavings are harder to clean than the sand (you can't use the cat litter scoop because the shavings are too big to fall through) I decided to go semi deep litter method - I pick up the biggest, visible poops, but don't worry about the rest. I've actually found that the shavings seem to dry the poops out, and they disintegrate into the shavings, without any smell at all.

    So far the shavings are still staying on top of the sand, not mixing in, so I'm hoping that come the summer I'll be able to rake off the majority of the shavings, just leaving the sand again (just because it's so easy to clean). If I can't just leave the sand behind, I may well be persuaded to go to a full deep litter method next winter, with shavings only.

    Seems to me that shavings are an ideal deep litter solution, much better than the straw I used initially. I was really sceptical that one bale would be enough, but it is so compressed that it covers a huge area once it is 'released' from the bag and fluffed up. I have no problem with smell or ammonia, even though the girls spend more time inside in the day, now that their feet are warmer on the shavings!
     
  4. cafarmgirl

    cafarmgirl Overrun With Chickens

    I agree with ChickenCanoe that you may find a thick layer of shavings works much better for deep litter then straw alone. Shavings do dry much better whereas straw tends to hold moisture much longer. I have always used pine shavings in my coops for DLM and there is no smell at all.
     
  5. mkeawsh

    mkeawsh Woody Hollow

    384
    6
    141
    Sep 23, 2007
    Beaufort, MO
    I start around November putting half a huge bag of wood shavings in the house. I buy it from a local company.and the square bags are compressed and large. When I start noticing a smell, I add the other half of the bag. I continue to add half a bag at a time all winter. Makes a wonderful thick substrate that keeps them warm. In Spring, muck it all out and just keep a thin layer on floor until next Fall. Most of the time the 50+ chickens are free-ranging. It's only in the winter that they are inside for longer periods of time - ice, snow, sub-zero temps. Hay and straw seems to make some of them sneeze so I never use it.
     
  6. Klutch

    Klutch Chillin' With My Peeps

    106
    7
    63
    Jan 30, 2014
    West Sacramento
    You need at least 6" of shavings, sprinkle a little hen scratch now and then. I let them do all the work. I use aged tree chips.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  7. blissed

    blissed Out Of The Brooder

    13
    2
    49
    Jul 22, 2013
    S.F. Bay Area
    Thanks all. Looks like I'm switching to pine chips.... I'll look around for stall shavings. (I'm in suburbia, and ag stores are few and far between. Much thanks for the help and expertise! Deep litter seems such a manageable way to go, especially since my young kids are trying to take on much of the responsibility for the birds. Gracias!
     
  8. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe True BYC Addict

    22,048
    3,092
    506
    Nov 23, 2010
    St. Louis, MO
    You might look up local horse people and see where they get their stall shavings.
     
  9. farmchickutah

    farmchickutah Out Of The Brooder

    52
    2
    31
    Sep 4, 2013
    I have found the pine chips are much better than the straw. It has a great smell to it that seems to last for awhile. My experience with straw is this- we calve out 300 head of mother cows in the barn, we use straw as bedding but it has to be cleaned out and new put in every few days as it does not absorb. It is great for the warmth factor . I have tried a little bit of straw in my coop but do not like it , I much prefer the pine chips.
     
  10. Klutch

    Klutch Chillin' With My Peeps

    106
    7
    63
    Jan 30, 2014
    West Sacramento
    Look up a local tree trimming company, ask where and what their cutting right now. If you could let air dry for a bit, you'll be made in the shade.
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by