for those that use deep litter method...please advise me

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Kuntry Klucker, Oct 15, 2011.

  1. Kuntry Klucker

    Kuntry Klucker Premium Member

    Jun 9, 2010
    Tennesee Smoky Mts.
    Wow! I have no idea. That is a good question. I am interested to see what others have to say about the subject.
  2. WoodlandWoman

    WoodlandWoman Overrun With Chickens

    May 8, 2007
    Litter can start composting in a coop with a floor. Just like garden refuse can compost in a compost bin that has a floor. It's about what ingredients are in the mix and the moisture levels in the mix.

    Is it a little easier and faster if you have them both on dirt? Sure. Partly it's because it has direct access to additional organisms in the dirt. You can speed up a compost bin by tossing a bit of soil in it. It will still compost eventually, even if you don't.

    Mostly it's because it's easier to keep the moisture levels balanced. The litter and compost can absorb moisture from the ground in most locations, so it's usually never overly dry. If the moisture level is a little too high, it will drain down into the ground.

    I would put the litter from the majority of DLM coops in a compost pile to finish composting. Finished compost is dark and crumbly. It doesn't look like the uncomposted ingredients.

    A coop with deep litter that's been managed for the right moisture level, plus a balance between the clean litter and chicken manure amounts, will start composting in the coop. A coop with deep litter that's kept really dry is just a coop with a lot of dirty litter in it. A coop with deep litter that's too wet is stinky.
  3. Kuntry Klucker

    Kuntry Klucker Premium Member

    Jun 9, 2010
    Tennesee Smoky Mts.
    Quote:Thank you for your post. Can you tell me what ingredients I need to put in my litter to help it compost since my coop is 4ft off the ground?
    I do not want just a coop with a bunch of dirty litter in it but a coop that has litter that is composting they way is should. Is there a specific
    recipe or method that I should follow?

    Last edited: Oct 16, 2011
  4. Johnboy78

    Johnboy78 Out Of The Brooder

    May 16, 2011
    I've got 8 girls in a Cube with 21 sq ft of attached run.
    They are about 5 months old and roam the backyard most of the day,
    so they are not in the coop full time. Still they get up an hour or two before I do
    and let them out. They return to the run 4 to 8 times a day to gobble down some
    feed and they hang in the run about a half hour before bedtime while they work out
    the order of going up the ladder into the coop.
    I first heard of deep litter on an NPR author interview, and did some reading
    and decided it was the perfect route for lazy me.
    Did not like the pine shavings idea, my little run is too exposed to the rain,
    so I bought a bale of straw (not hay) and ran it through my shredder.
    Looked deep at first until they stomped it down.

    FLIES. Their poop attracts flies. BUT the DL method is supposed to
    deal with that naturally. As the flies find a home and make larva and more flies
    it attracts the next link on the food chain by providing a reliable source of food.
    When the coop is cleaned the food source is disrupted even though all the fly eggs
    can't be removed and the predator populations never get a chance to develop.

    What this meant to me was that we had about 2-3 weeks where the flies were
    noticeable, fairly numerous and annoying. My coop is next to the house about
    5 feet from our deck, I really do have a backyard, not a multi acre lot, so trust me,
    flies would be a major concern. Then, as promised, the fly population began to drop
    and fell to about the same levels we've had in past, pre-chicken years. Coincidentally
    we also experienced a sever drop in the yellow-jacket population this summer.
    I prefer not to use DE on a routine basis.

    Two weeks ago I raked out all the straw. It was dried out, powdery, scratched into
    teeny pieces. There was no smell. Since my run is directly on dirt I didn't worry about
    leaving any to start the next batch. Too dry to be considered compost but I dumped
    it into I hole I dug and covered it with dirt. Earthworms are already there.

    Knowing how they scratch and stomp it down I've shredded two bales of straw. I expect
    they will pound it down to an inch by spring when a few nice days will inspire me to
    make the long trip one has to make in a developed suburban area to buy more straw
    and run the shredder. (Thankfully my local pet chain carries Layena and scratch)

    The coop has no litter, the Cube is that "overpriced plastic" coop that has trays like
    a birdcage that I line with newspaper and dump into my compost pile about twice a week
    and removeable plastic slats that I can hose off if necessary. It's waist high and opens up
    so I can clean out the whole interior with a few paper towels and a spray bottle of pinesol.
    Quick clean 10 minutes, thorough clean a half hour. I can't imagine trying to clean out a
    wooden coop and run. Since the Cube sits by windows that provide cross ventilation on days
    when there is no AC odor would be a major problem, and thankfully it was not.
  5. WoodlandWoman

    WoodlandWoman Overrun With Chickens

    May 8, 2007
    Just wood shavings, chicken poop and some moisture will compost. You don't need anything else. It's more about the amounts of each, just like in a compost pile. Some people use other litter choices, I normally use wood shavings.

    If you read anything about composting, it will help explain about the process. In a coop's litter, the chicken poop is like the green, wet, high nitrogen ingredients of a compost pile. The wood shavings are the brown, dry, carbon ingredients of a compost pile.

    Compost piles in the garden can be manipulated to run very hot, with a lot of microbial activity that creates heat. They can also be run cooler, with less microbial activity.

    For a garden compost pile, a hot pile is great. It kills pathogens in the compost, like plant diseases or bad bacterias, kills weed seeds and is done really fast. The optimum ratio of ingredients and stirring or turning the pile help create a hot pile.

    A cool pile doesn't have the same purifying effect and takes longer. However, you still end up with great compost and it's less work. It doesn't require all the turning, which is done to redistribute the microbes, redistribute the ingredients the microbes are using for food and provide oxygen for them. It's more of a set it and forget it method.

    In a coop, a slow, cool process can be good. You can let it finish off in a pile in the garden for a bit, after you clear out the coop. A little more activity can add warmth to coop in the winter. I don't think you'd want to run a coop litter as hot as you would a garden compost pile, as chickens are living on it.

    Litter or compost that's stinky has too much moisture and needs more of the dry/brown/carbon/shavings. Smelling ammonia in the coop is also a sign of this, in a well built coop that has the normal amount of ventilation.

    Litter or compost that's dry, cold and inactive needs more wet/green/nitrogen/chicken poop to become more active. Dusty litter is traditionally caused by litter that's too dry. At this point in time, it can also be due to people that have added dust to their litter, especially in excessive amounts.

    As chickens poop in the coop over time, you need to add more shavings over time. Starting with enough shavings to cover the floor, you can add a bit more as needed on top. You often only have to add it in the areas where the chickens are pooping more. the chickens will do a lot of the stirring and moving of shavings for you.

    Some people start out with a very deep layer of shavings and regularly stir the shavings around to redistribute everything. I don't like the extra work with that method. I prefer to have the litter and chicken poop layered as the litter builds, combining as they go. Once the litter is deep, it's not like you're going to want to dig down a foot or more on a regular basis, anyway. So, you may as well start out layering it in shallow layers.

    If you crowd your chickens, you'll end up with a certain amount of poop crusting and need to break it up and stir it in. I don't like having to do that. I usually don't go less than 5 square feet per chicken, so that hasn't been a problem for me. I once read that at 4, you only get a little crusting/clumping that needs to be stirred in and at 3 you get more.

    For a large walk-in coop, I don't crowd, keep a bale of shavings in the corner with a scoop and occasionally fling a couple of scoops on top of the litter where needed. I like to scoop it all out in the spring. If you find that the litter is wet and repulsively stinky in the bottom layers, adjust your management. It was too wet down there. Add a little more shavings during the year, as the litter is building.

    I see some people that have a lot of shavings, very little chicken poop and almost no moisture in the litter. That's not going to compost. Which is fine in the short term, but if you leave it a long time the poop can break down into dry dust. Then when it's dusty and gets stirred up by movement, you and the chickens are breathing feces.
  6. Kuntry Klucker

    Kuntry Klucker Premium Member

    Jun 9, 2010
    Tennesee Smoky Mts.
    Quote:Ok, your post was very helpful. I do have one question. How do I prevent the chickens and us from breathing feces? Being that my coop is 4ft off the ground will
    this be a problem for me? Thanks once again.
  7. Uncle Marc

    Uncle Marc Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 12, 2011
    Poplar Grove Kentucky
    Okay, so I'm reading all this about Deep Litter Method and I'm not sure I get this right. I have these questions:

    First, in planning to build our coop, how far off the floor should I hold the bottom of the human door and automatic chicken door

    Second, really, with 6-8 chickens I won't need a poop board, or the need to clean the coop out for six months at a time? That sounds like a serious amount of poop to be stirring around.

    We want organic eggs, so we probably won't use much in the way of chemicals. DE is not a chemical neither is hydrated lime but what is PDZ? Can we use these things without much effect on the eggs?
  8. featherz

    featherz Veggie Chick

    Mar 22, 2010
    Saratoga County, NY
    Quote:You can read up on Sweet PDZ here: They tout it as "all-natural, non-hazardous and non-toxic mineral (zeolite)". I don't know if it's OK for Organic eggs, but probably OK if DE is also OK.

    I have 14 chickens in one coop, 23 in another and 7 in a third and I clean my coops twice a year. My coops probably don't even have enough poop to be 'wet' enough, as I have to add them to my compost pile to get them to break down properly. No poop board.

    As for the doors, we always do it wrong so I can't help there - I use a flat board across the bottom of the door when I have a ton of litter - then I can remove the board for cleanouts. [​IMG]
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2011
  9. gale65

    gale65 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Quote:We put our chicken door opening about 8" from the floor. We figure 8" is enough and then we can empty it out. It's low enough on the inside for them to walk through it easily and on the outside we have a ramp. The walk door is at the floor level and we put a couple pieces of wood in the doorway so we can slide in a piece of wood to keep shavings in. I have 2 different size pieces to put in (so if the litter isn't too deep I can just use the smaller one so I'm not stepping over a big barrier). I keep the spare piece in the coop, up high so it doesn't get gross. Also don't forget to build your nest openings high enough so they don't get too full of litter-that is, if you're putting the nests near the floor.
  10. 1muttsfan

    1muttsfan Overrun With Chickens

    Mar 26, 2011
    Upper Peninsula Michigan
    Quote:This may be a silly question, but why do yo want 14 inches by the time cold weather arrives? Just wondering.
    I am still collecting info on DLM. Thanks.

    Thick enough to be warm and also to absorb moisture better on humid days. If it is too thin and gets wet, it freezes solid in really cold weather

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