How often do you add carbon to deep litter?

mun5

Chirping
Mar 24, 2017
20
9
69
Hi all,

I'm thinking of trying DL in our next run. Can I ask how often should carbon be added to cover up the nitrogen? Is it usually done on a daily basis or whenever it starts to smell? Also, is DL supposed to be completely odourless when it's managed well (i.e., add carbon regularly enough)?

Thanks
 

rosemarythyme

Scarborough Fair
5 Years
Jul 3, 2016
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"As needed" - I know that's not very specific but since everyone's set up and climate differs, what might work for me might not work for you.

Currently I add more wood chips about 1x a year. 440 sq ft uncovered run, 10 birds. But my deep litter is well established at this point, if it wasn't I'd need to add layers more frequently.

If done right, deep litter should have next to no smell. I can crouch down in the run when it's wet and barely smell anything, other than fresh cecals.
 

mun5

Chirping
Mar 24, 2017
20
9
69
I turn it 1-2x a year, mostly because the birds tend to dig holes or kick litter from the fenceline in, and it gets uneven and difficult to walk on. So I just rake it around a bit and smooth it down.

Is your litter rather deep? Would it get a bit too hot in the summer though? My summer here can get to around 100F.
 

rosemarythyme

Scarborough Fair
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Mine's maybe 3, 4" deep? Hard to say because it's partially integrated into the soil. I don't think it really heats up though, not like a compost pile, as it's more or less evenly spread out.

I do sift out and harvest some soil for my garden, but there's no real schedule or set timing on that - just as I need some.
 

3KillerBs

Enabler
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12 Years
Jul 10, 2009
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I add more bedding/litter as needed -- when I detect the first hint of odor or when I see more poop than I like to see. Also, I put it in when I have it available.

Right now the pine straw is falling and I have to use the lawn sweeper anyway. Rather than piling it up, I throw it into the chicken coop/run. Likewise with lawn clippings in the summer. The wood chip pile gets moved a few cartloads at a time when I feel motivated or when my 16yo is off school and can be assigned to the chore.

Neuchickenstein is built on a slope so I have to periodically toss litter uphill, but mostly the chickens handle the turning for me (motivated by some scratch thrown where I want it stirred up).

Is your litter rather deep? Would it get a bit too hot in the summer though? My summer here can get to around 100F.

Deep Litter -- unless managed very intensively -- is more of a cold composting system than a hot system.

Rather than generating too much heat, the depth of litter insulates the ground from the sun and gives the chickens the opportunity to dig down to a cool layer when the air temperature rises.

Here's a thread from this summer with photos of my chickens dug-in for comfort on a hot day: https://www.backyardchickens.com/threads/even-the-babies-are-dug-in.1484952/
 

K0k0shka

Crowing
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Jul 24, 2019
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I have the same type of setup and thinking as rosemarythyme and 3KillerBs. It's very easy and lazy, you don't need to overthink it. One useful way to think about it and judge the need for more, is if the ground starts looking more like soil than like litter. Soil turns to mud in the rain; carbon litter does not. So if it looks muddy or gets sticky after a rain, then you need to add more. I use my run as a yard waste disposal, and add material as I have stuff to get rid of, rather than on a schedule. In the spring, I rake any leftover leaves and dead grass from the yard, and dump it in the run. In the summer, I dump any cut grass in the run (as well as my neighbors' cut grass, they are very happy to donate). In the fall, I dump the raked leaves in the run (and bag some for winter use). And so on. I add wood chips about once a year, too. They take a very long time to decompose and are still kicking around a year later, so no need to add a lot. Their purpose isn't so much to decompose and add to the compost (because they last so long) - rather, it's to provide larger texture and improve drainage. The texture of the run litter should feel loose and crumbly, easy for the chickens to scratch through. If it starts to get compacted too much, then you need to add more carbon material (of various chunk sizes). Good luck!
 

rosemarythyme

Scarborough Fair
5 Years
Jul 3, 2016
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I should've amended my original statement to include that I do add additional organic material through the year - not just wood chips (I do need to add wood chips specifically at least once a year to optimize the drainage and aeration in the litter.) So I save dried leaves in the fall, and in the summer I leave short grass clippings out to dry and then throw those in the run as well. But I just add those as I get them, there's no specific amount that I need to add at this point.
 

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