is my deep litter too dry?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by igotchickens, Feb 9, 2011.

  1. igotchickens

    igotchickens Songster

    Nov 2, 2010
    I decided to use the deep litter method because I really wanted to use the compost created for my garden. I followed the instructions on the sticky and nearly every related post: about 4 inches of bedding, when breaks down add more. I started off with fall leaves, which the chickens LOVED and when those ran out started with pine shavings from the feed store. They like this too. Everything seems to be going as planned: little to no smell, chickens turn up the poop into the shavings. But it doesn't look clean. It looks like dirt mixed with pine shavings. Is this because the poop has dried out and is getting mixed? Are they not turning it deep enough? Also it seems extremely dry in that any time one chases another or flaps her wings, dust flies everywhere. And my chickens dust themselves in the coop. Which seems gross. Is this okay? I'm scared that it might not be as sanitary as it should be. I raked/shoveled out about half of it today and added a fresh layer of shavings. What should I do differently this time or has it been right all along? I'm so confused!

  2. pharmchickrnmom

    pharmchickrnmom Songster

    Apr 13, 2010
    Leave it be. It is normal for the poop to dry out and break down over time. Mine looks like dirt and shavings and the girls do a good job of turning it over every day. Yes, there will be dust and the chickens do dustbath in it. You want it dry in there as it is healthier for the chickens. If it is moist, that means you dont have enough ventilation to carry away the ammonia that comes from their poop. I started the deep litter in november and wont clean out until the snow goes or sometime this spring--whichever comes first!
  3. NonnasBabies

    NonnasBabies Muddy Acre Farms Premium Member 8 Years

    Sep 20, 2009
    On the Farm!
    Quote:Seriously sanitary and chicken shouldn't be used in the same sentence except when it comes to incubating!! [​IMG]

    No really it sounds your doing everything right!! [​IMG]
  4. Judy

    Judy Crowing Premium Member

    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia
    Quote:Seriously sanitary and chicken shouldn't be used in the same sentence except when it comes to incubating!! [​IMG]

    No really it sounds your doing everything right!! [​IMG]

    This is about right. Think how much dirt they must eat.

    The dryness I always assume is part of why it IS relatively sanitary; worm eggs and bacteria and such generally need moisture to survive.

    I do DLM on a dirt floor, have for years. Wouldn't have it any other way. After BYC I did start doing some worming and preventive lice/mites care -- but in all those years I did nothing, and have never had a disease or parasite problem that I know of.

    People that have a thing about "really clean" should probably use linoleum and clean it all out every week or two and hose it out. If I had to do that I'd get rid of my chickens.

  5. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Quote:Sounds exactly like my coop, 'cept mine is all shavings-based (no leaves).

    Yes, it will look dirty, because there is, like, a whole bunch of CHICKEN POO in there, right? LOL Also the shavings darken as they begin to break down.

    If your coop is dry and the floor is non-dirt (or for some people's situations, even if the floor *is* dirt) then yes, it can get kind of dry and dusty. If it gets objectionably dusty, then your choices are to cross your fingers and spritz some water into the bedding and mix it in, to lay the worst of the dust; or to remove the dustiest part of the bedding (to compost or fallow garden) and replace with new shavings.

    If you live somewhere experiencing freezing or subfreezing temperatures right now, I would not really advocate fooling around with trying to moisten the shavings, as that is just asking for humidity/frostbite problems. Also if you overdo it the bedding can get damp enough it freezes which can make their feet cold. OTOH if you're somewhere where 40 F is a cold night, then moistening the shavings is a reasonable thing to attempt; just try to err on the side of adding too little moisture, as it is easy to add more in a couple days but NOT always easy to dry things out if you accidentally overdo!

    I find that I need to remove parts of my bedding a couple times a year. It is mainly the stuff around the feeder. I do not know how much of the dust is from the feed, versus how much it's just dustiest in that area because it's so high-traffic; but, that is where the bedding gets dustiest so when it becomes problematic, out it goes (Wear a good dust mask when shovelling!) and replaced with fresh shavings.

    It works fine for me, but remember there is no "the" deep litter method, there are a whole variety of different ways to do things, each with different pros and cons and outcomes. And they depend a lot on the details of your circumstances. What works well for person A may be a miserable failure for person B. Just experiment and find what works best for you, and then there ya go [​IMG]

    Good luck, have fun,

  6. kla37

    kla37 Songster

    Apr 18, 2010
    Hillsborough, NC USA
    Our run is all dirt and I spread dry leaves or mulch in there once in awhile. The chickens do a pretty good job of turning everything up for me, but I still go in there with a rake once in awhile to make sure. Every few months, I shovel off the top layer of dirt and replace it with more leaves and mulch, the dirt goes straight into the garden. In the coop, I use pine shavings, and I do have a linoleum floor and I mix up the shavings every day and replace them all every 2 weeks in winter and every week in summer. The run is roofed and I know what you mean by the dust! It coats everything! But it's much healthier for it to be very dry.

  7. OkChickens

    OkChickens Orpingtons Are Us

    Dec 1, 2010
    Owasso, Oklahoma
    Can I use deep litter method with straw or hay? I have a huge coop and it would cost a fortune to buy all the pine shavings buy hay and straw are much cheaper around here!


  8. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Quote:Sure, that is certainly the old timey way to do it -- just be aware of two things, 1) it is more apt to mold so you have to keep a sharp eye on how things are behaving, and 2) unless you are using *chopped* straw, which hardly anyone ever does, it is much much harder to turn and will tend to quickly mat into impenetrable plate-like layers. To some extent you can just forget about turning the litter and simply keep layering fresh stuff on top as needed, but it will stink like you won't BELIEVE when you eventually have to clean it out, also is HARD to clean out that way, compared to shavings.

    GOod luck, have fun,

  9. bills

    bills Songster

    Jan 4, 2008
    vancouver island
    I know when we had a horse, one of the big fears was getting bales of damp hay. The composting action that takes place has caused them to spontaneously catch fire. I wonder if that would be an issue if hay or straw was used in a coop?

  10. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Quote:For deep litter you mean?


    For one thing, shavings heat up rapidly when composting, same as hay or straw. (They require a bit of high-N material added to get them really composting hot in the first place, but of course in a coop the poo serves that function)

    But more relevantly, it only happens when you have a fairly large amount of the damp <whatever organic stuff that then starts to hot-compost in place> and (usually) it's surrounded by even larger amounts that act as insulation.

    If you have a barn's worth of hay, or even a real big outside stack of green bales, then yes it can spontaneously combust.

    But a foot or two of bedding spread out on the floor of a coop, no.

    (I say this from having known deep-litter horse stalls, and some ginormous manure piles, that were *perfect* for heating up, and although they could get hot enough in their depths that you didn't want to put your hand in there for more than a moment, they were nowhere even remotely close to combusting.)

    Also it is much harder to get relatively fine dense materials, like a manure pile, to combust than to get a stack of airy stalky baled hay/straw to combust, b/c of the different moisture content and air transmission. That is another big contributor to why you do not hear about peoples' manure piles bursting into flame <g>, even though combustion of wet hay/straw IS a well-known and fairly common cause of fire.

    Last edited: Feb 9, 2011

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