Managing my flock now life has gotten harder

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Shabana, Dec 2, 2015.

  1. Shabana

    Shabana Chillin' With My Peeps


    I really need some advice please.

    I've had my flock now for a good few years in steadily increasing numbers. I started with 8 and now have over 40.
    Usually I clean my coops (I have 5) every single day. I pick out the poop and add new bedding as needed. My flock is a much loved bunch, they are wormed four times a year and all fed correctly etc.

    Four months ago, my Mother-in -law became seriously ill and after 15 weeks in hospital she wanted to try living back at her home. My husband went to stay with her but it is becoming increasingly apparent that she might not ever get well enough to live an independent life again. I need to cut my chicken 'hours' down so I can be there more for them now and more so because it might be that she needs to come and live with us.

    At the moment it takes me about 1 1/2 hrs to water feed and clean my coops each day. I need to halve this if possible.

    I don't want my birds to suffer, but I was wondering if it would be unhealthy for them to be cleaned out weekly ? Their bedding is deep hemp and all the coops have a wooden floor. My thought was to 'turn' the bedding each day then completely replace it each week. I am aware that ammonia can cause them breathing problems and wondered if there might be a product that night help with this.

    My birds are not over crowded and their coops are in really large pens planted with evergreen trees and holly bushes.

    I would be grateful for any time saving ideas or information.


    Edited to also say I'm in the UK so might be asleep while most of you guys are awake in case I don't reply straight away :)
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2015
  2. Folly's place

    Folly's place True BYC Addict

    Sep 13, 2011
    southern Michigan
    I've used the deep bedding method in my coop for a very long time; bagged shavings used as horse bedding, some hay, sometimes some leaves in fall. I throw some scratch feed in the coop every couple of days, and the birds dig around in it. More shavings are added sometimes, and it's totally cleaned out three times per year. With good ventilation, it stays dry and low odor. Here in Michigan it gets cold and snowy, so in winter my flock is down to 35 birds, so they have plenty of room indoors. Your birds will do fine too! Mary
    1 person likes this.
  3. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    I've had health issues of my own over the last two years. This previous spring, I had to be gone from home about 4 months and all my chicken keeping chores fell on my Honey and boys. I knew I needed to streamline management to make things as easy as possible for them.

    Deep litter. there are several threads on this style. I literally clean my coop out once a year. Otherwise, it's add more organic material and toss in scratch. The birds get great natural exercise scratching for food, and they turn over the bedding. Any time I get an ammonia smell, I add shavings, leaves, grass clippings, straw, etc.

    Large feeders. My main coop had a large galvanized gravity feeder that holds several days worth of feed. I cut a screen of chicken wire to go around the pan they eat from, to prevent them billing feed out and waste.

    Large waterers. Again, main coop has a large (I think 7 gallon?) waterer. It lasts several days, up to a week depending on how many birds I'm running.

    Poop boards can be a good thing. There's a good thread in the coop design section to give you ideas.

    I can do my animal chores in 20 minutes if I'm pressed for time. That's two horses, outdoor cats, 5 pens of birds and a brooder currently.
    1 person likes this.
  4. Shabana

    Shabana Chillin' With My Peeps

    Thank you so very much.

    I,m going to try the deep litter method. I didn't even think about adding scratch to get them to do the work ! Genius !
    This looks like it will also keep my costs down too rather than having to put new bedding in each week I will be topping up which is brilliant for my needs :)
    how deep does it have to be roughly ? will it work on a wooden floored coop ?
    I will do some reading on it over the week but I ask just to get me started :)

    I love my birds, I cant tell you how much better I feel.
    Thank you

  5. Folly's place

    Folly's place True BYC Addict

    Sep 13, 2011
    southern Michigan
    I start with four to six inches of fresh bedding, and add to it over the months. In summer I've generally got sixty to seventy birds, including the younglings, and even with free ranging, things need cleaning out in fall. The winter group of 35 isn't crowded, so no problems with the coop. Also, I have three eleven pound capacity feeders, and two or three waterers, for the flock. I rinse and refill the waterers every other day, and fill the feeders daily or every other day. Ten or fifteen minutes, and gathering the eggs. Easy! Mary
    1 person likes this.
  6. Blooie

    Blooie Team Spina Bifida Premium Member

    Feb 25, 2014
    Northwestern Wyoming
    My Coop
    I also use the deep litter method and do a total clean out once a year. Well, look at that - one sentence into my post and I've already lied......I don't do a total cleanout. I leave the stuff at the very bottom to kick start the new stuff. You don't have to buy much to keep that litter healthy for the chickens, either. Dried leaves (leave the little twigs in with them to help get air down in there) a bit of straw, wood chips, garden trimmings and weeds (chemical free of course) and an occasional handful of pine shavings is all it takes. As my friend Beekissed likes to say, "Picture a forest floor - that's what you're trying to imitate."
    1 person likes this.
  7. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Chicks are a-hatching Premium Member

    Jul 16, 2015
    central Wisconsin
    I don't do deep litter in the coops, only my run, in the coops I clean them when it gets too poopy, usually every 4-6 weeks, removing all bedding and replacing it, I then compost the litter. Feeding and watering takes only minutes to fill and replace.
    1 person likes this.
  8. Shabana

    Shabana Chillin' With My Peeps

    Wish I'd gone this way sooner now !! For the last four years I've laboriously picked out the poop every day. Yesterday I threw in a little scratch topped up their feeders and cleaned their waterers and was done in 20 minutes. Guilt free !
    The "forest floor" makes sense.
    The more I read articles on this method the more I like it.
    It will be nice, especially in the spring/summer to choose to spend time with them without it just being work.

    Thank you for your help. I now feel like whatever happens with my mum-in-law, my chickens won't be a worry.
  9. Shabana

    Shabana Chillin' With My Peeps

    Almost 2 weeks have passed. I add a few hand fulls of bedding to each coop twice a week and some corn and they turn it over. I was really quite surprised how clean it is. I mean obviously there's poop but it doesn't smell.
    I always have a problem with red mite in the summer. Unfortunately I share a field with a chicken keeper who doesn't get rid of them or particularly clean them out so it's an uphill battle as they migrate to my birds or rather their coops.

    Usually I strip the coops bare and use poultry shield everywhere, and DE on the perch ends and nesting boxes etc then replace the bedding. How would this work using deep litter ? Should I use the summer to do my major clean outs to coincide with keeping the red mite at bay ?

    They seem pretty happy and I'm just sad I didn't start with this method earlier !

    Wishing everyone a very merry Christmas xx
  10. song of joy

    song of joy Overrun With Chickens

    Apr 22, 2012
    Central Pennsylvania
    Over time, enough moisture can build up with the deep litter method to degrade a wooden floor. I prevent this from happening by painting the wooden floor, and putting down a sheet of vinyl flooring (inexpensive remnant) before adding the litter. But that's something that could wait for several months, until you do a coop clean-out.
    1 person likes this.

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