More birds more mess | Managing Deep Litter

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by MattH, Jan 15, 2017.

  1. MattH

    MattH Out Of The Brooder

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    Last year we only had 6 birds, this year we have 11. I used to be able to manage a deep litter coop last year. I feel this year it is much harder due to the ammonia smell and amount of waste under the roost. I end up scooping most of the bedding under the roost out, instead of mixing in with new bedding. Ive been adding a whole bag of bedding once a month while scooping the bedding under the roost out. It's time to clean again and there is less bedding in the main common area of the coop than there was when I added to it, and it looks like the birds have moved most of the bedding under the roosts.. smart birds I reckon. The 3/4 thick fresh bedding I put under roosts could be the same thickness it was when I changed it, but rather the common area is actually composting like it should, making me think I'm loosing bedding. This is the 3rd-4th time, so I'm looking for some advice on better management. Anything would help. Thanks.
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2017
  2. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Flock Master

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    How big is your coop? L x W x H? If you have any ammonia smell, you have serious problems. Birds have sensitive lungs, and ammonia will burn that delicate tissue. You need more ventilation, more cleaning, or both. There are products on the market that will bind ammonia into the litter so it does not become air born. I'm trying to find some product names.

    Got it. Look for Stall Dry or Sweet PDZ. In future, you may find it better to either cut your flock size or increase your coop size. That is one of the many reasons why I recommend a minimum of 4 s.f. per bird in the coop.
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2017
  3. MattH

    MattH Out Of The Brooder

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    Thanks for the

    Thanks for the reply. My coop was already built when I decided to get 6 more chicks. I am lacking space for about 4 of them. My coop LxW= 38sqft, my run is 193sqft. I have 2 windows, 1 on each side of the coop that I close during the winter months to avoid drafts, but I have two 13"x7" shed style ventilation plates at the top of my lean-to styled roof coop.
     
  4. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Flock Master

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    I would suggest that you do what ever it takes to get rid of ammonia smell. If you can smell it, it's burning your bird's lungs.
     
  5. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    Unless you want to sell off a few birds, sounds like you need to go to a poop board and daily cleaning of droppings. There are several threads here about poop boards, a quick search should give you several ideas.
     
  6. MattH

    MattH Out Of The Brooder

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    So sounds like I need more cleaning.. I'm trying to figure out if I can just mix in the garbage under the roost, or do I need to continue removing it. Once I remove it the ammonia smell is gone. But I haven't taken the plunge to mix it all together for fear of the ammonia smell not going away. I'm trying to upload some pics of my coop, because I made my coop with a side open door underneath the roosts in case I wanted to make a poop board.

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    All 10 hens sit up at the very top when they roost, and the rooster sits on the pole below them.
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2017
  7. Beekissed

    Beekissed True BYC Addict


    You'll need to increase ventilation options until you have some good airflow at the floor/litter level and good ventilation above the roosts....this will move any moisture and ammonia up and out of the coop. I can't stress that enough...the only way you should ever be smelling ammonia is if you ventilation is too little or not setup for maximum air movement in the coop.

    I can almost bet you're using all wood shavings in your coop. When I was using wood shavings I was always dealing with ammonia and litter that got saturated quickly...I think someone on here called it the diaper effect and that's pretty much how it is. When I stopped using wood shavings I could finally get a well managed composting deep litter in my coop with very little effort on my part.

    I'd stop removing the bedding from under the roosts...rather build it up there on a daily basis. Stop stirring the bedding or encouraging the chickens to do so. Layer in dry bedding on top of your nightly poop deposits each morning and just keep doing that. Take dry bedding from other areas of the coop and just toss a light layer on the nightly poops.

    Switch from wood shavings to a more varied bedding with different particle sizes and break down times. Leaves are optimal, but now is scarcely the time to find any...just keep it in mind for next year. Many of us are finding that free, already bagged leaves are plentiful in just about any town during the fall. I just drive around and collect them, store them somewhere dry to use for bedding all year round.

    I'd start mixing in small amounts of straw now and again, then lawn raking debris like twigs, pine needles, woody stems of this or that, a few handfuls of hay, etc. Wood chips~not shavings~ are great if you let them age first, then use them sparingly. Anything that will vary your particle size and type will help in creating air spaces in the pack and also help with breakdown times.

    I wouldn't use anything that will dry out your bedding...you'll want to trap that moisture under the top layer of your bedding right under the roosts. You'll need the moisture to get it to decompose. I wouldn't worry about any other area of the coop and the DL there except the area under the roosts...it will drive the rest of the composting in the coop. Take fresh bedding from other areas, layer it lightly on the poop, keep doing that each day. Don't stir this area, don't flip it deeply, just cap it off. When you put new bedding in the coop, put it everywhere but the roost area....you'll be placing it there a little bit at a time each day, so no need to deposit large amounts there when you add new bedding.
     
  8. Beekissed

    Beekissed True BYC Addict


    I'll tell you a good place for all that bedding your cleaning out....in your run. It's desperately in need of some DL. That is one small coop for 11 birds, as is the run, so you will always be running into more problems with DL or waste disposal than most folks will. I'd advise either increasing total space or decreasing stock. Other than that, all the tips above should help you until you can make some changes.

    Your coop is most likely too small for a good DL system anyway, as to have a good one you really need to get at least 6-12 in. deep at all times and be able to shift bedding from one area to another easily...your size and design pretty much prevents that. I'd go with the other people's advice on a poop board or daily cleaning out of a coop that small. You can still do some DL in the run and that will help you in many ways this winter.
     
  9. MattH

    MattH Out Of The Brooder

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    I can cut more holes and put some ventilation plates around the roosting area. I was using a cedar chips blend, but was told these pine chips would be better. When I had my 6 birds I would do exactly this, move bedding from other areas on top of the roosting droppings. Then overall add more bedding later after the whole coop was getting low. Maybe I just need to do this faster than what I was used to.. because of having more birds now. I was definitely able to keep up with a DL better when I only had 6 birds, which is why I posting now... I've been throwing my poop/okdbedding in my garden. Would my birds benefit from tossing it in the run?
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2017
  10. Beekissed

    Beekissed True BYC Addict

    Cedar just doesn't want to decompose...it will likely be around when you and I are gone. [​IMG] I've got cedar fence posts on my land that are over 50yrs old and show no decay whatsoever, even though they have been lying on the ground under other rotting lumber for many a long year.

    I'd put at least one vent right beneath your roosts at the floor level, about 4 in. off the floor and try to keep bedding away from that vent.

    I don't know how you'll manage DL well in a space like that with 11 birds...I've got 12 birds in my 10x12 coop and still had to jack up my coop this winter season to allow me more head room for when I build up my DL.
     

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