This spring marked one year since I started using the deep litter method and I thought I'd share my results. First, I need to disclose one important thing about me. I am very sensitive to smells. It's a family joke that I am often grossed out by smells no one else can even detect. Five years ago I actually had chickens briefly but was so impaired by the smell I gave them away. This time around I did a lot of research before getting back into chickens. THE COOP Last spring I built my coop with a dirt floor on top of an old gravel pile. It's a high, dry spot with excellent drainage. The coop is approx 6x8, with an interior feed room so the chicken area is actually 6 x 5 1/2. I planned to have 5 hens to provide 6 sq ft per bird. In actuality the numbers have fluctuated between 5 and 7 birds throughout this year due to predator loss, replacement hens, the addition of a rooster, etc. So, there has been 4 to 6 sq ft per bird throughout the year. I have excellent ventilation in the coop--4 inch gaps under all the eaves that are open year-round. Also, two large windows on the cross-wind walls that are open except for during really cold winter temps. THE BEGINNING To begin the bedding I placed 3-4 inches of wood chips atop the dirt/gravel floor. Next, I added 2-3 inches of 2 yr old composted dirt from my old compost pile to "seed" the floor with healthy bacteria. Then, I put in about 4 inches of fresh grass clippings. After a few weeks I felt the manure smell was too strong so I repeated the 2-3 inches of composted dirt plus more grass clippings. That did the job and so long as I maintained the coop (see below) I never had a smell again. DAILY MAINTENANCE Every day or two I throw in some kitchen scraps. We store our scraps in large yogurt/cottage cheese tubs because a) each has a lid to reduce smell and b) the tub can go through the dishwasher. (I highly suggest this as an alternative to purchasing an expensive, specially-designed composting bucket.) We only put in fruit, vegetable, bread, and coffee grounds--no meat, fat, or dairy. Every day or so I throw in 1-2 tubs of scraps, intentionally aiming to drop the scraps right under the perch where most of the manure has fallen. This is a very important step to get the birds to turn under the fresh manure as they are in the process of scratching for the scraps. MONTHLY MAINTENANCE About every 6 weeks during the summer and every 4 weeks during the winter I add another 4-6 inches of leaves or grass clippings. Just before I throw in the fresh bedding I get into the coop with a pitchfork and stir up the bedding where it is wettest right under the perch. The whole stirring and adding process takes 10-15 minutes at the most. RESULTS I have frequent visitors to my coop (my kids' friends always want to see the chickens) and one of the first things everyone exclaims about is the complete lack of a smell. Of course the chickens themselves have their own chickeny-smell, just as horses and cows have a unique smell. But, there is no manure or ammonia smell at all. This spring I cleaned out the coop for the first time. The bedding had built up between 18 and 24 inches at that point! I filled my first wheelbarrow load and was delighted when I lifted it to realize how light it was. This clearly was not sodden, slimy stuff. Except for a small 1x1 ft patch under the favorite section of the perch, it was not wet or heavy. In fact, I even found earthworms living in the bedding that must have come in with the composted dirt at the beginning! I took out 8 and one half wheelbarrow loads of beautifully composted chicken manure, leaf mold, and kitchen scraps. I couldn't believe how much was there, but, it was all easy to handle and the smell did not gross me out even once! So, if anyone else out there is like me and they simply can't imagine scraping poop off poop boards, I wanted to share this method that worked beautifully for my chickens, for my garden, and especially for me! FINAL ADVICE This works best with plenty of sq ft per bird. 5-6 sq ft per bird is ideal, 4 was manageable but required more bedding than I'd anticipated. I only bagged 4 of those super large yard waste trash bags of leaves last fall. It did not last me all through the winter...and this was a ridiculously mild winter with the birds outside almost every day. I would like at least 6 bags stuffed full going into next winter. I supplemented with straw beginning in Feb and this was not ideal as straw tends to hold the manure up rather than letting the birds scratch it under. I have heard that chopped straw is better, and some people use shredded paper or cardboard. I hope this is helpful for anyone who is considering the deep litter method. It's free for the minimal effort of raking up leaves or grass clippings; it's nearly smell-free with the right sq footage, maintenance, and ventilation; and the result is great stuff for your gardens!