Who adds dirt to their deep bedding?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by mordarlar, Jan 31, 2011.

  1. mordarlar

    mordarlar Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have heard that dirt works as a type of innoculation in deep bedding to jump start the breakdown of the material. We have been putting very rich soil, which has recently added compost material, into the coop along with straw and pine shavings. We immediately noticed that the coop smells more earthy and less coop-like. Now, after several weeks, the material is less dense and more fluffed which makes the coop seem more comfortable and it seems to be degrading.

    I am really interested to hear the experiences of anyone else. Do you continue adding dirt, old leaves, finished compost? Does anyone else mix straw and shavings?

    Thanks everyone. [​IMG]
     
  2. Bear Foot Farm

    Bear Foot Farm Overrun With Chickens

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    I wouldn't be adding it to the coop.

    Why move it more than once?

    You can compost it once the chickens are finished using it.

    The objective in putting down bedding is to keep the coop dry.
    Soil won't help
     
  3. mordarlar

    mordarlar Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:Thanks for your reply. [​IMG]
    In my own experiment, i added a little less than a shovelful to an area about 5x4. The chickens immediately scratched it into the bedding and it is as dry as ever. My issue isn't about having it compost for the sake of using it, more for the heat and immunities composting bedding provides.

    I had been using layered shavings for a while and noticed that it pretty much stayed shavings. As they would begin to smell i would add more shaving to the top and the birds would work it in. The shavings warmth was limited to the depth itself and whatever that insulated comfort offered and not the heat of bacterial decomposition. This wasn't really appealing to me for a number of reasons.

    I am interested in natural systems for Agriculture and had recently read about the pig farm experiments in Hawaii, using inoculated bedding. While their method is obviously a bit more complex, it has long been known that soil speeds decomposition so i decided to add some and see what the result would be. Aside from the possible soil solution, the only other way to increase decomposition in the coop is to add direct moisture which i am hesitant to do in a colder climate and because it increases airborn ammonia issues. Over the longer term, i am watching to see if the addition helps with reducing odor while using less bedding material, degrades the material more rapidly and helps to generate more heat.
     
  4. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Bear Foot Farm, you may be misunderstanding -- I think the o.p. is talking about adding just a *little* bit of dirt into the bedding *to jumpstart composting* *for the type of deep-litter management where you want composting to occur*.

    In that situation, you are not moving things twice (a couple shovelsful of dirt per horse stall sized coop is all it takes) and if you do not add soil then unless the coop floor IS soil you will get little or only-very-slow-and-delayed in situ composting. The merits of compost-style deep litter management can be debated and depend on your climate and coop design; but if you ARE wanting it to happen, this is the best way of getting it to (if you're not on a dirt floor already).

    I've not done it in the coop, myself, b/c moist composting-style deep litter would not work for my setup; but I have done it for deep-bedded lower-parts-compost-in-place horse stalls on concrete, and IME a couple shovelsful of dirt per stall is all you need (and only the once, to get it started, waiting til the existing litter pack is sufficiently slightly-damp and compacted)

    JME, good luck, have fun,

    Pat
     
  5. mordarlar

    mordarlar Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:Thank you patandchickens!!! [​IMG]

    This is really helpful. From now on the existing bedding could work in place of more soil if added to new bedding, is that right?

    When you used this with horses, did you notice a change in the smell of the stall? I am wondering if this would also work with goat sheds on concrete.
     
  6. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Quote:You betcha. The only reason for the soil is to provide an initial population of microorganisms to do the composting. Once they've populated the bedding, the only reason you'd have to re-do the soil addition would be if you did a total cleanout. I would emphasize though that you have to have the litter pack in a plausibly-compostable state for this to work... just chucking a coupla shovels of soil into a newly-bedded coop full of brand spankin' new pine shavings would be pretty pointless.

    When you used this with horses, did you notice a change in the smell of the stall? I am wondering if this would also work with goat sheds on concrete.

    The stalls in question did not really smell (at the surface) to begin with, so, I couldnt really speak to 'change in smell'.

    It *should* work with goat sheds on concrete, although remember that if the litter pack has been there long enough it has likely cultured up its own composting microorganisms already (goats track mud in on their feeties...) So if you are keeping your goats on deep litter, but are not satisfied with the composting of the litter, you could try it. (Honestly the goats I've known have been kept on bare concrete for their indoor housing... but that was down South, and I'm sure there are lots of other maybe better ways of doing it)

    I should add that I have rather mixed feelings about this whole "composting-in-place old-timey deep litter" thing, especially w/r/t backyard type chicken coops... in my experience it works well for horses if you have oodles of ventilation, but even if you do, it is somewhat on the dampish side, and I think in a lot of coops in a lot of climates you could run into problems with that with chickens (especially with subfreezing temperatures). Although I fully expect that there are situations where it works fine.

    Personally, I use what I suppose you would call a deep litter system but keep it considerably too dry to really do a whole lot in the way of composting in situ. I only clean it out (usually just partly) if it gets too broken-down and dusty, maybe every year or so but it's an eyeball thing not a schedule thing. (I have tried adding some soil, btw, out of curiosity; it made no obvious difference, although of course it gave the chickens something to poke at for about five minutes [​IMG]). This saves me having to worry about the moisture issues and I'm pretty happy with it. But of course everyone's situation is different.

    Pat​
     

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