Why Do You, or Don't You, Use Deep Litter in Your Run (and/or Coop)?


14 Years
Jul 10, 2009
North Carolina Sandhills
My Coop
My Coop
I'm thinking of writing a companion piece to my Deep Bedding article on the other half of the system, Deep Litter, so I thought I'd start collecting information the same way, by asking you all what you do or don't like about it.

I'm using the same definitions as before:

Deep Bedding: A dry, non-composting system where you keep adding bedding to the coop as it becomes soiled -- managing it by turning it as necessary (or getting the chickens to turn it for you) -- and clean it out only infrequently when the bedding has become both thoroughly soiled and piled up to the point of not being able to add more. Usually used above a floor in the coop but *can* be done in a covered run over dirt in a favorable climate.

Deep Litter: A moist (not wet, moist), system where the lower layers of material are actively composting while new, dry material is continually added to the top. *Can* be done on any floor surface but is most readily accomplished on a dirt floor because the dirt will seed the material with the beneficial composting organisms.

Please share your experiences, successes, failures, and anecdotes so I can write an informative and well-balanced article.
My chickens LOVE scratching around in the deep litter in their pen (which is inside a larger, grassed run). It's on dirt (formerly grass) and the pen is covered. Since it's hot and dry here, I do have to spray it down occasionally to keep a little moisture in it. No smell, no flies, no matting - the chickens do a good job of keeping it turned. I use a mix of chopped straw, wood chips, chopped hemp, leaves, coir, coffee grounds and miscellaneous yard clippings. The only negative is that they hurl it all over the place - out the door when it's open during the day, into my shoes when I'm puttering around in the pen, etc. But, not a big deal!
I love my deep bedding. Pine mini flakes are cheap , smell is minimal, only cleaned out once in a year after bedding got moldy ( cause of waterer leak). I now have a poop box per se lined with feed bags under roost where most of poop lands. It's really easy to clean before box I would just scoop bedding like a little box once a week. Coop is raised and only 5 foot deep so just crawl in on a rug once a week to clean.
Deep bedding in the coop. I like this system because it is easy to manage and not labor intensive. Most of the poop is deposited into the roost tray at night and most of the daytime poop is deposited out in the run. The poop trays are scooped each morning and I don't worry about the run at this point in time. The birds leave very little poop on the floor during the day so the bedding stays pretty clean for a long time.

Or course we are only into this thing for a few months now, but I think it is working very well. There is no smell inside the coop, I do add a little PDZ to the roosting board now and then, and the run doesn't smell except after a rain or very heavy dew. Even then the smell isn't offensive.

I know this doesn't answer your question but I learned about the deep bedding from your deep bedding article. I'm sure the companion piece will be just as excellent.
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I use deep litter in my run because:
1) It allows for drainage and keeps mud suppressed which is essential as my run is unroofed and we get a lot of rain.
2) It's economical (aka free) - everything that goes into my litter is sourced from my yard, wood chips from our branches, dried leaves from our trees, dried grass from our lawn, etc.
Deep litter lover here :) I just keep piling leaves, sticks etc into the run and they slowly break down. It never smells, I almost never see poop unless it’s freshly delivered. I dig some up when I need compost for the garden - buying garden soil is expensive!

I have a bunch of thicker branches in the run for so the birds can keep themselves out of the wet when it rains.


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