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Winter floor litter management

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by lhousesoccer, Dec 16, 2010.

  1. lhousesoccer

    lhousesoccer In the Brooder

    Feb 26, 2010
    Hi - sorry if this is a rehash of previous conversations, but I searched and couldn't find anything. I'm new to chickens, and this is my first flock, started this spring from chicks. So, this is my first winter (in Vermont). I have 11 laying hens in a 6' x 8' coop, and use bales of pine shavings as floor litter. I have droppings boards under the roosts which I clean regularly, but they are in the coop all day, and of course go in the litter.

    Now that it's below freezing temps outside, the litter is freezing hard, and the chickens kind of pack it down from being on it all day. I don't let them outside during the day when I'm not home, because I had a tree come down in a storm on my 25' x 25' covered run and bashed it to pieces and I haven't had a chance to repair it yet.

    The litter on the floor is damp, and frozen solid, so it's obviously not absorbing and decomposing the chicken's droppings well, or at all. I try to break it up with a spade and turn it every couple of days. Is there something else I should be doing? Should I be shoveling out the litter completely and replacing it? Should I add straw?

    Any tips would be appreciated! For reference, here's my coop and flock:



  2. johny

    johny Songster

    May 22, 2010
    I figure, if it is frozen, it won't release toxic ammonia.
    So when the temperature rises enough to melt it, dig it out and put in some fresh.
  3. sharol

    sharol Songster

    Jun 13, 2010
    Admire, KS
    I have a 6x8 also. I'm not in your position at this time because my girls (7 of them) are in a run for part of the day.

    I think if I was seeing frozen damp shavings that I couldn't remove, I would spread another inch or two of fresh shavings every few days until the weather breaks and I could get some of the damp stuff out or at least dried out. At least the frozen shavings aren't releasing amonia.

    Is the dampness only from the chickens' droppings or have you had water spills?

    Hang in there. The weather will get better.
  4. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    I'd suggest making the repair of your run a #1 priority. You are pretty likely to run into pecking/cannibalism problems (and perhaps frostbite as well, due to humidity) as the winter begins, if you are only allowing a TOTAL of 4 sq ft per chicken. Pecking/cannibalism problems cannot always be solved later on by adding back more space, sometimes it becomes a habit curable only by eating a lot of soup and then starting over.

    For your actual question, about the floor litter, I would suggest that your best bet is probably to remove as much nasty stuff as you can chop out (b/c even if it is frozen, it IS contributing some moisture and ammonia to the air, and when you get a warm day it will do so ever so much more) and then top with fresh dry shavings every day or two.

    Good luck, have fun,

  5. sharol

    sharol Songster

    Jun 13, 2010
    Admire, KS
    Yep. Pat's answer is much better than mine.

    What she said

  6. Aria

    Aria Crowing

    Oct 15, 2010
    This is our first Winter with Chickens too. We use hay on the floor. We have a "pooper scooper" purchased at Tractor Supply $9.00. Daily we pick-up poop add fresh hay and it is CLEAN. We put the poop in a 5 gallon plastic container and empty in a pile OUTSIDE ready
    for Spring spreading.

    Works great.
  7. Remove what you can and replace with new shavings AND a few cups of either Stable Boy, Stall-Dri or food-grade diatomaceous earth. The additives will absorb ammonia if you get a thaw, and will keep the shavings from clumping as much. Meanwhile, do whatever you can to repair the run or construct a smaller one just outside the pop door before the birds turn on each other as Pat and others have said.


  8. gmendoza

    gmendoza Songster

    Mar 23, 2010
    Rock Hill,SC
    we have a coop that is 8x8'.Our brand new one that is 100% recycled materials,plus the run that is 12'x24'x7' high at the peak.All from recycled materials.

    We have pine shavings in the coop and run and we never have freezing problems. Even in our old coop which is tons smaller.We just keep buying bags and pour new on top of old called"deep litter meathod". in spring,it will be cleaned and put into the garden for compost.

    If your pine is getting frozen,then your shooks are spilling their water. Feed management is a must in winter!

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