Would someone mind explaining Deep Litter

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by IamRainey, Nov 11, 2018.

  1. IamRainey

    IamRainey Songster

    Aug 22, 2017
    Los Angeles (Woodland Hills)
    When I got chickens for the first time about 18 months ago I was going to do DL in the coop. I'm all about composting and keep 4 very large piles on my half acre lot.

    Then I saw a poop board and started thinking if I removed the poop every day there was less chance of poor hygiene being a vector for disease. So I dutifully provided the maid service every day for my 3 hens.

    Now I've got 7. Not that my compost piles aren't glad to have a boxful of mixed pine shavings and poop every day but I'm wondering if it's the best way for my birds to live.

    So, if I took the poop board out and just threw additional pine shavings on top of the poop every morning how would that work inside a coop in a hot dry climate like Los Angeles? Is there more to it that I need to be aware of? Would my chickens be subject to things like mites and scaley feet?
  2. MistyDF

    MistyDF In the Brooder

    Nov 11, 2018
    I do the DL method but only during the winter where it gets cold here. My understanding is this method is used to generate additional warmth during the cold months so not sure if you would want to do it in a warm climate. I also do a coop clean out about once a month.

    I have linoleum on the bottom of my coop so in the summers I can slide the clean pine shavings over and pull out the area under the roosts. Then slide the clean pine back and just add new in the front. Kinda of like a rotation. I have a well ventilated coop so I do this about once a week. Hope that helps!
  3. lutherpug

    lutherpug Songster

    Jan 5, 2014
    Northeast Kansas
    My climate is very different than yours but I do a version of DLM all year long. I don't clean the coop in the winter, I just add bedding once a week or if the coop starts to develop an odor. Bedding for me is a combo of straw and pine shavings. I probably do this from November-March. Once the weather starts to warm up I take all of the accumulated bedding and start a compost pile with it. In the summer, I remove bedding more frequently but not more than once every other month. Again, I add some when I start to notice any odor. I maintain a few compost piles in the summer and work my "new" bedding into whatever compost pile makes sense. I have not had any issues doing it this way, either from the standpoint of odor or sick chickens. I did this in the run and coop when I had a covered run.
    MistyDF likes this.
  4. Ol Grey Mare

    Ol Grey Mare One egg shy of a full carton. .....

    Mar 9, 2014
    My Coop
    aart likes this.
  5. flyin-lowe

    flyin-lowe Songster

    Jan 24, 2016
    Here is what works for me. Each spring I start with 3-4 inches of new pine shavings. About every 2 weeks I add a couple inches of lawn clippings, or dried leaves, or something. The chickens dig through them and break them down in the process. Every couple weeks I add more but I try to add something different. One week Ill rake up grass after I mow, one week Ill rake some leaves, sometimes I'll add some straw but not that often, it seems to break down the slowest. At the end of the summer (usually around October) I shovel all of it out and spread it over my garden to sit for the winter. The "compost" is not always 100% broken down but for the most part it is. I then start the process over again for the winter. I have some leaves bagged up and use more straw or pine shavings for the winter. Then before I plant my garden I again shovel it all back onto the garden and then till it in before planting. I only have to clean the coop twice a year and my garden has done better the last few years since I started this.
    MistyDF and lutherpug like this.
  6. Howard E

    Howard E Crowing

    Feb 18, 2016
    Deep litter works like a night time disposable diaper and serves the same purpose. How often you have to change it depends on the load you put on it. A couple birds in a big house might last a year or so. A heavy load of birds may be month or so, or even a few weeks. You can add to it and birds will stir it, but once it becomes mostly droppings, it needs to get swapped out.........i.e., the diaper gets changed. Your nose will tell you when. Hot dry climates lasting longer than cool wet ones as does the choice of the litter material. Some being more absorbent and durable than others.
    RonP likes this.
  7. MotherOfChickens

    MotherOfChickens Songster

    Jun 29, 2017
    Middle Tennessee
    I am in the process of building a new coop. I am going to use the dlm. From my understanding, to do the dlm correctly you need a dirt floor because you need the good organisms that live in the dirt to make the dlm work like it should.
  8. Howard E

    Howard E Crowing

    Feb 18, 2016
    A dirt floor works (my Woods house has a dirt floor), but the issue over time is the soil eventually becomes foul (gets fowled?) and unless the house is located on a well drained site, ground moisture can become an issue. The more birds you have, the bigger the issue becomes, as the droppings load increases in direct proportion to the population of birds you have. Droppings themselves being a big source of moisture in addition to what wicks in from the soil. In general, in a chicken house, dry is better than wet, as you really are not going to compost much in there to begin with. More like a slow rot....even under the best of conditions.

    Another consideration with dirt floors is rodents.......with dirt floors, rats and mice can tunnel in and even setup house keeping in tunnels beneath the litter. If rats and mice are an issue, cement floor may be a far better choice.......and can also be used with deep litter.

    Back to the OP's question, deep litter (6 inches to start and build from there) may work well for you and to help keep things stirred up, toss a few cups of scratch grain or whole oats on top of the worst of it and the birds will go to work and mix it up for you.

    Once you decide it is fowled enough, move it outside to a compost pile, wet it down and it will go to work as a hot compost PDQ. If you want the benefits of the soil....even over cement.......don't clean it all out. Leave an inch or so to innoculate the new.
    MotherOfChickens likes this.

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