Using this Deep Litter Method for your chickens has a ridiculous amount of benefits! See how!

The Amazing Deep Litter Method

Who wants to clean a hen house when it’s -20 degrees outside?

…..I’m pretty sure I hear crickets chirping…. 

Yep, not you, right?! Me neither! So, guess what? You don’t have to!

Lets chat about the Deep Litter method! Y’all, this a total win win for everybody/bird & you will love all the benefits!

What is the Deep Litter method? Over the course of several months (or more), you allow the chicken poop & bedding to accumulate. It sounds gross, but stick with me for a hot few seconds! Between the natural decomposition process & a little help from your girls, the material becomes compost! As we talked about in my How To Make Amazing Compost, as these materials are decaying, beneficial bacteria feed on microbes (pathogens) that cause disease, including coccidiosis. So, the deep litter method (if done correctly) actually really helps to keep your birds healthy!

How and when to use the DL method– You can incorporate the DL method anytime during the year. I prefer doing it in the winter because, let’s be honest, it gives me a break from cleaning out the hen house in freezing temps. every few weeks. But, there are other great benefits of the DL method, too. We’ll get to those later!

I start the Deep Litter method in early December. I first remove all the old bedding, as well as hay from the hen boxes, and do a really deep cleaning. The floors get swept, everything gets dusted, then I spray everything down with my all natural hen house solution, which is a spray bottle filled with 1/2 water, 1/2 white vinegar, plus 20 drops of lavender essential oil, and 15 drops each of tea tree & clove essential oils. Oh my, the hen house smells so amazing after the spritzing!

A quick compost 101– You need both nitrogen rich materials (chicken poop, hay, straw, grass clippings) and carbon rich materials (dead leaves, pine shavings) to make compost, plus let’s not forget oxygen (good ventilation).

I like things easy breezy, so let’s call nitrogen “green” & carbon “brown”. Typically the ration of green to brown materials in compost is 1:30. Your hen house should be well ventilated. Your chickens supply the oxygen from constantly scratching and turning the pile.

I use large pine flakes for bedding (it creates very little dust) for my girls, and hay in their nest boxes. After deep cleaning their hen house, I spread the shavings until they are about 4 inches thick. Pine shavings are quick to compost, so they make a great base layer.

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Add a couple inches of hay or grass clippings on top of the shavings. Then, let your birds do their thang! After about a week, turn the pile over, and add fresh hay, leaves, or grass clippings on top.

Your chicken will do a lot of the work for you, but I turn my litter every few weeks. Your pile should not stink, at all. If it smells of ammonia, add brown materials. You do not want to add any additional moisture to your “pile” as you would a with traditional compost pile. The chicken droppings contain all the moisture the pile needs. If you think it contains too much moisture, again, add browns.

Benefits– This is my favorite part! There are SO many advantages!

1- Through the process of composting, the pile will generate some heat. We do not have a heat source in our hen house. Last winter, between our winterizing efforts & the DL method, our coop rarely dropped below 25 degrees, even when it was a frigid -20 degrees outside!

2-As discussed earlier, while the microbes inside your pile are generating extra heat during those really cold nights, they are also eating pathogens (disease causing organisms) that are lurking in your pile… Just waiting for your sweet, innocent hennie to eat them up. No m’am, not in my coop! Go microbes go! The Deep Litter method promotes a healthier environment for your flock!

3-As the pile decomposes, it will contain some insects. Your chickens will love this nutritious snack as they are scratching through the pile!

4-Once the materials begin to break down, it makes a great dust bath for your chickens! If you have chickies, you know how much they love them a dust bath, and how vital it is for a chicken’s well being! Now they can do it inside their coop!

5-When the Spring finally rolls around, you now have an amazing pile of compost to spread in your garden! Guess who’s going to grow a stellar garden this year?! Go you! High five!

I’d love to hear about your Deep Litter experiences!

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12 comments

  1. Alicia Owen says:

    We do this, but I think I definitely need to add some more “brown” material because it’s been getting really stinky lately! :/ Thanks for sharing your tips on the Homesteader Hop!

    • Kipper says:

      Try adding more brown materials, and that should correct the issue! There is a product called PDZ, that can be used if you just can’t get rid of the stink. It’s safe to use in compost, and is low dust & safe to use for your chickens. ?

  2. Emma@ Misfit Gardening says:

    This is a great place post! I keep trying the deep litter method but the girls end up detaching their roosting perch as the bedding gets higher. Do you have any tips for using deep litter in smaller coops? I would love to nail deep litter, especially before the temperature drops much more!

    Emma

    • Kipper says:

      Hi Emma! Thanks so much! I would try marking their wall at 6 inches (or say, 4 inches, if your coop is small enough for just a few hens) and not adding much more to it until the bedding reaches that mark. Let it break down a good bit, and keep turning the pile to keep it well aerated. If your pile is getting too deep, then remove some, as needed. Also look at the type of materials you use. I’ve had really great luck with big pine flakes as my base. It’s very absorbent. They don’t break down as quickly as fine flakes, but they create very little to no dust, which is healthier for our girls! I’d love to know your progress with this throughout the winter, and please let me know if you hit a hurdle! ?

  3. Emma@ Misfit Gardening says:

    Hey Kipper,

    Just wanted to let you know that the deep litter method is working great now! Thanks for the advice, I’m so pleased it’s working and I bet the girls are too!

    Ems

  4. Normally my chickens free range and have a small night coop – but at the moment they are having to stay in all the time as we have bird flu in Europe …. and I am deep littering the barn they are in. So whilst they are a touch cross at being locked up I should get lots of lovely compost come the Spring. #WasteLessWednesday

    • Kipper says:

      Oh, Rosie, I hate that you are having to deal with the bird flu! Is it in your area? Sounds like you are making the best of the situation! Be sure to check out my post, “How to Ensure a Healthy Flock”, that discusses great supplements to use, especially if your birds are not able to free range! Hope to see you soon! ??

  5. Hubby mostly takes care of the coop so I’m not entirely sure how long he leaves the litter in…it was our intention to keep it there for a couple of months and do more of a deep litter method. I’ll have to ask him if we are actually doing it! Thanks for sharing on the Waste Less Wednesday Hop!

  6. Oh, wow! I’ve been doing this, not knowing it even had a name! lol! Yep, the minute it warms up a bit, the pile goes onto our garden, which really helps when I’m ready to plant. I think I need to add more browns, though— So glad I read this!

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