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.
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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