July 1, 2016

Five things I've Learn While Using the Deep Litter Method With Chickens

1. Chicken poop A Lot

 I mean A Lot! I think they poop there body weight a day or something! Not only do they poop a lot they poop everywhere. On the wall, in their feeder, that tiny lip over there.... yup poop. If you leave any thing in the coop be prepared for there to be poop on it.
The girls checking out the fresh wheat straw

2. Don't start with straw.

I am not saying don't use straw. I am saying don't start with it. When you start the deep litter method you need 4-8 inches of bedding. Straw dose not work well for this it doesn't absorb as well and clumps together making hard for chickens (and people) to move it around.
     My number one choice for starting would be wood stove pellets. Why? They very absorbent, they fluff up when wet, and are easy to store and transport (they also make great cat litter). Don't worry about hurting your chickens by law they are chemical free. Would want to burn them in your house and have horrible chemicals released? Did think so, so people and animal safe.
     Why do I not use them? Because I am a cheapskate and around here they run any where from 4 - 8 bucks a bag and I have a big coop. If my coop were small or money was not a problem these would be my go to bedding. I do plan on use these and shredded paper in my brooders thou.
Deep litter in my garden!
    My number two choice and what I am really using... tree mulch. Why? Its free! (yup Am a cheapskate) My wonderful neighbors had trees trimmed and dumped all that mulch in my back yard! Alright other good things about chips/mulch; it stays fluffy even when wet, it's great for your garden after words, and it encourages good bacteria and other organisms into your coop. Bad stuff; Finding it. Some times you get lucking and have a neighbor drop it on you, other wise you have to get a hold of tree trimming service in your area. Some time you can buy it in bags, but be careful you get the right stuff you want tree mulch that is chips with the bark, limbs and leave all together. Also storing it can be hard. Its a giant load of chips, where do you put it and how do you keep dry?
    My third choice would be pine shavings. DO NOT USE CEDER SHAVINGS.
 Ceder shavings are great for stall you much out often and don't want to smell or bugs in; but, with deep litter you want bugs. They help with the composting and are free food for your chickens.
Pine shavings
Good: they are relatively cheep, available at most stores, and easy to store/transport (they come in nice big bags). Bad: they get soggy fast and my chicken like to eat them (yes I know my chickens are weird). As a side note pine or ceder shaving can be bad for very young chicks if they eat too many.

Things to use in your deep litter coop after you have a good base

First set of chicks!
  1. Straw 
  2. Hay
  3. Paper (shredded or not)
  4. leaves (one of my favorites because they're free and chicken can eat them) 
  5. That bagged bedding (I think is shredded cardboard?)
  6. grass chippings (make sure its dry)
  7. Any of the three starters (Wood stove pellets, tree mulch, or pine shavings) 
Each of these has it own pros and cons here is a good info graph on bedding it coops and brooders.

3. Use poop boards

Chicken poop a lot but even more so at night!Under the roost is by far the worst poop mound. My boys named the mountain under the roost o.o  Using poop boards or hammocks will save you in bedding and work later. (poop boards, poop hammock)

4. Think about the layout of your coop

You are going to be coming in and out of your coop daily. Many time with your hands full, full of food, waters, bedding, chickens, and hopefully eggs right. Make getting in and out as easy for you as possible (not the chickens you want the chickens to stay in, you here me chickens stay!).

Building my coop
 Think about light, where the food will go, and where water will go. Think about how many chickens you want and how much room they need. Think about chicks in this coop or broody hens. If  you have more then one door/gate think about the way they swing. All these will effect how well deep litter works and how happy you will be with your chickens.
^^^^ This is where I failed. I have 1 door and 2 gates into my coop. they all attach to the same post. great Idea right? WRONG. Some how in the instillation of the door and gates they were placed so they all open the same way! and are all hinged on that post! (they were suppose to latch on to the post). This mean you can not open the coop door all the way when the inner gate is opened and you can't open the gate when the door is open. Making it a royal pain to get a wheelbarrow in and out.And no fun haul stinky loads of poop while dodging chickens.
Big mama and her brood
I would also move food and waters off the ground so chickens don't kick bedding into them.
When it comes to chicks and broody hens, make sure there is space low down on the floor. Somewhere they can see and be seen by your old chickens but not pecked no.
Needles to say I am rethinking my whole coop.
Coop Ideas:
Composting chicken house
Deep litter Hoop house
Winter at my place!

5. Think about Water

This really is part of 4 but I wanted to pay special attention to this one. Water moves, it runs and it freezes! This mean you don't want it some places and you want it others. The deep litter method does not work if your coop is a giant puddle, or a desert. So think about how you will get water to your chicken and think about it for the summer on 100 degree days and the winter (when hoses freeze) on -10 degree days. (Five Easy Ways to Keep your Chickens' Water from Freezing this Winter)

But the thing I did not think about was Spring days when all the snow melts and all the rain comes down......
and yes all that water ran right into my coop! Chickens really don't like living in a swamp. So think about where your coop is and how the water moves.

Over all I have loved having my chickens and using the deep litter method. But I just had a crazy thought looking at my garden and the chickens. What if I combined my garden and my coop? I mean I deep litter my chickens and I deep mulch my garden? hmmm this will take more thought and research. Will let you know when I get there.

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