Are you tired of cleaning your chicken coop week after week? Sick of buying litter by the boatload? Looking for ways to make your life simpler, easier, and less work? Then the deep litter method is for you. Farmers and homesteaders all over the world use the deep litter method because it just makes sense. Read on to find out why!
The Deep Litter Method in a Nutshell
What is it?
This method consists of starting with a few inches of litter on the floor of the coop. As the chickens deposit their waste into it, the litter is stirred up and more litter is added on top. The litter is naturally turned by the chickens rooting through it, and if they need a little help with the turning, it can be flipped by a pitchfork every few weeks.Turning the litter results in the nitrogen rich waste getting buried in the carbon rich litter, resulting in a great compost.
Why do it?
Using deep litter means you only have to clean out the coop and replace the litter a few times per year. If you buy the litter for your chickens, this method will save you money. The other major perk is saving time and energy. We like to call it ‘the lazy farmer’s way,’ because it drastically cuts down on the time and work required when keeping chickens.
Some other great reasons to try deep litter:
- It’s clean and sanitary
- It’s remarkably un-smelly
- It results in healthier chickens that are less likely to get coccidiosis
- It helps to insulate the coop making it warmer in the winter
- It saves time
- It’s much less work
- It creates amazing compost for the garden
- Scratching through it gives the chickens something to do when they’re contained
- The microbes in deep litter prevent parasites and illnesses
- It’s completely natural
How to do the deep litter method:
Start your deep litter method in the spring, right after doing a good deep clean of the coop. It’s best to do deep litter on a coop that has a dirt floor, but it can be successfully done on concrete or wood as well. Before beginning deep litter, make absolutely sure that your coop has adequate ventilation. This will allow ammonia to flow out of the coop rather than poisoning your chickens.
1. Lay down about 5 inches of litter onto the bare floor of the coop. The best litter to use for the deep litter method is pine shavings, but shredded leaves also work great.
Reminder: Never use cedar shavings in the chicken coop, it can cause respiratory problems in chickens.
2. When the first layer becomes soiled, stir it up and turn it over so the waste is buried. Depending on how big your flock is and how much time they spend in the coop, they may have already done this step for you.
3. Add another few inches on top of the first layer.
4. When that layer becomes soiled, turn it again and add another layer.
5. Continue in this fashion until it’s time to clean out. Some deep litter users only clean out their coop once a year, some clean it as many as four times. We clean our coop in the fall and the spring and deep litter in between.
6. When it’s time to clear out, you’ll remove most of the litter, leaving a 1-2 inch layer on the bottom of the coop. This thin layer holds microbes and nematodes that will help the next layer of litter get started composting. If you’re doing it right, your coop should not smell like ammonia. If it does, you need to increase ventilation and use more litter or turn it more frequently.
That’s really all there is to it!
If your chickens are lazy, they may not do enough turning and you’ll have to fill in once in awhile, but it sure beats cleaning out the coop every week, doesn’t it? Do yourself, and your chickens a favor and give the deep litter method a shot. You just might love it!