chickens have many uses: therapy, eggs, tillers, comedians. The list goes on. But I recently discovered a new purpose for them. It starts in the year 2016; a new run had been built at theurbanhens and everything was shiny and new then winter came. Mud, misery and muck the only solution was to lay down straw to keep the area dry for the hens. That decision was wrong. The straw was starting to rot and cake up but luckily spring was around the corner and with the help of my father and good dry weather we were able to dig all the rotten straw out. Fast forward to Winter 2017 when out of nowhere snow appears and the only option I had to prevent my flock from getting frostbite on their feet was to use shavings on the floor. They were inexpensive at only 60p a bag and could easily cover most of the go to areas for the hens. now summer 2018 it’s dry and hot and the hens are scratching about in the run. I return from school to find the whole area overturned by the hens uncovering rich soil. It seems that I’ve begun a deep litter method without even realising!
essentially the deep litter method is where you top up your chickens bedding every so often with a carbon rich substrate such as shavings , not cleaning any out, and then over a few months the manure will break down odourlessly and create compost.
How to perform the deep litter method
- Begin the process with a 4-6 inch layer of carbon bedding such as shavings, can be a smaller amount if on bare soil.
- Allow droppings to accumulate covering them over every few days with another sprinkling of bedding.
- Continue this process throughout the year
- Once around a year has passed remove the now compost but leave a small amount of litter as this will already have composting micro organisms to kick off the next cycle.
Points to remember
- There shouldn’t be excess moisture in the litter ; it’s important that the litter is kept dry from rain and spillages. Moisture needed in the method comes from the manure. To test the levels of moisture simply squeeze the litter it should hold together then crumble after a moments time.
- Don’t use any pesticides that could harm micro organisms ; little insects and micro creatures are the backbone to a successful litter cycle and will result in richer compost. They digest and breakdown the nutrients in the manure and without them the process wouldn’t work.
- Aerate the litter ; chickens will do this themselves but may miss a few areas ,and because It’s important that the litter gets oxygen, so you may need to give them a hand.
Here is autumn and beyonce aerating the soil by simply having a dust bath.
- If your chickens have a proven parasite or disease fully clean out deep litter ; the bedding can harbour the Parasite or disease and therefore easily contaminate other members of the flock for months.
- Make sure there’s plenty of ventilation ; wether it be a coop or run it’s key to ventilate the area especially as the biproduct of decomposition is heat.
- Ensure there is a good manure to carbon ratio ; this sounds complicated but is simple just don’t overstock pens where deep litter method is taking place.
I hope this has inspired you to start executing a deep litter cycle in your coop, tell us if it has by commenting below and remember to subscribe to the blog using the bar on the right hand side so you don’t miss a thing.