Deep Litter Method for Chicken Coops
Today we’re going to be talking about poop! Sounds exciting, right? If that topic doesn’t excite you, don’t leave yet! I’ll be discussing the approach we use to combat all that poop called the deep litter method. Some people have lovingly labeled this method as the “lazy person’s” way to keeping a clean coop, but I see the deep litter method as an awesome system with many benefits. Instead of cleaning out chicken poop multiple times a week, how does 1-4 times a YEAR sound?
What is the Deep Litter Method?
Did you know that chickens can poop 50-60 times a day? I have 25 chickens…you do the math! The deep litter method has saved us time, money, and has also provided an awesome compost for our garden.
Instead of scooping out and replacing coop litter frequently, the deep litter method allows the manure and bedding material to accumulate and decompose inside the coop. The result of this allows for you to clean your coop a couple times a year.
This method is not only easier, but it takes advantage of natural decomposition to get rid of all the gross things that come along with backyard chickens. The beneficial microbes in the litter help to control bad bacteria, so chickens are less susceptible to diseases. Thus, making this method a healthy way to keep things clean for your girls and you!
How to Clean Your Chicken Coop Using the Deep Litter Method
Here are my four easy steps to get started using the deep litter method:
Step 1 – Clean: Choose a day when the weather is nice, and you have a few hours to clean. This is not a 30-minute project. Throw on your old clothes and grab a mask. Open your coop up as much as possible to help with ventilation and take out everything in the coop. This would include feeders, waterers, toys, etc. Scoop out all the bedding and poop that has piled up.
Step 2 – Wash & Dry: With the coop free of bedding and any feeders or waterers, scrape any stuck on poop off with a paint scraper. That works slick! Then spray down the coop with warm soapy water. Make sure the coop is rinsed out well and then allow the coop to completely dry.
Step 3 – Add Bedding: When the coop is dry, add 3 – 4 inches of fresh pine shavings or bedding of your choice. Stay away from cedar shavings as it can harm your chickens’ respiratory systems. The litter will become 8 – 12 inches deep between each cleaning. This can vary on the size of your coop and the amount of birds you have.
Step 4 – Sprinkle Bedding with Coop Recuperate™: Sprinkle your pine shavings with Coop Recuperate™ by Strong Animals Chicken Essentials. Treating the litter with Coop Recuperate™ reduces odor and absorbs moisture to lengthen bedding life. The organic eucalyptus and lemongrass essential oils will keep your litter smelling great, and as a bonus, keep flies at bay! Add Coop Recuperate™ on top of the litter 1 – 2 times per week or whenever fresh bedding is added.
Coop Recuperate™ is the reason I could sit on my coop floor all season long! I didn’t smell stinky and honestly, it paved the way for some good quality time with my girls.
How to Maintain Your Coop
How often you add new material depends on how many chickens you have and how much of a mess they are making. Your chickens will naturally turn their bedding for you, but if you notice areas where they aren’t getting to, simply turn them with a rake or garden hoe.
Here are a few tips for maintaining the deep litter method:
Tip 1: Your chicken coop must be well ventilated. Proper ventilation is essential to the health of your birds as ammonia fumes can cause eye and sinus irritation.
Tip 2: Your chicken coop should not stink out the neighbors! You’ll know it’s time to add more litter to the coop when you start to notice an odor.
Tip 3: When you add fresh bedding, you must make sure to use enough to provide a thick cover over all the droppings. You can’t add too much, but you can add too little. As the litter deepens, this will provide an excellent source of insulation and warmth for winter months. At this time, you can also sprinkle Coop Recuperate™ to reduce odor and absorb moisture.
How to Compost Your Litter
Those months of your chickens pooping will finally pay off! When you clean out your chicken coop, take all that litter and put it in your compost pile. We keep our pile away from the coop and the house, but anywhere is fine really. The bedding and the chicken droppings will break down into something that’s very healthy for your garden soil. If you’ve used enough bedding material, your chicken compost pile won’t stink. If it stinks, feel free to add more dry materials like dried leaves or grass clippings to balance it out.
I generally let my litter compost 6 months before adding it to my garden. Fresh chicken poop is usually too “hot” for your plants. Be sure to allow it to break down before you grace your gardens with its presence.
Having a clean coop is important for your health and the health of your chickens. The deep litter method is a great way to balance health, cleanliness and time! Chickens are lovely, but messy creatures. But I can promise you, the time you invest into keeping the coop clean will be well worth it!