After nearly 2 years of research I decided that I wanted to try the “Deep Litter Method” for our next flock. Essentially it involves bedding the coop down very, very deeply, turning it (either by yourself or with the help of the chickens), and cleaning out the then composted bedding every 6 months or so. Sounds great right?
The chickens are nearing 16 weeks old now and have been in the coop for about 10 weeks. Initially we bedded the coop down with pine shavings, dry leaves, and a little hay. I turned the bedding and added more frequently. We switched to straw when we started using it in the stalls. The bedding grew deeper and deeper, becoming more and more difficult to turn even for the chickens. It started to smell like ammonia.
The coop before its daily cleaning:
The straw, after turning, was nearing 18 inches high. The chickens would quickly compacted it down to a more manageable height.
Obviously the deep litter method was not working for us and it was time to do something about it. So we did.
These are 40lb bags of pelleted pine bedding. At $4.25/bag they end up being cheaper than straw which has increased in price to $6.50/bale. I put in 9 of the 15 bags (and would have been fine with 8) for our 8’x24′ coop. It smells so good.
After emptying the bags I used a snow shovel to spread the pellets into a fairly even layer around the coop. Then they were hosed down and left to expand. You can see the difference between the dry pellets in front and the soaked pellets in back.
The chickens, of course, were chickens and most would not go into the coop after such a drastic change. At 9pm I went to check on them to see if they were still out. I kind of expected to see all of them roosting on the gates or in the trees. They weren’t, they were inside the coop. Only a few had braved the new bedding and settled on the roosts. Where were the rest? Well, over a dozen chickens were crammed onto the tiny little pop door, which swings down into the coop and rests on a cinder block. Our Brahmas, Attila the Hen and Hilda, were roosting on the threshold of the pop door, a Hamburg pullet squeezed between them like a small child being embraced by a well-endowed aunt. I settled them all on roosts for the night.
The chickens have all accepted the bedding change and I am enjoying the ease of cleaning. I can simply scoop up the poop with a regular stall pick while leaving the clean bedding behind. It takes maybe 2 minutes to clean the coop now. Did I mention how good it smells?