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Expert tips and tricks for backyard chicken keeping

How to implement the deep litter method

How to..

If you’re not familiar with it, the deep litter method is a brilliant old-timers method to manage your coop litter through the winter. By adding subsequent layers of litter, and turning the layers frequently, you’re allowing biological microbes to break down the chicken manure and organic material to create a wonderful compost. Heat is created in the process, just like in the compost pile, which will help to keep your chickens warm all winter long.

It’s easy, economical, and results in beautifully composted chicken manure and bedding for your garden come spring.

  1. First, clean out the coop completely
  2. Lay down at least 5-10cm of clean litter
  3. Let the chickens poop all over it
  4. Turn the litter over once a week with a pitchfork to bury the poop and bring fresh bedding to the surface
  5. Continue to lay down fresh bedding so the depth always remains at least 5cm
  6. Repeat, repeat and repeat
  7. The litter slowly breaks down over time to make compost
  8. Twice a year (spring and autumn) clean out the coop, removing the newly made compost but leaving a 5cm layer of the litter so the microbes can integrate into the new fresh bedding.
  9. Start all over again!

Advantages of the Deep Litter Method

  1. Reduced Waste: One of the most apparent benefits of the deep litter method is the reduction of waste. Instead of discarding bedding frequently, the litter accumulates and undergoes a natural composting process. This not only minimises waste generation but also eliminates the need for constant bedding replacement.
  2. Enhanced Nutrient Cycling: The composting process that takes place within the deep litter bedding generates heat, aiding in the breakdown of organic materials. As this decomposition occurs, nutrients are released into the bedding material, enriching it and creating a valuable resource that can be used to fertilise gardens or fields.
  3. Temperature Regulation: The layer of accumulating bedding provides insulation and helps regulate the temperature within the housing area. This is particularly important in colder months, as the composting process generates heat that keeps the animals warm.
  4. Reduced Odour and Ammonia Levels: Properly managed deep litter systems tend to have lower odour and ammonia levels compared to traditional bedding systems. The composting process helps neutralise ammonia, creating a healthier environment for both animals and caretakers.
  5. Labor and Cost Savings: Adopting the deep litter method can lead to significant savings in terms of labor and bedding costs. With less frequent bedding changes, caretakers can spend more time on other productive activities, and bedding material expenses are reduced as well.

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