Deep Litter Beds
All our chicken coops come equipped with a deep litter bed. The entire deep litter system is made with food safe USDA, FDA, and NFS-approved high density polyethylene. (HDPE) The deep litter system allows you to only have to clean out your henhouse just once a year!
The “Old Timers” will swear by this method and it was proven to work back in war days when the men went off to fight and the women were left to tend everything. The chicken coop was not a high priority to clean out, but the goal was to simply keep it habitable. Instead of cleaning out the henhouses, they would cover the floors with fresh substrate (organic matter) to get by until they could do a thorough clean out. Over time, they realized that there was no pungent smell, the hens were healthy, it was a natural heat source in the winter, and the heap on the floor had composted into a nutrient-rich fertilizer ready for the garden. That’s how the deep litter method was born and it’s still widely used today.
While dirt floors are great for the deep litter method (DL), it can be done on almost any solid surface at all. Wood will naturally absorb and wick away any moisture from the DL, which is what you don’t want. Composting needs some moisture to process as it does. The wood will also deteriorate slowly from this moisture. This is why we use HDPE, it keeps moisture in the DL, it will not rot from moisture, it is extremely easy to clean, and it is food safe!
The Deep Litter Method starts with a good layer of pine shavings or we LOVE industrial hemp fibers. Instead of cleaning it all out every week or so and replacing it when the poop accumulates, one simply stirs up the bedding a bit with a light rake and tosses another layer of bedding on top once a week or so.
“Ewwww! Doesn’t that stink?”
Nope – not if it’s done properly (and not if your chickens are healthy).
By not removing the waste, good microbes come and make their homes in the litter. These microbes actually eat and break down the feces and consume unhealthy bacteria, leaving good bacteria behind. The microbes also help prevent infestations of lice and mites in your flock. (They won’t clean off a bird already infested — use wood ash on infested birds — but can help prevent new infestations from occurring.)
Most people will clean out their deep litter coops once a year… being careful to leave a 1 – 2 inch layer of the old stuff behind. This helps the new stuff begin to break down and compost too – and that’s what you want.
And what do you get when you clean that year’s worth of chicken stuff and bedding out in the early spring? You get the perfect compost and mulch for your garden.
Surprisingly your coop will smell more earthy and natural. If done properly in a well-ventilated coop, there should be no ammonia or “fowl” smell.
- Stir up the bedding to break up any clumps every so often.
- Don’t ever use diatomaceous earth (DE) or any other chemical insecticide in the coop bedding! This will kill off the beneficial microbes and nematodes.
- Remember: the beneficial microbes can help prevent infestations of mites and lice in your flock.
- Keep layering clean bedding on top of the old bedding.
- Clean out most (but not all) of the bedding once a year or every other year, depending on your flock – most do this in early spring and use the compost in their gardens.