aka How I Learned to Make Deep Litter Work for Me.
Last summer, I made the discovery of a chicken keeping practice known as Deep Litter. The idea is to keep about 3-5 inches of your preferred bedding on the floor of your coop, cleaning it out every so many months, as opposed to every day.
The chickens are supposed to help, by scratching and pawing in the bedding, turning it with their feet in search of bugs, food, etc, and causing the bedding to aerate.
The bedding, in turn, slowly decomposes and breaks down over time, and by the time you give it a good deep cleaning and fresh litter, the old has become the right consistency for garden compost.
Or so all the websites I researched told me.
Sadly, all last winter and summer, I failed to see evidence that my chickens were doing any of this turning and scratching. If anything, they walked on it and compacted it, leaving me to do all the hard work myself.
That is… until last week when I got tired of turning the bedding with my trusty bedding fork and decided to – gasp – leave the bedding I had just turned in two big piles in the middle of the coop.
I came back later that night and the piles were gone.
Why? Because as any chicken person can tell you – chickens LOVE piles. Dirt, leaves, grass, compost…. whatever kind of pile you have, your chickens will find them and play in them.
By the time I came back to do my last egg-check and lock up for the night, they had it all spread back into place. I’ll leave them more piles in a couple of days, and they’ll have something to keep them busy for a little while.
Overall, it makes for a good winter boredom-buster, too, if you think about it!
I’m still learning, but I like it. It’s less work for me. When I first started, I was cleaning the coop every day, sometimes for more than 2 hours at a time, and it was tedious. Deep litter put a stop to that. Now, I just clean off the roosts and the droppings board, and the occasional poop in the laying beds. Max time – IF I don’t stop and play with the chickens – half hour to do everything. That’s quite a jump from 1-2 hours. Although, let’s face it. I do play with the chickens while I work. It’s how I roll.