Chickens Love Piles 

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.

img_1472
This morning’s bedding piles.
img_1479
Pip and some of the girls checking things out.

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!

The Chicken Chick has an awesome Deep Litter post, here, that explains more about the Do’s and Don’ts than I ever could.  

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.

 

Chicken Apocalypse 

Yesterday started the process of spring cleaning in our chicken coop, as well as moving the Littles over to the ‘grow up coop.’ 

Or, as the hens have dubbed it – the Chicken Apocalypse 2016. 

Yes, dear readers, I cleaned a winter’s worth of deep litter bedding out of the coop, swept down the window ledges, put all fresh bedding in the laying beds and hung up clean curtains.  

   
    

It looks nice, doesn’t it?  I trimmed the curtains a little bit so they didn’t over-hang too much.  

Yes, I went with cloth and not shower curtains, by the way.  Probably a good thing, too, for reasons I did NOT foresee.  

  
The hens flipped out! Like, total end of the world, the sky is falling level panic.  

I’m not sure how they are feeling about it today, but if I stop getting eggs, it will because they are protesting the changes.

And while the girls were debating if the coop was safe to lay eggs in yesterday, I was bringing some of the Littles over to the split half. The Grow Up coop.  They will stay there until we’re ready to integrate, sometime this summer. 

   
   
I moved nine of our eighteen chicks over yesterday and few more today.  They looked so BIG in the brooder but in the grow up coop, they look so small.

 

This morning, one of the hens finally got over the shock of new bedding and curtains long enough to look through the door and see what was in there.  

One of the Australorps stared back at her and she ran back outside!  

Then she came back in and stared some more.  Clearly, this is too much change for one lifetime.  What was I thinking?

Oh yeah, that the coop needed cleaning and my babies were getting too big for the brooder.  They looked like feathered sardines! 

There are three chicks still in the brooder.  They still have too much down to leave the lamp.  They’ll be exactly 6 weeks tomorrow but I don’t think they are ready just yet.  I will simply keep checking in them every day and see where it goes.