If you are new to chicken keeping you may not have heard of the Deep Litter Method, or you may have heard the term but not really understood what it was all about. The deep litter method is a great way to maintain your coop with minimal cleaning required. It will also keep your chickens warmer in the winter months. So since we only have a few weeks, or at most a couple of months, before the snow blows, it’s time to start building up your litter if you are interested in trying this method.
For us, the deep litter method “resets” in the spring. At some point after the last frost we do Spring Cleaning in our big coop. (Our tractor is too small for to use the deep litter method.) We pick a nice warm, sunny day to shovel out all the old shavings and compost them. Then we use the power washer to get rid of all traces of poo, spray the whole thing down with diluted Oxine (or bleach water) and let it all air dry. Then just put in about 3″ of fresh shavings.
Every week, we clean out below the roosts, move some of the used shavings from the floor to those areas, and then stir the remaining shavings with a rake. (Some chicken keepers using this method throw some scratch into the litter and let their chickens do the stirring.) Then if it is at all smelly, we toss some more shavings on top (1/2″ or less). Continue on this way throughout the year, and by the time it get’s cold the next fall you will have an 8″ or more layer of shavings in your coop. The thick layer of shavings will keep your chickens warmer than they would be otherwise. And you didn’t have to do any major cleaning of your coop all year long!
If you have a waterer inside your coop, or if you have a leaky roof, you might end up with some wet shavings occasionally. You do need to remove those. Wet shavings are bad for your chickens, promoting disease in the summer and frostbite in the winter. You can either discard these wet shavings, or lay them out on a tarp in the sunshine to dry and then place them back in the coop.
That’s all there is to it. So save yourself a little work, and have toasty warm chickens this winter!