Deep Litter Chicken Keeping | Deep Litter Composting

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What’s the Scoop on Deep Litter Chicken Keeping?

By Content Admin, 05/06/2020 - 4:43pm

Blog By Nikki Alvin-Smith


Eco-friendly compost created by your chickens from deep litter bedding in your coop is a marvelous method for recycling a high quality, sustainable product back to Mother Earth.

Expert on all things chicken, Lisa Steele of FreshEggsDaily.com, researched this interesting fact on the topic of the manure quality:

According to poultry expert and author, Harvey Ussery, "An absorptive litter at least several inches thick is almost magic stuff. [Researchers] Kennard and Chamberlin discovered in a number of critically important experiments in the early 1940s that “built up” litter (litter allowed to become more and more biologically active over time) not only provides sanitary decomposition of the droppings, but provides positive feeding benefits as well.

The microbes responsible for decomposition produce Vitamins B12 and K, which the chickens ingest as they find interesting things to eat in the mature litter. The experiments even demonstrated that biologically active litter compensates for deficiencies of key nutrients, including protein, in ways that are not fully understood."

Lisa explains,” As a further bonus, as in composting, beneficial microbes grow that actually help control pathogens, making your chickens less susceptible to diseases.”

You can read Lisa’s blog on the topic of the deep litter method HERE.

The idea of deep litter bedding, particularly during winter months, is a time-tested traditional form of husbandry. Not only does it save labor cleaning the coop, it also provides a source of heat during winter months.

Furthermore, it’s super simple to implement. Simply turn the soiled bedding from time to time then add a new layer. The chicken droppings decompose on the floor of the coop and, once Spring arrives, a full clean out will produce a bountiful supply of ready-to-use fertilizer. Deep litter is a gift that keeps on giving with highly nutritional benefits for growing healthy plants and vegetables. 

If you choose the deep litter chicken keeping method all year around, a bi-annual deep clean is best. Start by shoveling out the bulk of “old” compacted litter.  Then, after a quick sweep of the floor, add a fresh layer of bedding.

According to expert Lisa Steele, it’s best to start by covering the coop floor with about 6 inches of pine shavings as they are small and compost quickly. You can then scatter a thin layer of straw on top of the shavings and you’re done. 

NOTE: Do NOT to use diatomaceous earth. It kills the good microbes that complete the decomposition process and it is not a good component for garden soil.

“This is also a good time to check the exterior of the coop for loose screws, hinges, shingles, etc. and make any repairs necessary before winter,” suggests Lisa.

Before starting, consider the sturdiness of your chicken coop floor bearing in mind the extra weight of deep litter bedding. Horizon Structures chicken coops are more than strong enough to bear the weight of the deep litter/compost build up.  ALL Horizon Structures coop floors are 2” x 4” floor joists / 16” on center with a thick 5/8” LP flooring. It doesn’t hurt that the flooring also comes with a 10 year warranty!

Consider upgrading the floor of your coop with a washable epoxy coating. It’s a relatively inexpensive option that will make your annual/bi-annual deep clean much quicker and easier.  The epoxy coating also provides an extra layer of protection between the standard wood flooring and the chicken droppings and litter.

Designing your coop to accommodate the deep litter method is also important. The chicken door needs to be high enough to clear the additional deep litter and the nest boxes may need to be raised to ensure they are accessible to the chickens as the height of the floor increases with the increasing layers of litter.
These modifications can be made on most Horizon Structures coops except for the smallest models where the adjustments are not possible due to interior space constraints.

As more people flock to a homesteading lifestyle, Horizon Structures chicken coops are flying out the door. Whichever bedding method you use for your chickens, Horizon Structures can address your needs when it comes to coop design. 

Don’t forget there are many other variables in chicken coop plans you should consider. The size of the nesting boxes, the number of chickens, the coop’s level of built-in protection from predators and the aesthetic appeal of the coop all factor into your decisions. 

If you are a first-time chicken owner don’t be shy.  Reach out to Horizon’s friendly sales team and ask for some guidance. Whether it’s a supersize coop, a small urban- friendly coop or something in between, you’ll find it at Horizon Structures. 

Nikki Alvin Smith

Nikki Alvin-Smith is a seasoned freelance writer who loves to share her lifelong experience with everything horse, farm and travel. Her work has been printed in more than two hundred equestrian magazine titles worldwide and her published articles number in the thousands including travel and lifestyle press.

A Brit who has called New York home for more than 37 years, Nikki brings a unique perspective to her writing.

Her experience as an international level Grand Prix dressage competitor, coach and worldwide clinician, with a youth spent showjumping and foxhunting, provides lots of educational truths and fun moments to share with the reader. Additionally she has been a horse breeder/importer of Hanoverian, Dutch and Iberian horses for 25+ years.

Together with her husband Paul, also a Grand Prix dressage rider, she lives in the beautiful Catskill Mountains of New York and operates an organic hay farm and dressage yard. She is the proud mother of three children, Tristan, James and Chelsea (twins), and the latter two have kept with the horse riding as adults.