Time to Winterize

Brrr…it has been getting colder with temps in the low 30’s.  Everyone on the farm can feel winter coming so it is time to prep the coop.

Deep Litter Method Over the years (and raising chickens in multiple states) we have come to enjoy the deep litter method for winterizing our coop. When our journey of raising chickens began we naively cleaned the coop too often and had frequent infestations of mites and lice.

Then one year in my Dr. Google research I stumbled across the Fresh Eggs Daily blog. We had just arrived in Nebraska with the onset of a very chilly negative digit winter and our temporary coop (horse stall) was cold and drafty. We quickly went to work using the DL method primarily for the warmth that was promised, and oh did it work beautifully!

Since that first trial run we have discovered things that we, and our chickens, seem to prefer. Namely a dirt floor and only using the method in the winter.

In our humble opinion dirt floors are needed for this method to help with the microbial level and healthy decomposition of bad bacteria. Why is this? When you don’t remove the waste, good microbes make their homes in the litter. These microbes eat and break down the feces and consume unhealthy bacteria. In this way we keep the good bacteria which in turn prevents infestations of lice and mites in our flock.

Step 1. Clean the coop. We do a thorough cleaning and add diatomaceous earth to the dirt floor. I let it rest for a day, stir, and rest again.

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Step 2. Add a layer pine shavings to the whole floor base. Depending on the site I’ve read others recommended anywhere from 6-12 inches of shavings. We use a 6-8 inch base. This year we have excitedly used pine shavings that the boys chipped themselves.  Oh! the coop smells like a Christmas tree forest. 🙂

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Step 3. Add a layer of straw.

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Step 4. Stir bedding every couple days and add new bedding.

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Step 5. In spring you will have a fantastic compost pile of nutrients for your garden

If done properly – and we have had a few mishaps – the coop smells earthy and clean, without the “fowl” smell of ammonia. Here are some tips from our good and bad experiences.

  1. Make sure your coop is well-ventilated. If you smell ammonia, than you have to start all over.
  2. Stir up the bedding every couple days
  3. Don’t use diatomaceous earth during the litter method process, this kills off the beneficial microbes. (we only use prior to, when cleaning the coop from a summer without the DL method)
  4. Keep layering clean bedding on top of old bedding.

Nematodes & Deep Litter:

Nematodes are ‘free-living’ organisms, living in soil, sea and freshwater. These organisms feed on bacteria, fungi, protozoans and even other nematodes, and play a very important role in nutrient cycling and release of nutrients for plant growth. Other nematodes attack insects, and help to control insect pests.

http://nematode.unl.edu/wormgen.htm

http://www.livingthecountrylife.com/gardening/all-about-nematodes—-the-good-ones/

Creating a natural, healthy environment in our coop has promoted continually egg laying and healthier eggs and chickens. Plus, it seems that they are just plain happier with a fluffy warm bed in the winter. 🙂

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