Do you want a clean, healthy, easy to care for duck or chicken coop and run? Then let me tell you about the deep litter method.
When my daughter first brought the ducklings home three years ago, we really knew nothing about raising ducks. After they had out grown their brooder, she bought a chicken coop and a dog kennel to put them in. They ate all the grass off the site very quickly, and since I had heard about the sand method, and all our ground is sand here in Florida, I figured that was all we needed. Boy was I wrong! Very soon we were over run with flies! My wonderful neighbors had agreed that I could keep the ducks, but they hadn’t agreed to a hoard of flies. We tried about every type of fly trap there was, and while they helped, nothing could keep up with them. So I had to do something quick. I did a little research and found The deep litter method.
The deep litter method is simply covering the floors and ground in the coop and run with the “litter” of your choice. Then as the chickens or ducks soil it, add another layer right on top. This keeps your birds out of their own waste, making a much cleaner and healthier environment. Then the lower layers compost right on the spot.
Let me count the ways! (or the why’s in this case)
First it is a good idea to do a through cleaning of your coop. Then add 2-4 inches of litter to all “floor” surfaces. I just take handfuls of hay and shake it, until all the floor/ground is covered and looks new. Then when it gets soiled, I add another layer to it. How long it takes to get soiled depends on how many birds you have and how big your area is. I have to add hay about once a week. While I was raising a batch of ducklings, and had several extra birds in the same area, I had to put down hay about twice a week.
Some people like to turn their litter before adding new. Others will throw out scratch to get the chickens to turn it for them. My ducks dig for worms and bugs and do a great job of keeping it turned for me. If it begins to smell, you will want to turn/stir it, as getting air incorporated with it will speed up the decomposition and cut down on the ammonia. As the litter and feces composts, the beneficial microbes multiply. This actually helps control pathogens and makes your flock healthier. Digging through the beneficial microbes is good for them, and helps them more easily fight off diseases such as coccidiosis.
Oooohh, this is one of the best parts. While this deep litter is getting deeper and deeper it is making one of the best composts for your garden. In the spring when you clean it out you will want to add it to your compost pile. The partially composted litter will really make your compost cook! But in the fall, you can put it right on/in the garden beds as you are putting them to bed for the winter. Then your garden will be enriched with wonderful nutrients for your next growing season. (here in south Florida, I reverse that as our growing seasons are backwards)
As compost decomposes it puts off heat. This will raise the temperature in your coop by about 10 degrees. But you will need to make sure your coop is well ventilated. Chickens are especially prone to respiratory diseases.
Using the Deep Litter Method your Chickens and Ducks will have a dry, fluffy, clean floor to enjoy. And it will provide some much needed natural protein in the earthworms it attracts. You will have a happier healthier flock. With a lot less maintenance, and far fewer flies. Plus wonderful compost! It’s a win win all the way around. Don’t your birds deserve the Deep Litter Method?
For more info about the deep litter method check out:
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Have A Ducky Day!