We’ve discovered the perfect solution for keeping our chickens warm in winter, keeping their coop clean with minimal cleaning, and making compost. It’s called the deep litter method, and everyone should be doing it!
When it comes to homesteading, we’re about as easy going as you can get. Cleaning out the chicken coop every day and following around our darling little chickens with a pooper scooper is not my idea of fun. This system was made for people like us.
The basics of the deep litter method:
- First, clean out the coop completely
- Lay down at least 6 inches of clean litter (recommended litter below)
- Let the chickens poop all over it
- Turn the litter over once a week with a pitch fork to bury the poop and bring fresh bedding to the surface
- Continue to lay down fresh bedding so the depth always remains at least 6 inches
- Repeat, repeat, repeat
- The litter slowly breaks down over time to make compost
- Twice a year (spring and fall) clean out the coop, removing the newly made compost but leaving a one inch layer of litter so the microbes can integrate into the new fresh bedding.
- Start all over again!
When I say we stacked 6 inches of litter on the floor of the coop, I don’t mean cat litter. Never use cat litter in a chicken coop! Litter simply refers to the type of organic material that you lay down on the floor of the coop. Some people use wood shavings, some use leaves, and some use straw.
Types of litter used for our deep litter method:
Our litter is composed of any and all organic matter we could get our hands on.
-We used all of the leaves raked from our yard in Autumn. We also took bags of leaves from all over the neighborhood from unsuspecting neighbors (how nice of them to bag them up and leave them by the side of the road for us!)
-We put in random bales of straw that were used for Halloween decor and abandoned on the roadside. It’s even more fun to toss the whole straw bale in the coop and letting your chickens spread it around for you as they scratch through it for seeds.
-We also used piles and piles of cheap pine shavings from a saw mill.
Pros of the deep litter method:
- It’s Free/Cheap!
- Raking leaves is good exercise
- Creating quality compost is fast and easy
- You don’t have to clean the coop every week
- The litter absorbs most of the smell from chicken waste
- Scratching through the litter alleviates boredom for the chickens
Cons of the deep litter method:
- Chickens see giant piles of leaves and start laying their eggs where ever they feel like it. Ever searched for eggs in 12 inches of dry leaves? Why won’t you use your nest boxes, chickens?! Why??
- It’s a lot of work up front to rake and gather the leaves
- Your neighbors will think you’re insane when they see you stealing bags of leaves from their curb
- Leaf Mold + Allergies = miserable egg gathering
How many of you have successfully used the deep litter method? Do you use another method that works better? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!