Sunday, August 4, 2013

Chicken poop - deep litter method and poop boards

What to do with poop? Ah, the age old question.  The three birds I plan on having should generate about 2-5 pounds of poop a week. . That's about 260 lbs of poop a year.  For comparison, a 60 lb  Labrador retriever will poop about 410 lbs or a 20 lb pug will poop 136 lbs per year.  So the amount for a small number of hens the poop should be no worse than a dog and should be manageable.  This doesn't take into account soiled bedding though.

From research, the easiest method seems to be a combination of poop boards and the deep litter method.  Poop boards are boards that are put under the chicken's roosts, that's where they're most likely to poop, so the poop can be cleaned off to be disposed of or composted.  This way the bedding stays cleaner.  Some people have litter box type arrangements with boxes full of sweet PDZ (a horse stall refresher) which is supposed to make it not stink much.

The deep litter method is a method where only have to clean out your hen house a few times a year and it doesn't smell.  (Not offending my nose or my neighbor's is one of my goals.)  You start with a clean coop.  You put 6" of pine shavings in the coop.  This is where methods diverge.  Some recommend food / livestock grade Diatomaceous Earth.  If your coop has a dirt floor, then the shavings start to compost.  You turn the chips or let the chickens do it.  When it starts to smell or get too dirty, you throw more shavings on top.  When you clean out your coop, you have compost at the bottom.  

The second method is what I'll end up using.  I'll probably need to build a raised coop because I'm on top of clay and I'm concerned about predators.   It will also let me use the areas under the coop as run space.  Since the shavings aren't on top of dirt, they won't actually compost.  It's pretty much the same as the first method, you just don't end up with compost.  You put new layers of shavings on top of old.  You also sprinkle with sweet pdz.  Since this isn't actually composting, you do not get the heat benefit you would from the first method.  The shavings will insulate the floor, just not add heat.

One thing that seems to be true about deep litter is that you need plenty of room for your hens in your hen house.  The less square footage per bird, the less well it works. Four square feet per bird, and it works, two square feet and it doesn't work so well.

I haven't decided if I want to compost the chicken poop or not.  I might in the fall, just throw it on the garden and let it compost over the winter.

Here's some other links about the deep litter method:

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