Chicken Poop Control – The Deep Litter Method

Chicken Poop Control – The Deep Litter Method

While gathering the flock into the coop tonight I pondered on if I was doing the right thing by using the DLM or Deep Litter Method to control the mounting pile of poop in the chicken coop. Yep!

In case you don’t know…

The Deep Litter Method is not only a good way to keep the chicken coop smelling (fairly) sweet, it also gives you a head start on your garden compost pile. You’ll have plenty of partially decayed, nitrogen rich compost for your veggies and flowers in the spring by following the directions I’m about to give you.

Here’s What Ya Do

  • I always start by cleaning the hen house in the fall. Then I put a 4-6 inch layer of straw, wood shavings or hay on the floor. The chickens will do most of the work, by scratching and moving the material around on the floor, especially if you throw some scratch down for them to find from time to time. They are great little composters.
  • Each week add another layer of bedding. You can stir the litter up with a rake to keep the poop from clumping up, especially under the roost area. If done correctly, there will be virtually no offensive smell in the coop, and the litter only needs to be completely removed once or twice a year. If the coop is kept dry, the litter remains dry, as does the flooring beneath it.
  • Besides the time savings, the deep litter method is reported to help control coccidiosis, reduce aggression and supports chicken health by producing vitamin B12. Always make sure your coop is not too tight so excess ammonia is ventilated out.
  • When I have about 12 inches of litter on the floor, I usually scoop it up (not fun, but good exercise) and put it on the compost pile to use as fertilizer for the garden and my flowers. The high nitrogen in the chicken poop makes the compost pile cook down real fast.
  • This method of coop poop management works best when you have a dirt floor in the hen house. If you have a wooden floor or a concrete floor like we do, you can still use this method, but the litter will need to compost on the pile a little longer before using on the garden.

Benefits of the Deep Litter Method

Less stink inside the hen house. (and that’s a good thing.)

You only have to clean out the chicken coop once or twice a year.

The litter creates warmth for the birds during the winter as it composts in the coop.

Why I like the Deep Litter Method

I like using the DLM for several reasons. It only takes me about 10 minutes each day to do chicken coop duty.

The daily coop cleaning duty consists of scraping all poop off the top of nest boxes and roosts, sprinkling new litter on the coop floor as required, filling feeders and changing out water. All the while being cautious of stepping in a fresh little pile of chicken poop in the aisle and landing on your keester. Every day is full of fun here.

What I don’t like so much is the coop spring and fall cleaning. It’s not fast, easy or fun. It’ll take several hours to clean the coop, which involves shoveling out about two feet of poop encrusted litter.

But…  with each scoop full of poop, I reminded myself that this one day of pain makes the daily coop poop management more tolerable the other 364 days of the year. And you’ll be amazed to see that once all the litter is removed, the floor beneath it is perfectly dry and clean.

The Coop Poop Pile

You’ll end up with a mountain of poop and litter to compost down. If you add water or Chicken Poop Tea to the pile it will start smoking in no time. For the next several months you can also add straw, grass cuttings, kitchen scraps, more chicken poop and water to this pile, and next spring you’ll have a beautiful pile of compost for your garden.

Chicken Poop Tea will really help keep the compost pile hot. To make the tea, just fill a couple of buckets half full of water and then add in the poop you scoop each day until the buckets are full. You can stir them frequently, while holding your nose, and make sure to keep the buckets covered with a loosely fitting lid.

Chicken poop is extremely strong and will kill plants if applied directly to them without allowing the poop to age and compost.

The rule of thumb is:

If you can recognized the shape of the poop, it’s probably too “hot” to apply to plants. Allow the chicken poop pile to break down completely and NEVER apply Chicken Poop Tea directly on plants or the ground where they are planted. It’s just too strong, but it works great to speed composting in compost piles.

Hope you enjoyed learning the basics of coop poop management with the Deep Litter Method. Please comment below and share your ideas.

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4 Responses to “Chicken Poop Control – The Deep Litter Method”

  1. Love this site, Carol. Do you ever use food grade (this is important) diatamaceous earth (DE) in your coops and chicken food. It’s loaded with minerals and also kills parasites internally as well as fleas, ticks and lice externally. It also kills odours…a win all round!

  2. admin says:

    Sure do Deborah. It’s a great organic way to keep pests off the chickens and the coop and runs nice and clean. They love it.

  3. H says:

    Tried this and it was working the first day. I put in some hay and thats it. I seen some stink bugs in it too. So this will keep them going. The chickens went crazy and started scratching. They didn’t do this before in the regualar old dirt. They seeemed energized and happy. I am glad to report there was no smell before the hay and it seemed to smell better after. Sort of like a green smell. Can’t wait for the compost. Thanks again for this post. I had been wondering what to do with this dirt floor.

  4. Joy says:

    Great info! I just got my little flock of 5 heritage birds started 2 weeks ago. I had already decided to do the DLM. I can easily do the daily chores, and once or twice a year my large sons can do the major cleaning. Good advice about turning the poopy straw into good compost eventually. My girls just love scratching and turning all the straw looking for the little goodies I toss in from time to time–sunflower seeds, grapes, corn, etc.). If even an old lady like me, living in a mid-size city, can do this–so can you! Nothing like a fresh egg, warm from the nest, in the morning.

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  1. How to Care For Laying Hens - [...] use the “deep litter” method in the hen house and have never had a problem with flies or odor. ...

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