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Posted on Mon, Jul 5, 2010 : 7:27 a.m.

Backyard Chickens: the deep litter method

By Corinna Borden

Borden - chicken coop with dirty litter

The litter has accumulated in the corners of the coop to almost a foot.

Corinna Borden | Contributor

In one of my first chicken posts I mentioned the book I “borrowed” from my grandparents, Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening: A complete guide to gardening without DDT or other poisons or chemicals edited by J.I. Rodale (published in 1969). There is a section on poultry. I took their litter advice for our girls: “A practice that makes healthier and more productive chickens in deep litter, sometimes called built up litter. Simply let the little accumulate instead of cleaning out the poultry house every couple of weeks. Biological activity in the litter, just as in the compost heat, produces huge amounts of rich food.”

Wait. Not cleaning out the litter from the coop on a weekly basis, me being lazy, is good for the girls? This seemed to good to be true! The section continues.

Borden - chicken coop with clean litter

A fresh layer of sawdust over the flat floor of the coop - a good opportunity to remember the floor is flat.

Corinna Borden | Contributor

“Litter-reared chickens need no expensive animal proteins or mineral supplements, and if pastured or given ample feed in addition will need to vitamin A or D supplements. Antibiotics are also produced - litter-raised poultry is remarkably free from disease.”

Wow. What a huge gift. It is healthier for the girls to live around microorganisms in their litter. And yet, summertime is for cleaning.

The Augean stables it was not, but there was about 10 inches of accumulated litter to be transferred onto the compost pile. Last August, we put pine chips 2 inches deep. Over the course of the year we added handfuls of pine chips and cedar chips. The cedar chips smell nice; yet we found cedar stains the outside of the egg, so it is better to avoid cedar where the girls are laying.

I don’t know if they care one way or another, but I love the fresh yellow and the smell of the new sawdust - should last about another week.

Corinna volunteers with the Westside Farmers Market and wrote a book about many things.



Tue, Jul 6, 2010 : 5:07 p.m.

I became fed up with work, took an early retirement, and sat back to watch the hens. I began my flock with hand-me-down hens from my sister. I knew nothing about raising them, just began gathering info, going to classes through 4-H and the county extension. I am pleased to see you gained knowledge through a book from 1969; my resource book was my grandparents', printed in 1909.

Jennifer Shikes Haines

Mon, Jul 5, 2010 : 6:40 p.m.

I've loved the chicken articles - I'm not in a chicken-friendly township, but it's making me less daunted about raising them some day. Your enthusiasm for your "girls" has been wonderful!