I can’t believe it- but as of this spring I’ve been keeping chickens for eggs for 8 years!
Living in Maine, I’ve discussed keeping chickens in extreme temperatures and weather conditions, like winds so fierce they blow your coop over. Three separate times.
Since the beginning, we’ve used Deep Litter Method for our henhouse. And in this blog I’m just going to talk about why and tell people how we do it.
As for why-
1. when temps dip into the -30 range because winds are whipping everything around including power lines, you cannot rely on the power to stay consistent. We don’t ever lose power for long, but it does flicker a lot because of those high winds. If we we’re to rely on a coop heater to keep our chickens warm, when the power went out, they’d wouldn’t be able to get used to the tempt change in time and they will freeze to death. besides the fact that they cause fires every year that kill not only flocks, but sometimes whole families. So a heater is a big no no- I already feel nauseous at the heated water buckets, ever since I found one that HAD LIT ITSELF ON FIRE AND THEN DOUSED ITSELF WITH ITS OWN WATER. So this is the most efficient way to help heat the coop naturally.
2. It makes great compost. Seriously. And we are serious about compost around here. It’s a bit high in nitrogen so it should be either buried and allowed to slow release in a large area OR composted for at least one year. We do both and have great luck.
3. It’s easy to maintain with very little daily work- seriously. I go in every morning and flip the shavings around. It’s approximately 1 minute of physical labor.
4. I only have to “clean the coop” twice a year. And I know a lot of chicken tenders that do it less often. I just happen to really want the compost.
Now for the how-
1. I use a mix of pine shavings and spent hay (the rough end bits the alpacas don’t like to eat) from the alpacas. I just think it smells nicer then one way or the other. Plenty of people use straw, hay or pine shavings exclusively.
2. I add extra bedding whenever it smells “off” and mix it in really well. I would describe off as any smell that is strongly not your bedding or normal chicken fluff.
3. When I clean it out (usually April and September) I clean it ALL the way out. I spray everything down vinegar spray and let it air out for a hour or so. Then I put everything back together, throw in a new bag of shavings and some new hay and make sure to mix themin together.
4. I mix them EVERYDAY. This is a seriously important part. If you don’t take that minute to mix them up with the Pooh, the chicken manure just rests on top and becomes its own layer. It doesn’t break down and you end up with ammonia problems which can cause respiratory distress in your flock.
5. I don’t put water in the coop unless we’re having such extreme winds that I fear letting the chickens outside for the day. This doesn’t happen very often, and I always try to put the waterer somewhere where it can’t get tipped over. It almost always spills some water. I try to get out the wet shavings and proceed as usual.
So that’s about all I have to say on that- I’d love to hear from anyone else!
Until next time, have a wicked good day!