Since the last time I mentioned our deep litter chicken bedding we’ve expanded our layer flock a little bit. We went from 50 hens to somewhere around 200 for this winter. This change of scale poses some interesting problems for our attempts at deep litter bedding.
Last winter we discovered that it takes a lot more bedding to deep-litter a growing flock of chickens. We didn’t manage to add enough bedding through last years brutal winter, and the bedding was not much fun to clean out in the spring.
We’ve made a few changes to the process this year.
The first change is more bedding. We managed to get ahead of the game and lay in a supply of straw this summer, which is just the ticket to keeping chickens happy. It takes quite a bit of straw to keep a coop of 200 chickens from making an absolute mess of things. I’m currently putting about 4 small square bales of straw in the coop every 2 weeks or so. I have to put more on when it’s above freezing as liquids melt and need more straw to be absorbed. Wetter conditions could also call for more absorbent (but more expensive) wood chips.
It’s already much better than last year. No ammonia odor so far, and in the areas where the litter is thick, it’s quite spongy to stand on.
I am planning ahead a bit this year and broadcasting a fair bit of corn throughout the coop when I add new straw to the bedding pack. The chickens eat some of the corn as they scratch around in the new straw, but they miss some which will become incentive for the pigs to turn all the composted litter for me in the spring.
Current plans are to construct an egg-mobile in the spring, move the chickens into said egg-mobile, and let the pigs into the chicken coop for a week or so to get the cleanup started.