Update On the Deep Litter Method for Coop Cleaning and Maintenance

Hello Meyer Hatchery fans! It’s been 6 months since I wrote about my experience using the Deep Litter Method for maintaining my coop, so I thought it was time to give you an update on how the method is working out for me now that winter is happening here in central Ohio.

First, here’s a little background on my coop and flock size to give you a reference point. My coop is a lean-to style metal structure that was built onto the back of our existing barn. It measures 8 ft by 16 ft and currently houses 45 laying hens and 3 roosters. If you do the calculations (allowing 3-4 sq ft per chicken), I’m only supposed to house 32-43 chickens in a coop this size, but this is real life and you know how chicken math works. Plus, I work for a hatchery!

In spite of having this many chickens in this space, the Deep Litter Method has kept my chickens healthy and active, which is especially important in the winter months when they tend to spend more time inside. How does it keep them active? I discovered a trick that really helps me maintain the deep litter and gives the chickens some activity. At least every other day, I sprinkle scratch grains on top of the bedding. Then I either kick more used bedding from the floor on top of the grain or sprinkle fresh pine shavings on top. This buries the scratch grain just below the surface and makes the chickens scratch around in the bedding looking for the grain. The key to the deep litter method is a daily turning of what is essentially a compost pile. The chickens like to help with that turning. As more manure is added, more dry pine shavings must be added to absorb moisture and the nitrogen from the droppings. I’m currently topping the litter with shavings about 2 times a week.

Giving the chickens a scratch grain treat during the winter also provides them with some extra energy to stay warmer at night, which in turn helps keep the coop warmer. Warm enough, in fact, that I can keep the electric waterer turned off unless the temperature is dipping into the teens.

If you use the Deep Litter method for easier coop maintenance, tell us about it in the comments below. Also, follow us on our social media channels and use the hashtag #realcoops

17 comments

  • I have a large chicken coop (8 x 20 feet). I do deep litter in the chicken coop with raked leaves. The chickens scratch and dig and break the dried leaves into pieces. I put in at least 10 inches of leaf litter in the fall. It absorbs moisture and keeps the coop clean (although they spend time in the outdoor run as well). It goes into the compost pile in the spring! I believe it insulates and keeps the coop warmer.

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  • I have an 8×12′ coop attached to a 20×20′ covered run, 22 chickens (20 hens, 2 roosters, and getting more pullets from Meyer in June!!). I use the deep litter method inside the coop, using wood shavings from my neighbor’s sawmill. From spring to fall, my chickens free range in a very large fenced in area. During the winter in upstate NY, they spend most of their time in the run. So the only time they are in the coop is during laying and roosting at night. I have dropping boards under the roosts which are cleaned daily. Therefore, my litter has lasted almost 3 years! I do turn it and put some shavings on the droppings board every day, then add more shavings occasionally. It is absolutely the easiest method to use for coop maintenance. Oh, and the run has a sand floor which I clean daily.

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  • We started with chickens in April, 6 but well that number has grown to 14😊 (and increasing) but math was never my strong point. Anyway I started with pine shavings in deep litter method and it’s kept the coop clean and nice. Doesn’t smell, amazingly doesn’t draw flies (can’t figure that out) and is extremely easy to maintain. The girls do wind up kicking some of it out to their large run area but it’s fine. I just turn it daily and each spring and fall will remove and add all new. The run is 2” deep of dirt (that we can add to) which packs down but allows them to dig and dust bathe. I can easily rake it and anything, from coop or run is added to the compost pile so the girls are “giving back” for the veggie and flowers.

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  • I use pine shavings mostly & add dried leaves in the fall when they start collecting. I clean my coop totally out twice a year & inbetween I just add more pine shavings & turn it when it needs it. It has been working out for me for several years.

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  • Stephanie Murphy

    I like the idea of sprinkling scratch grains to encourage the chickens to turn the litter, but I have always been afraid this would attract mice since you are basically spreading feed all over the coop floor. Did you experience any rodent problems? BTW, I am a huge fan of the deep litter method! Pine pellets work for us.

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  • Back more than 70 years ago. I raised broilers. I hated cleaning that chicken house then, and would now, so I composted everything in place. Coffee grounds, sawdust, alfalfa leaves, wheat or barley or oat straw, leaves, etc. Anything organic worked great. I was told if I could smell ammonia, I needed more carbon, and that worked GREAT for me!

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  • Okay let me get this right. When you do the deep littler thing how often do you clean it. Once a month?

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    • Hi Debbie. Thanks for reading our blog. Traditionally, the deep litter method involves a once yearly spring clean out. Fresh litter is put down after the complete cleanup, and then additional litter is applied as often as needed to keep the ammonia buildup at bay. How often litter is added will depend on many variables; number of chickens, size of coop and ambient temperature to name a few.

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  • What is your flooring in your coop? I have a plywood floor, and it is polyurethaned but I have playgrade sand on the floor, as well as in their protected pen area. (We have too many predators to free range all day.) The sand has been great this summer, but in winter I do like wood chips in the coop. So how deep should the chips be on a wooden floor?

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    • Hi Liz. Thanks for reading! My coop floor is outdoor rates plywood. When doing the deep litter method, you will start with shaving about 3 inches deep. Then as the shavings mix with manure and begin to break down, I add more shavings to absorb the moisture and ammonia. I’ve had no issues with the plywood floor in the 8 years this coop has been in use. Hope this info is helpful.

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