The one thing I always hated about keeping chickens was coop cleaning. It stunk, I needed to do it every couple of weeks, it was hard work since I had a 10 x 20 coop with several hundred chickens at the time.
I liked the idea of deep litter but the litter didn't work as well as I would have liked using the typical methods of trying to emulate the forest floor or compost pile in the coop. The biggest problem was the moisture that compost and the forest needs to break down manure. Moisture creates an anaerobic system that leads to ammonia buildup, manure buildup and cleaning or adding material on a regular basis.
I stumbled on Korean Natural Farming deep litter and tried it. During my initial research on this type of deep litter I found the KNF pig sites that talk about keeping it dry using things like sawdust and putting the bacteria and fungus to work to digest the manure. I didn't find much at the time on how to do it for chickens back then so I was winging it.
I used hardwood sawdust that was free from a local sawmill that was perfect. I had been racking my litter every few days for years and I continued to rake the litter especially under the roost. After a short while I noticed that the litter had dried out, turned gray, and I didn't see any manure even under the roost. There wasn't any ammonia smell either.
That was back in 2015 and I haven't had to clean my coop since. I have converted a couple of coops locally but it took me doing all the work for them to convert. They both love it now but wouldn't have converted on their own. The stumbling block seems to be starting the process. Folks would rather clean the coop periodically than to switch over and never clean again.
The last few years I have dabbled with using the litter on my garden with fantastic results. The first year I put some on a raised bed in October and planted like I always did in the spring. I live in Missouri and our rocky clay soil is horrible. I had it tested and the report said the soil was deficient for planting in almost every way. I planted from seed and in my tomatoes I saw these leaves that were not like tomato leaves, they were huge and I assumed they were weeds. After pulling a few I noticed they looked like tomatoes but enormous tomato plants. I let them go and didn't add anything else to the soil. The plants grew like weeds and I even got a leaf that was 11 inches long. I couldn't believe how big the plants were. I had a farm hand at the time that didn't know how to shut a gate and the goats got in and ate all the leaves off the tomatoes twice and really crippled the plants.
Last year I decided to see what would happen if I put a half cup of litter in the ground at planting. I used walmart plants that were about 6 inches high with the magic chicken poo. My brother in law planted a garden and challenged me to a tomato grow off. We tracked our progress every friday. After the first 2 weeks my plants averaged 1 foot of growth per week. They quickly outgrew the cages and at 8 weeks were taken out by a storm. I still got a few 5 gallon buckets of tomatoes from the twisted plants but they clearly didn't reach their potential. My rhubarb hadn't done anything so I put some magic poo on that too. I had a leaf that was 5 feet long. The leaves were dark green and huge. My corn grew 3 stalks out of every seed along with most of them having 3 ears as well. My cilantro went to bolted and went to seed almost immediately after planting. The plants were about 3 feet tall. The cilantro re-seeded itself and started growing in november. It was about 5 inches high during superbowl weekend. By the first of may it was about 38 inches tall and went to seed again.
This year I just planted again and hope to have a well documented account of my garden again. Is anyone else doing this kind of stuff with chicken litter?
I don't have a convenient source of hardwood sawdust, but do you think hardwood pellets would work? They don't have any binders and the moisture in the poopshould break them apart. My only concern would be the chickens picking them up as feed...but I can't imagine them doing too much of that.
"Draw your own conclusions, but draw them in pencil so you can change them again later."
-- Douglas Black
I'm about 2 hours north of you and started with chickens last year. I used the litter from the brooder/coop as mulch on my small corn plots and planted them 4 rows wide on an offset 9"x9" spacing. All the seed planting guides, and my industrial farming in-laws told me it was too close and the chicken litter needed to be composted. I've never had corn grow so well. I'm planning to do it again this year. We also have llamas and they poop pellets like rabbits. That stuff is amazing as well.
Not all those who wander are lost - J. R. R. Tolkien
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