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Truly no work, no smell chicken litter

 
Posts: 1
Location: Saint Louis, United States
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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?


 
Posts: 9
Location: Western Washington - 48.2°N, Zone 8a
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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 poop should 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.
 
pollinator
Posts: 158
Location: Western central Illinois, Zone 6a
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Kevin,
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.
 
Posts: 42
Location: Rome, Italy
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Hi!
I use dried sawdust/chips without spraying microbes. In future I count to spray JMS. Another idea is to pour LAB on the compost pile when I remove the sawdust/chips litter.

Actually, without turning it, I use the composted litter like compost for pots. If I have many I distribute it over the ground. I don't know how is the weather where you live, but raised beds are suggested if the ground where you farm is often damp. If you suffer of dry weather the raised bed won't be a good solution, check for sunken beds. This is just a suggestion for a family vegetable garden...if you go industrial don't waste time going for sunken beds!

Fabio
 
pollinator
Posts: 1560
Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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I use a slightly different method of handling floor litter, but it's along the same base ideas as KNF.

I use a modified deep litter system..... (My pen is outdoors, 10' by 30', is roofed, and houses up to 100 birds.)
The litter started out (when I first created the chicken pen) as layered grass clippings, compost, and a little dirt. Nowadays I add grass clippings daily for the hens to eat, plus I add a few shovelfuls of hot compost if I notice any odor (much like adding KNF imo's and formulas), although I almost never need to do that. Each morning I use a shovel (a manure fork would work) to heap up litter into piles running down the center of the pen. I will often sprinkle the hen's morning grain treat atop the piles. During the day the hens scratch the piles down, eating what they like and mixing up the rest up. I sometimes add various food waste from the farm's gardens to the litter for the girls to pick through, though their main food is a cooked slop.

I use this litter as one of my fertilizer sources for my gardens. I hot compost the litter before using because I sell or trade my excess vegetables. I feel it is safer to hot compost manures since my veggies leave this farm.
 
master pollinator
Posts: 8740
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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Has anybody tried dry clay with your mix? Whether you're using leaves or straw or whatever, I would think that a nice powdery dry clay would control smell and lock up nutrients. Remember what we're smelling is our nitrogen disappearing into the air.

I use dry clay for a five gallon bucket toilet that I use on job sites. Just a very light covering, cuts out the smell and it causes everything to dry up. I've seen this happen outside with chicken manure. If they poop in a dry dusty spot, the moisture is quickly wicked away.

It might be good to have a separate tray of dry clay for them to dust bath. Because you don't necessarily want them using their litter for that.
 
Posts: 79
Location: Winters, California
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I once went on a farm tour and the owners there had put a few inches of sand on the bottom of the run, and other material on top (don’t remember what - maybe straw?). They said the layer of sand wicked away moisture and kept the smell down enough that they never needed to muck out, just add bedding occasionally.
 
pollinator
Posts: 62
Location: Alekovo near Svishtov, Bulgaria
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I'm envious of the success of the original poster in generating the magic pooh.... but in our case, our free range birds don't spend enough time in the coop to do the work to this particular standard!  Our chooks come in at dusk, get up on the roost and don't come down until sunrise.  We don't have feed or water in the coop unless there are new hatchlings, not even when hens are setting 'cos they consistently come out to feed and drink during the day.

We use woodshavings on the floor and straw in nesting boxes / stuffed tyres for all our bird accommodations (geese, ducks, chickens).  I rake/toss the floor covering every few days, sweeten it with additional woodshavings and a few scoops of DE when necessary and for the past 3 years have only changed the bedding every 3-4 months, when it has built up into a good thick layer - so we do get excellent composting material which either goes onto the compost pile or directly onto fallow/over-wintering growing areas.

As an anecdote, we found by accident (when they escaped under their fence) that letting piglets root up the deep litter in the bird houses was absolutely the best way to loosen it up before cleaning!
 
Posts: 2
Location: Central WI
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Kevin Schaible wrote:
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?




Kevin,

I have a 5x7 coop doing the deep litter method as well.  A local woodworker has been providing me a couple garbage bags every few weeks which works out nicely.

Did you wait for this to break down, or just spread the litter as is??  I have woodchip-mulched (back to Eden method) raised beds.  They're doing okay right now, but i'd love to amend them with on-site nutrients rather than buying fertilizer/manure.

 
pioneer
Posts: 1158
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Nate Groshek wrote:
Kevin,

I have a 5x7 coop doing the deep litter method as well.  A local woodworker has been providing me a couple garbage bags every few weeks which works out nicely.

Did you wait for this to break down, or just spread the litter as is??  I have woodchip-mulched (back to Eden method) raised beds.  They're doing okay right now, but i'd love to amend them with on-site nutrients rather than buying fertilizer/manure.



I compost the litter before I use it on my B to E gardens, and then just add it to the top.
 
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Location: Pennsylvania, Dauphin County
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pollinator
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I started with chickens in 2014, deep litter from the beginning. After it got pretty deep, we did a clean out, maybe 2 years in. We composted the litter using the Berkeley method and top-dressed the soil under a fig tree with it a few weeks later. That year we got three harvests of figs, each almost the size of my fist.

I started with KNF towards the end of 2017, my chicken pen has become something of a soil fertility factory. Still no smell, but so much life to inoculate into the rest of the garden.
 
Posts: 77
Location: Hot, humid, sometimes hurricane drenched west central Florida
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Kevin Schaible wrote: 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?




Hell no I'm not but I'm going to start!! Holy wow and muchas gracias for posting all that for us.
I'm in Florida and all we have is sand so I feel your pain. I'm always looking for anything and everything that I can use to build soil, but so far I've only had mediocre results. I want my efforts to matter and yield healthy strong plants. I work way too hard for average results.
We have a lot of rain here, and plugging leaks and keeping the coop dry takes a lot of my attention. Consequently I use pelleted bedding and cat litter clay which keeps it dry and stink free. The problem is that this particular cat litter is nothing but clumped up diatomaceous earth and it kills every living thing, like worms. The litter has its own area because I can't compost it. It decomposes pretty quickly but I haven't tried throwing a plant or two in it to see if anything survives without worms and such. I sacrifice having compost for having a dry stink free coop I only have to clean every 3 months or so.
 
pollinator
Posts: 270
Location: Haiti
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My rabbit/chicken house is nearly finished, and I'll be doing something similar. I'm going to lay blocks around the inside of the dirt floor, and fill with local sand (which also has some clay in it). Then I'll put in a thin layer of sawdust and shavings along with a sprinkling of charcoal powder. Bunnies in suspended cages will shower poo, pee, and food scraps down to the chicks below them who will then scratch and poop and pee and do their chickeny thing. Whenever needed, I'll add more sawdust, and periodically, some more charcoal powder.

The house is 16x12, and we're only starting with 2 or 3 buns and 4 hens. But assuming all works out, we will likely expand fairly quickly (if the bunnies have their say!). I assume at the beginning we will be able to go almost a year before cleaning it out. Once it's at capacity, it will fill much faster.
 
Leslie Russell
Posts: 77
Location: Hot, humid, sometimes hurricane drenched west central Florida
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Priscilla Stilwell wrote:My rabbit/chicken house is nearly finished, and I'll be doing something similar. I'm going to lay blocks around the inside of the dirt floor, and fill with local sand (which also has some clay in it). Then I'll put in a thin layer of sawdust and shavings along with a sprinkling of charcoal powder. Bunnies in suspended cages will shower poo, pee, and food scraps down to the chicks below them who will then scratch and poop and pee and do their chickeny thing. Whenever needed, I'll add more sawdust, and periodically, some more charcoal powder.
Hi Priscilla, what is the charcoal powder for?
The house is 16x12, and we're only starting with 2 or 3 buns and 4 hens. But assuming all works out, we will likely expand fairly quickly (if the bunnies have their say!). I assume at the beginning we will be able to go almost a year before cleaning it out. Once it's at capacity, it will fill much faster.

 
Priscilla Stilwell
pollinator
Posts: 270
Location: Haiti
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Took me a minute to find the question . . . Haha

The charcoal powder is for several things. First, chickens apparently derive some nutritional benefit from it, because they seem to enjoy it. Also, they will "bathe" in it like dust or ash, which is apparently good for their skin.

Additionally, the charcoal helps to absorb odors and any toxins (not that there should be any, but you know, just in case), and it will then "charge" with all the poo and pee and benefit the soil even more when it comes out of there as lovely compost!
 
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