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Need Help with deep litter!

 
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Hello,
I recently learned about Korean Natural Farming and chickens.  I went thru the whole IMO/LAB process, and then set up a deep litter pen for my birds using the Dr. Cho method.

It's not working.

I see lots of poop, when I was told it would just "melt away".

After a month, it started to smell a bit.  Not bad, but a little.

On the FB KNF forum,  I was told that I didn't have enough bedding down (I'm using hemp hurd), even tho I followed Master Cho's plan exactly.  

What happens is, the poops dry out and turn into little grey rocks, but they don't break down.  The pen is covered and very dry.

Then, I was told it was too dry, and that it should be very slightly moist.  Now, I thought it was supposed to be dry???  So, I wet it, not a lot.  Just enough to make it very slightly damp.  Then, I added another inch of hemp on top.

This morning, I went down to check.  Looked OK, but when I gave it a little stir, I smelled ammonia!  I stirred the entire pen, and the smell dissipated.  I'm hoping it's because there was a "backlog" of fossilized poop in there.

I don't know what to do.  HELP!
 
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I feel your pain, Lori. Been there, done that. Can you get your hands on some raw biochar? I've stopped ammonification in its tracks more than once by throwing finely ground biochar over the litter and doing a very light stir of the material. Sometimes I'll repeat the process a couple of days later. Just make sure to wear a mask or respirator when working with dry and dusty biochar, because as wonderful as the stuff is you really do not want it in your lungs.
 
Laurel Finch
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I put down a layer of biochar when I started it!
 
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I know next to nothing about KNF, but I've raised chickens long enough to know a little about them.  As far as I'm concerned, moisture=bad in a coop.  Any moisture will do exactly what you experienced and immediately cause ammonia issues.  I use deep litter, but the chicken poop never composts.  I remove it once a year or so to a compost bin.  I too had dreams of just removing this wonderful compost from the coop and moving it straight to the garden.  Yeah.  

Like Phil said, adding a layer of charcoal will fix the ammonia issue in short order.  I am concerned that it will cause lung issues with my chickens so I only do it if absolutely necessary, and then I work it in somewhat as Phil said.  Your only options, in my mind, are to add lots more dry bedding or get some of the old stuff out asap.  The only chickens I've ever lost to disease or ill health was because of ammonia fumes causing respiratory problems.  I have a Woods open air coop now and have no issues at all, but that's for another thread.
 
Laurel Finch
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Trace Oswald wrote:I know next to nothing about KNF, but I've raised chickens long enough to know a little about them.  As far as I'm concerned, moisture=bad in a coop.



That's what I was taught.  Luckily, this is in the pen, not in their coop area.  They really only use the coop for egg laying.  They are outside most of the time in their covered, open-sided pen.  

I use deep litter, but the chicken poop never composts.



THANK YOU for saying this!!!  I was starting to feel like I was retarded or the world's worst chicken keeper!   I KNOW from experience that when I make compost in the bin, the bottom layers often just sit, never composting, because the moisture never gets down there.  I was amazed at just how much water it took to really get a compost pile going.  There's no way my 4 little Serama X bantams are going to make that much moisture.

 
Phil Stevens
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As a data point, I don't really do "deep" litter because the coop has a removable bottom tray and I clean it out on about a monthly schedule. I use dry wood shavings initially, sprinkle on the biochar at around two weeks, and then top up with more shavings and biochar if I think I can get away with it. What I end up scooping out is mostly broken down. The shavings are reduced to something more like sawdust, and there are very few manure chunks.

Most of the time, anyway. In summer and autumn things dry out a bit more and there's less decomposition, so the cleanout has more recognisable bits in it. In the depths of a wet winter, it's prone to excessive dampness so I add more biochar and replace more often. But I think putting the biochar on top is a key factor.
 
Laurel Finch
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Phil Stevens wrote:As a data point, I don't really do "deep" litter because the coop has a removable bottom tray and I clean it out on about a monthly schedule...  What I end up scooping out is mostly broken down.



Wow.  I have a setup like that for some of my quail, and it never breaks down as long as it's dry.

i went down today and sniffed, and the ammonia smell was gone.  I even gave it a good, deep stir, no smell.  I'm really hoping it was just an ammonia spike from all the poop that had collected.  It was dryer today.  I could feel just the slightest hint of moisture on my hand.  I added another inch of hemp, and the last of my biochar.  I also misted it with more LAB.

I guess I'll have to wait and see what happens?  

 
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