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Deep Litter Questions...

 
William Bronson
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I am finishing my coop/run, which will have deep litter over it's entirety.
But ,I keep reading, and that reading has raised some more questions.
First, some question using it during the summer, saying the decomposition adds heat where it is detrimental.
Is it safe to use it during the summer?

Second, what is highest use for the bedding when you do remove it?
Add it the compost pile, vermicompost with worms or BSF, compost tea,anaerobic bio-digestion,make it into biochar, or apply it as  mulch, or something else?

Third question is about including logs in the enclosure.
Clearly they will poop on them, as well as the bedding.
I want to include the logs as a source for bugs as they decay.
Will that poop cause a problem with this?
Will it stink ? If so,what  if I bury the logs in the bedding?
 
Nicole Alderman
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I'm no expert--I had no idea about the bedding getting too hot--but hopefully my response will BUMP your thread and get someone more knowledgeable to post .

I've been doing deep litter for 2 years in my duck house. I live in the pacific northwest, so it really doesn't get too hot here, and my duck house is well-ventilated and shaded and so I've never noticed it getting too warm in there. The ducks often go there for shade. I've never noticed the bedding steaming or getting too hot. It dries out, but that's about it (I have ducks, which are wetter than chickens as they splash and have more liquid poops. The bedding is usually moist under the top layer even during the summer). I'm thinking, but I really don't know, that if your bedding was getting to hot/steamy, you could cool it down by adding some more bedding. But, I really don't know. Hopefully someone else does!

As for how I use it, I haven't put much effort into it. I just steal some from the duck house whenever I need to mulch around fruit trees, or build up garden bed. I do have some in an old recycling bin that I'm composting/aging, mostly so that I don't have to worry about salmonella/listeria when I top dress herbivorous food plants with it. I'd like to compost all of it so I can use it on more herbivorous plants, especially as mulch, but I haven't had the time to set up a system. So, I just use it as mulch around fruit trees or on my blackberries/raspberries during the winter (the cane fruits LOVE the bedding), or use it to create/build up beds. I've also used it successfully as mulch over covercrop seeds such as buckwheat and daikon radishes that I do not plan on eating. I throw down the seeds, scoop some bedding from the house, sprinkle bedding on top of the seeds, and then water. The plants sprout and grow fine, and I didn't have to poke the seeds into the soil or till the soil, etc. I have to assume that, even if it's not composted completely, the carbon in the pine shavings balances the nitrogen in the duck poop pretty well. The only plants that did not like bedding straight from the duck house were my blueberries and huckleberries--they don't like much nitrogen and got nitrogen burnt by the application of non-composted bedding.

I'm thinking that the logs in your chicken coop/run won't stink too much. My ducks poop on the bricks in their house. It gets a tad stinky, but there's air flow and it mostly just sort of dries out. Every so often, I pry the poop off with my pitchfork and add it to the bedding. As long as the poop moves around and there's good ventilation, I wouldn't think it would go anaerobic on you. And, since you're keeping chickens and not ducks, the chickens will supposedly scratch and turn the bedding, so the poop probably won't stay on the logs long enough to stink as the chickens will scratch it off. I only have one chicken, and have yet to notice her doing much of the bedding turning, as she prefers to roam about my property, so I really can't definitively say that they will keep the poop moving for you. But, even if they don't, you can always come by once a week with a pitchfork or other tool and scrape most of it off and turn it into the bedding.

Hopefully someone with more experience and/or knowledge in composting (and chickens!) will come by and comment, as many of your questions go into the science of composting that I really haven't taken the time to grasp fully. I added your thread to the composting forum in hopes of someone there spotting it.
 
Abbey Battle
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My hens don't like sitting on their logs so they don't get pooped on.
I have a small gap around the floor of the coup to allow  for cooling and ventilation. The coup is also in the shade. (fence and trees). It's slightly over size. The chooks don't spend much time in the coup, they are normally in the run which has a lot of shade from trees both within and without.
I think chooks like warmer climes than where I am, so my main worry was of them being too cold, not too warm.

Having said that, I am a novice.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Keep in mind that it is the urea that causes heating of a deep litter system and it is what created stench as well.

In the coop, remove the top layer weekly and spread it ontop of the run's deep litter. Problem solved.

The other option is to keep the DL to the run and use something else inside the coop. Many seem to like sand for that.

We use DL inside and out but every week I pull the top few inches from the coop and put it outdoors.
Twice a year I pull the run litter and spread it over the garden beds. No need to compost it anymore, the chooks have done that already.
 
Nicole Alderman
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:
Twice a year I pull the run litter and spread it over the garden beds. No need to compost it anymore, the chooks have done that already.


I just thought I'd mention, that while the bedding is composted enough to apply without danger to plants at that stage, there is some fresh manure in there. Which, if one is worried/concerned about Salmonella or Listeria, can prove a problem, as it can contaminate plants. But, if it's applied in the fall and can age over the winter without touching (or being able to splash up onto) edible parts of plants, there shouldn't be any needs to worry about Salmonella or Listeria on your food.

I tend to apply my bedding either in the fall/winter for my garden beds, or limit it's application to fruit trees and raspberries/etc where the poop won't splash up on the food.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Great point Nicole,

I just noticed that I totally failed to mention that the litter goes onto not in use beds.
That allows the litter plenty of time to incorporate and our beds are full of hyphae of mycorrhizal fungi as well as lots of bacteria species.
 
William Bronson
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Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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Thanks for the feedback,today the the girls arrived,so in the spring, the beds will be fed!
 
Shad Qudsi
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Check out this video on how to design and manage a real deep bedding composting chicken house. 
 
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