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deep bedding for chickens in winter

 
paul wheaton
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Monica of At Wits End Homestead in Victor, Montana (a bit south of Missoula) talks about her deep bedding system for her chickens.  Her chicken coop uses chopped up used christmas trees

She also talks about her experiments with deep bedding.  Originally she used leaves and then she tried wood shavings/chips.    But she found she was having to put down more every few days. 

With the chopped up christmas trees, she was adding more just once every month or so. 

Deep bedding is where you throw more bedding down all winter long without mucking out the coop.  Then you muck out the coop once a year.

She also shows off using buckets for nesting and how this helps with mite control.




 
Mariah Wallener
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I remember reading about the deep bedding method on the Backyard Chickens forum. I recall it seemed really great, then other people chimed in with issues they were having (can't recall exactly what they were, but seem to think it was related to how cold your winter got...?).

Anyhoo, the idea of adding pine branches to offset the ammonia is new and sounds pretty darned reasonable to me. I'm guessing it would work with fir or cedar too, since these are both acidic? And that would be great, because we have lots and lots of fir around here (Douglas, Grand).

Thanks for posting this Paul!
 
Abe Connally
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moisture buildup could be an issue.  it could turn into a bog.

I may try this out. I use a similar system in the pig pen and with our colony rabbits, just keep adding beeding, and then clean it out periodically.
 
Walter Jeffries
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We do deep bedding. I leave the coop door open pretty much all winter for ventilation. Between the heat of the chickens and the heat of the composting deep litter it stays very toasty in there. The poultry love it. See:

http://www.google.com/search?q=site:flashweb.com+hoop%20house
 
                                  
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Great idea! I have a christmas tree that needs some purpose so I think I found it.

Side topic . . . I noticed her nesting boxes are on the ground . . . and there are eggs in them. How much does location matter when it comes to nesting boxes? I posted a new topic on this because my chickens don't seem to be going into theirs. I think I'll try her way.
 
Walter Jeffries
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The chickens like dark and non-drafty places. We get them naturally nesting inbetween hay bales, under bushes, etc in addition to in their nest boxes. Every day is Easter egg hunting day...
 
ryan112ryan McCoy
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I use the deep litter method too, I just use hay/straw, it works great, I never have any issues with smell.  I was out there the other day, the bottom was a little wet (it had just rained really hard for 3 days) and I haven't emptied it for 3-4 months.  Now that it is nice out, I will be composting the bedding, doing a good cleaning and starting again. 

I like the christmas tree idea, but if you grab a bunch of trees after xmas, they will dry out in a month or so won't they?  Then they wouldn't be good for bedding? 
 
John Polk
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I spent a couple winters on a large egg farm in South America, and they used the deep litter exclusively (straw).  They would cull 30-50% each winter.  They would cull two hen houses, then herd the first group to the second group's house.  They would then clear out all bedding, and whitewash the whole inside.  Then, lay new bedding, and herd the two groups into that house for the winter.  When they were done, half the houses were full, and the other half were empty.  Throughout the winter they would sanitize the empty houses, and have them ready for the new pullets in the spring.  Pretty neat and simple operation.  They raised their own chicks in seperate brooder houses all year long.
 
Mariah Wallener
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christmas trees may only be around once a year, but for those of us living in conifer paradise they are plentiful year round (and after a good wind they shed their branches in a way that you wouldn't have to do much cutting either).
 
Brenda Groth
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A main reason I haven't gone to doing chickens here was worrying about the witner care of them..as we are still expecting a 12" + snowstorm today, so we would have easily from Oct/Nov until Mar/Apr winter here to be concerned about.

6 to 7 months

but the DEEP bedding Idea really rings a bell for me..and evergreen boughs are something I could cut all winter long IF I had to here on our property, we have lots, and more baby ones coming on..and the idea of the acidity and the urine combining for compost, I'm thinking, that would be a good mulch to pull out and put around some of my more acidic loving plants in the spring as well.

thanks for the thread..maybe I'll get around to doing chickens yet (although looks like hernia surgery, see dr today, so thing are on hold around here right now)
 
Abe Connally
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How deep do you guys start off with?  With our rabbits, we start off with bedding about 1 ft deep, and by the end of the season, it's a good 2 feet or more.

It might be good to explain how you guys go about this method, especially for folks who are new to this.
 
tel jetson
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velacreations wrote:
How deep do you guys start off with?


we start with maybe eight inches.  by clean out time, it's not usually a whole lot more than that.  maybe twelve inches.  though we add a lot of material periodically, compaction and composting reduces the volume substantially.  I like to stay just ahead of odor so as to not waste bedding material that is in moderately short supply.

I suppose that doesn't sound like 'deep bedding', but it's really the same approach.  we've got a lot of space for the chooks both inside and out, though, so they don't foul their bedding very quickly.  that will likely change as the flock grows, at which point the bedding will get deeper.
 
John Polk
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If certain spots get too wet, just fork the wet stuff into a corner, cover it with dry stuff, and refill the holes with fresh stuff.  The wet stuff can be re-spread in a few days.  The farm I worked on didn't have that option since there were no walls, hence no corners.
 
                        
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At what age would you use evergreen branches for young chicks? Wood shavings are getting pricy in my area and I would sure like to cut back on the amount to buy. We have plenty of fir and pine trees and a few areas with inches of pine needles on the ground every fall. I'm eager to try this in the big coop.
 
suomi--Nicola Lloyd
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Location: Finland
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Our winters are pretty long usually from november to end of april(ish!) and we use deep litter.
We only use straw, we grow our own so its free, also there is almost no smell, which is brilliant. I tend to scatter a bale of straw every couple of days to keep it good, I also have a large tub of dry soil in the chicken house for them to use as a dust bath. By using the straw over a period of months its builds up but also it keeps them warm, we get down to minus 34oC here so its quite cold! we have also insulated the walls with straw bales to help to retain heat.
In a couple of weeks we should be able to turn them out into the forest and into their "summer accommodation" and we can then clean out the winter house.
Now that is a lot of work....but wow the stuff is amazing.. its gets put into a pile along with the sheep shit and left for a year after which its great compost!  deep litter straw is the way to go!
Nicola.
 
Tim Canton
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i have seen folks elsewhere complain about straw saying it wont dry poop etc like wood shaving......but shavings are hard to find cheap.........seems folks on here use straw fine?
 
Joe Skeletor
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Location: Blue Island, Illinois - Zone 6a - (Lake Effect) - surrounded by zone 5b
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yea,h straw works well. I work on a farm with two batches of laying hens in two different barns, about 300 birds each. The only areas that get a bit mucky are under the perches and around the waterers. You can get some really heavy wet bedding by the end of the winter. One thing we've tried is to clean out under perches every week in the winter, which sucks.

Any thoughts from anybody else?
 
Gord Welch
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Location: Oregon
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Having worked with 16,000 turkeys in a barn, and four of those barns , I would like to explain how I learned.

First, someone above asked about cedar - don't use it. Its fumes are damaging to the birds' airways.

We used pine or fir shavings fresh for each flock, but for the entire life of the flock it was the same. Most important is to control the water spillage. Make sure the water is high off the ground - it should be just low enough that the birds can take a drink - no lower. When the litter began to get a crust on it, we'd go in with a pitchfork or rototiller and turn it over... this obviously brings the dry underneath to the surface, and it also aerates the litter, thereby preventing rot. And rot is the process that produces the ammonia (aha!). By the end of the flock, most of the litter was well on its way to becoming compost.

One thing that can be added in a small flock to greatly improve the situation is using wire mesh as a raised floor so that the birds are walking on mesh, and their litter is never compacted. This works great on a small scale - not so much in a factory.
 
paul wheaton
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Looking for video clips and pics of winter chicken shelter.  If you have anything like that or can get something like that, please visit this thread.


 
Walter Jeffries
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We use the deep bedding method for our pigs and chickens in the winter. Works great.
 
                                  
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we have 4 backyard hens, we "deep bedded" last winter, unknowingly, accidentally, out of sheer laziness on my part.  by spring, it was an ugly scene.  there was a lot of moisture at the bottom.  lots of horrible liquids.  outrageously potent straw, perfect for potatoes.

 
Walter Jeffries
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Location: Mountains of Vermont, USDA Zone 3
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ferndale wrote:
we have 4 backyard hens, we "deep bedded" last winter, unknowingly, accidentally, out of sheer laziness on my part.  by spring, it was an ugly scene.  there was a lot of moisture at the bottom.  lots of horrible liquids.  outrageously potent straw, perfect for potatoes.


It is very important to have sufficient carbon in a compost pile. Deep bedding is building a compost pile. If you've got lots of 'horrible liquids' then it isn't a properly built deep bedded system, not too surprising if all by accident. I would suggest adding a lot more dry hay/straw/woodshavings/wooddust.
 
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