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Using Deep Litter to Keep Chickens Warm

We use the “deep litter” technique in our coop in wintertime to keep our chicken coop nice and warm.  No heat lamps, no lights, no barn fires.  Lamps in chicken coops scare the dickens out of me.  No, thank you.

I am happy to suffer through the wintertime blues of fewer eggs in exchange for not having to run electricity to my coop and owning hens who will lay eggs longer.

I am fortunate to live where it doesn’t get terribly cold stay very cold for very long periods in winter.

We use the deep litter system to keep our flock cozy.  I’m no expert on the “deep litter” technique.  The way we do it isn’t complicated:

  1. Don’t clean the coop
  2. Add plenty of fresh hay when things start getting moist in there
  3. Regularly throw some ‘scratch’ on the floor to encourage the girls (and boys) to stir things up for you

deep litter

If you’re not convinced that this will keep your chickens warm you should visit my coop.  It’s about 100 degrees in there right now.  All that chicken manure and dry hay are composting.  Compost generates heat.  Lots of heat.

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The down side to this system is the day you decide to clean up your “deep litter” mess.
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Go grab the nearest teenage boys and hand them some pitch-forks.

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After loading all the deep litter mess into the wheelbarrow we (I’m using the word “we” loosely) headed to the garden to dump it.

eeew4Dump the hay and chicken manure right into a garden bed.  Next, I spread it out so that the sun can dry it out.  I know there’s the issue of “hot” manure.

“Hot” manure can come from chickens, cows, or other animal.  It is manure that is very fresh, has not had time to break down and can potentially “burn up” any plants you attempt to grow in it.  The high nitrogen content in fresh (hot) manure is what burns the roots of the plants and kills it.

The mixture from our chicken coop is not exactly “hot.”  It’s been breaking down all winter long inside the coop, and I’m going to spread it out in the sun to continue composting.

I’ve been throwing chicken-coop debris on my garden for years without problems. I spread the chicken mixture out in a thin layer over several beds.  I have also been know to use my mac-daddy broadfork to work it into the beds.

I have found the combination of composting manure and hay really help combat the clay soil here in Kentucky.

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