Why the deep litter method never works for me!

The deep litter method is my absolute favorite coop bedding method. It's easy to do, very low maintenance and perfect for winter. Except, the deep litter method never works for me in the big coop! I can use it with no problem in all of my other coops and it works perfectly. It's just the one coop I have a problem with, and it's a very simple reason why.

Deep litter method | ducks

It all started when I read about the deep litter method on a very busy chicken forum. What is the deep litter method you ask? It's not changing the coop litter all winter long. Who doesn't like that idea, right? So I did some research and learned more about it on Mother Earth news and got started.

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It sounds simple but it is just a little bit more involved: add DE, add wood shavings and mix often. DE= food grade diatomaceous earth. Every week, add a little more litter, some DE and mix again. The chickens mix it too so that helps the whole process. 

Between the DE and poo, the litter starts to break down. Composting manure creates heat, and stops smelling after a short while.  By the time your ready to scoop it all out in the spring it's ready for a short stint in the compost pile, the off to the garden. It will be fine, powdery and mostly odorless.

diatamecous earth

Sounds like deep litter is pretty easy, right? Well, it is except when you consider the moisture issue. Too much moisture as it's breaking down and you just have a big, stinky, mucky, mess. That stink is ammonia based. Ammonia=bad. (how the cat litter smells when someone forgets to change it) Too much moisture after it breaks down, and that fine powder sticks to the floor like glue!  

With the right amount of moisture though, the coop bedding drys out, quits smelling, breaks down and it works like a charm. Of course that is the over-simplified version. 

The deep litter method and ducks

Back to my issue at hand. Every winter for whatever reason I end up with 1 duck. Yup, just 1. Well, first it was because I only hatched one....now it's a foxes fault. No matter why, I feel bad for the poor fella. I hate to leave him in the duck house all by his lonesome, so he hangs with the chickens. 

Ducks LOVE water! Now I'm not crazy or anything, I know that duck+water=mess. Ducks don't like to just drink the water....oh no! They gargle with it, hold it in their mouths and shake their heads so it sprays everywhere, try to climb into it etc etc. Now add about a half gallon a day to the deep litter and what do you have? Total epic fail!

deep litter ducks

Now in all honesty, the deep litter method worked like a charm all winter in Silkie Manor and the Looney bin (AKA...Guinea house) It's just the main coop where the problem lies. No, no, sorry...it's just the duck. That's exactly where the problem lies. Keeping a mixed flock of chickens and ducks is not easy!

Thankfully Spring has sprung early and Mr Duck has been spending most of his time in the duck pen. He still spends nights in the big coop, but just to sleep and he's not allowed to play in the water! Now I'm off to order him some ducky friends so they can spend all their days, and nights in their own little water world away from my deep litter!


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