Deep Litter method: the once a year clean up

Sadly, all good things must come to an end and if you use the deep litter method in your chicken coop, eventually you just have to clean it out. Deep litter is awesome because it cuts coop cleaning down to a minimum. I just scrape poop boards when needed and add litter and Diatomaceous Earth once in awhile and my maintenance schedule is super easy! 

About once a year however, it all needs to come out and we start all over again. Cleaning it all up is a pretty easy process though, this is how I do it:

deep litter method: the clean up

Deep litter method: cleaning the coop

I have a wood floor so I shovel out my coop completely and scrape off anything stuck to the floor. Composted deep litter should look like the picture. It's a dry, dirt like substance with some pieces of litter throughout. Composted deep litter does not smell, but it is pretty heavy since at this point it's similar to shoveling dirt or dust.

I allow the coop a few hours to air out then add in fresh litter. I also throw a shovel of the dry dirty litter back in the coop and mix it up to add back some of the microbes and bacteria that help the composting process.

Thankfully it's a pretty easy process. I always do my coop cleaning at the beginning of spring. I wait until we start seeing temps above freezing for a few weeks, then get to cleaning. I have 2 main reasons why: 

1) Temperature. 
Everything is thawing. The deep litter method keeps poo composting and the smell is minimal. In the winter, a lot of the poop freezes before it can start to compost then it all starts thawing at once and can get pretty stinky. Consider months of frozen droppings thawing all in 1 week. That is just way too much for the deep litter to handle at once and the ammonia smell can start to build up quickly if there isn't enough wood shavings to absorb it all. Plus anything frozen to walls, floors or perches can now be scraped off easily. Of course if you don't live in an area that freezes this won't be an issue for you.

2) Moisture. 
The spring rains are coming. Properly composted deep litter starts to resemble dry dirt. What happens when you add days of rain to dirt? Mud. Now add fresh poo. Yuck! Besides, you want this stuff in your garden so the rain can wash those nutrients into the soil. It's much lighter and easier to shovel up when it's dry than when it's wet, so do it before the rains come!

It shouldn't take very long to clean out the coop and once it's done, you don't have to do it again for another year! I usually only add a regular layer of shavings at this point. Since we get a LOT of rain the first month of spring I often have to shovel soaked shavings from certain coops (the one at the bottom of the yard floods.....what were we thinking?) so I wait till the spring rains are done to start building up the litter again. The coops on flat land though are fine to start building up the litter right away.

As the summer/fall progresses I just add new litter when needed. I've used everything from pine shavings, hay and straw to shredded newspaper and dried fall leaves....all with great results! This method is great as it keeps my cleaning time down to a minimum and produces great compost for the gardens. I really like the deep litter method. Have you tried it?


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  1. I keep thinking its time to clean out my coop and then the temperature drops again. We had snow yesterday and this morning it was 27 degrees when I woke up! In Virginia! A week before April! Nuts. I love the Deep Litter Method tho for the same reasons you do. Great post.

    1. Thanks! It's doing that here too. It was 60 2 days ago and snowed this morning! Hopefully it'll straighten itself out soon, I'm so ready for spring!


  2. I am in the process of getting chickens (still building the coop!) and this is a great post to think about.. I used to own chickens growing up, but my parents were in charge of all the nitty gritty details! lol!

    Anyhoo, I found your blog through a Sustainable Bloggers link up site, and thought I would stop by and say hi! It would totally make my day if you did the same.. or better yet, keep in touch! <3 -

  3. We use pine shavings and do ours every 3 months or so, otherwise it get a bit stinky. It all goes into the garden and really lightens up our clay soil...

  4. This is great info. I'm starting a quail coop this Spring so I really hope the deep litter method will work for them as well. the less work the better! I had no idea it was supposed to look dry.

    I found you on the From The Farm Blog Hop. Keep up the good work!

  5. It seems like such a great way to manage the coop. Do you use the old litter in the compost heap or on your veggies? It must be full of great fertilizer!