For each person that keeps chickens, there is probably just as many variations in chicken coop designs and management techniques. When we built our coop, we based the design on one that would be as predator proof as possible from the many predators in this area and one that would provide adequate protection from the elements that are typical for our area. Our coop sits above the ground, with about a foot or so between the floor of it and the earth underneath. The coop flooring is treated OSB, and I chose the “Deep Litter Method” (DLM from here on out) for coop poop management.
The idea behind the DLM is really quite simple. You start with a clean coop floor, cover it with about four to six inches of litter, and then about once a week or so, sprinkle litter over the top of that to cover the poop as it accumulates. I use pine chips that Bernie chips up for me from fallen pine trees around here. Once a month or so I use a garden rake and stir all that litter around in the coop, just to keep the poop from clumping. On days when we have snow or a lot of rain and the chickens hang out inside the coop, I sprinkle some scratch all through the litter on the coop floor and the chickens stir it for me. If done correctly, there will be virtually no offensive smell in the coop, and the litter only needs to be completely removed once a year. If the coop is kept dry, the litter remains dry, as does the flooring beneath it.
I really like using the DLM for several reasons, the least of which is not the fact that it only takes me about 10 minutes each day to clean the coop and replenish feed and water containers. The daily coop cleaning duty is referred to as the “Coop Poop Boogie” here on the homestead, and consists of scraping all poop off the top of nest boxes, nest porches, and roosts, sprinkling new litter on the coop floor as required, filling feeders and changing out water. By the way, the Coop Poop Boogie is not to be confused with the Poop Scoot Boogie, which is performed after stepping in a fresh little pile of chicken poop in the yard on the homestead. Everyday’s a party around here.
Yep, the Coop Poop Boogie is fast and easy, thanks to the DLM. The coop spring cleaning, however, is not. It’s not fast. And it’s not easy. I spent about 4 1/2 hours yesterday spring cleaning the coop, which, among other things, involved shoveling out about two feet of poop encrusted litter. But, with each shovel load, I reminded myself that this one day of pain is what makes the daily Poop Scoop Boogie so tolerable the other 364 days of the year. And I was quite pleased that once all the litter was out of the coop, the floor beneath it and the nest boxes were perfectly dry.
When it was all said and done, I ended up with a mountain of poop encrusted pine shavings which I mixed with straw and leaves and covered in Chicken Poop Tea I’ve been brewing for the past couple of months. This colossal pile of poop is now soaking in the 3/4 inch of rain we got last night. It’s supposed to rain all day and into tomorrow, and this soaking is just what the poop pile needs. I checked it this morning, and it’s already getting hot. For the next several months I will continue to add straw, grass cuttings, kitchen scraps, chicken poop, and water to this massive pile, and by next spring, I should have a beautiful pile of compost that my garden will enjoy.
That’s the chicken poop pile on the right, and my straw pile on the left.
Composting pine shavings can take quite some time, but by regularly adding chicken poop, straw, and “green” material to it (grass, kitchen scraps, etc.) and keeping the pile damp, you may be amazed at how much more quickly the composting process occurs. I’ve done this on a much smaller scale and it works beautifully and quickly. Every week or so, rather than wetting with water, I pour a bucket or two of Chicken Poop Tea on it to help keep this compost pile hot. I make this tea by filling a couple of buckets half full with water and then adding in the poop I scoop each day until the buckets are full. I also stir them daily, while holding my nose. And I keep the buckets covered with a loosely fitting lid.
By the end of the year, I should have a nice, rich mountain of compost. I’ll stop adding chicken poop to the pile and let it “season” until next spring. Chicken poop is extremely strong and will kill plants if applied directly to them without allowing the poop to age and compost. The rule of thumb is: If you can recognized the shape of the poop, it’s probably too “hot” to apply to plants. Allow it to break down completely and NEVER apply Chicken Poop Tea directly on plants or the ground where they are planted. It’s just too strong – but it works great to speed composting in compost piles.
So that’s the scoop on the Coop Poop Boogie. Come to think of it, this all sums up my life beautifully – enriched with poop. Every dad gum day.
While I was out cleaning the coop, Bernie left the dogs in the house to bring me some tools for reconstructing the little chicken hospital in the coop. When I came in for a break he said “Good news! You get to do some shoe shopping!” I immediately looked at the puppies. Neither would make eye contact with me. “I left my sandals by the door when I changed into my rubber boots, didn’t I? How badly did they chew them up?” I asked. “Well, it wasn’t ‘they’, it was ‘him’ and it wasn’t ‘them’, it was ‘it’.” *sigh* “Well, how bad is IT?” Bernie said “You might be able to salvage it. I’m not sure, but I think Dolly stole it and gave it to Diesel. It was in Diesel’s mouth when I found it, but Dolly was looking kinda guilty.”
That doesn’t look very salvageable to me. I realize it looks like something I dug out of the dump, but I LOVE those sandals. I’ve had them for years. They were broken in beautifully and had become the only sandals I wear in the summer on the homestead. Darnit. But it’s my fault for leaving them on the floor and providing a temptation little Dolly and/or Diesel just could not resist. The joy of puppies…….