Backyard Chickens: The Deep Litter Method

*UPDATE* Our winner of the Fair Food book giveaway is Nicole! Thanks to everyone that participated, and Nicole look for an email from us!

(This is the eighth in a series of ten Friday posts about Backyard Chickens to give an overview of my experiences these past two years.)

Borden - chicken coop with dirty litter

In one of my first chicken posts I mentioned the book I “borrowed” from my grandparents, Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening: A complete guide to gardening without DDT or other poisons or chemicals edited by J.I. Rodale (published in 1969). There is a section on poultry. I took their litter advice for our girls: “A practice that makes healthier and more productive chickens in deep litter, sometimes called built up litter. Simply let the little accumulate instead of cleaning out the poultry house every couple of weeks. Biological activity in the litter, just as in the compost heat, produces huge amounts of rich food.”

Wait. Not cleaning out the litter from the coop on a weekly basis, me being lazy, is good for the girls? This seemed to good to be true! The section continues.

“Litter-reared chickens need no expensive animal proteins or mineral supplements, and if pastured or given ample feed in addition will need to vitamin A or D supplements. Antibiotics are also produced – litter-raised poultry is remarkably free from disease.”

Wow. What a huge gift. It is healthier for the girls to live around microorganisms in their litter. And yet, summertime is for cleaning.

The Augean stables it was not, but there was about 10 inches of accumulated litter to be transferred onto the compost pile. Last August, we put pine chips 2 inches deep. Over the course of the year we added handfuls of pine chips and cedar chips. The cedar chips smell nice; yet we found cedar stains the outside of the egg, so it is better to avoid cedar where the girls are laying.

I don’t know if they care one way or another, but I love the fresh yellow and the smell of the new sawdust – should last about another week.

Lettuce Lady,


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