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Deep Litter Method

Updated on July 19, 2013
Rhode Island Red Hen
Rhode Island Red Hen | Source

Cut your livestock work load into a more manageable routine. The deep litter method makes weekly cleaning a thing of the past!

The method is quite simple and requires only several minutes a week to keep your chicken coop (or other livestock pens) clean and healthy. The greatest asset? Next spring, you will have free compost!

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If the bedding is too dry, it will not compost. Lots of dust means you should add a bit of water and give the litter a stir. It should be like good compost, not sopping wet!

If the litter is too wet, it will turn into a nasty mess. Simply keep adding dry bedding until the moisture content is correct.

Avoid your litter getting too wet by keeping the pen enclosed and watertight. Not air tight, just make sure rain cannot blow in or drain down and keep the litter wet.

This method works on earthen floors as well as manmade. The litter should never be wet enough to rot out your lumber.


Thing You Will Need:

Bedding (pine shavings, pine straw, paper mulch, dried leaves, straw--anything livestock safe and that can absorb water and turn into compost)

  • Livestock! (chickens and goats for us)
  • Rake
  • Agricultural lime
  • Food-grade diatomaceous earth
  • Water

The process is simple. When beginning, lay down several inches of clean bedding. I use straw and leaves raked during our long fall days.

Once a week, or so, rake the litter a bit to aerate it and dump fresh bedding on the top of the old litter.

If you begin to smell ammonia or stinky feces, rake the litter more and then add additional bedding. This is just like composting, only easier.

If you're bedding chickens, they will keep the pens turned on their own. Encourage them to scratch by tossing bits of food in the litter.

Once a year, remove the litter and place it in a compost pile for a few weeks.


This method will produce heat in the winter and spring, making it a good place for young chicks to cuddle and sleep. They will also benefit from the various bugs that will move into the litter.

The addition of agricultural lime or food grade diatomaceous earth can help to sweeten the litter but this is not usually needed if you keep up with your once a week raking and adding additional litter.


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    • IsadoraPandora profile image

      Jocelyn 6 years ago from Florida, PCB

      Thanks! :-) We just got like 16 more, LOL.

    • SallyTX profile image

      Sally Branche 6 years ago from Only In Texas!

      Chickens are excellent composters! ;D Voted up and useful!

    • IsadoraPandora profile image

      Jocelyn 6 years ago from Florida, PCB

      I can see that being a problem with some coops. My door is up really high and have to step over a high wall before entering the pen.

    • homesteadpatch profile image

      homesteadpatch 6 years ago from Michigan

      We use the deep litter method, but we still clean out the coop every two to three months. The reason isn't because the bedding is completely spent, but rather, the door to the coop won't open when it gets too deep.