Deep Litter Method Guide For Small Chicken Flocks

27 October 2021
 Categories: , Blog


For those new to chickens or simply looking to raise a small flock in their backyard or family farm, managing the bedding and cleaning the coop can seem like a time-consuming chore. There is a simple method, called deep litter, that can help reduce some of the labor required for small flock maintenance. 


Most small flocks, even those that are allowed to free-range during the day, are locked into a coop at night for their own safety. Chickens produce a lot of waste, and unlike some animals, they are not choosy about where they release. Traditionally, a thin layer of bedding like straw or wood shavings was used to absorb this waste. 

The main issue with the traditional method is that it is time-consuming to shovel out the bedding material every few days to a week. Plus, there is the cost of constantly buying new bedding. Further, the old bedding must be disposed of frequently, which can be an issue when you are raising a flock on a small property.


You will notice that although you are adding bedding often, the layer rarely gets thicker than the initial 6-inch depth. This is because the lower layers begin to compost almost immediately thanks to the high-nitrogen inputs from your chicken's waste. The composting also keep down odor and prevents disease pathogens from multiplying. 

Further, the composting process produces some heat, which helps warm your hen house during cool nights. When you do finally shovel out the coop the following spring, the bedding is already composted and ready to add to garden beds. This means you don't need to install a separate composting area for the chicken bedding. 


Unlike the traditional method, the deep litter method doesn't depend on thin layers of bedding that are changed frequently. The same type of traditional bedding is used for the deep litter method, which is a carbon-rich material like straw or wood shavings is used. Alone, these materials take about a year to compost down into rich soil. 

The main difference between the two methods is that deep litter requires putting down a very thick layer of bedding initially. Apply a 6-inch deep layer of dry bedding material. Each evening take a few minutes to rake the bedding, which will evenly disperse droppings so they dry quickly. Once or twice a week, add a fresh layer of about 2 inches of bedding. The coop will only need to be shoveled out once or twice a year.

Learning how to raise chickens, especially a small flock, is fun when you use easy methods to minimize the work. 

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