Sunday, February 3, 2013

Deep Litter Method

Located on a south facing hillside in full sun, the ground in our chicken run was hard, compacted clay.  Periodically we had put a bale of straw or two into the run at the top to add mulch and to give the chickens some entertainment.  We would watch as the chickens and ducks had a field day scratching all the hay around but after a few days the straw would be at the bottom of the run while the soil was still hard and dry.  Our goal was to create a healthier environment for our poultry where juicy insects multiply and micro-organisms thrive in the moist soil.   Enter the deep litter method with a twist.

We tried adding wood chips, which worked better but still made their way to the bottom, just a little more slowly.  It was time to add some retaining walls and get more creative with the mulching.  So we hammered in stakes around some long pieces of scrap wood all over the run.  Here comes the creative part...we used a huge amount of wool we had been given to mulch the whole run.  Wool is denser and does not move around as easily as other mulches.  It also holds a tremendous amount of moisture so the goal was to have this stationary material be the first layer of our deep litter and hold in most of the water, bringing the soil back to life.

poultry run in the summer before deep litter method, soil is dry and compacted
The funny part of all this is that while pulling the wool out of the bags the chickens went crazy running to and fro as if there was a wild furry beast emerging from the bags.  It took them days to get used to walking over the wool.

Our next step was to add a thick layer of straw, then lots and lots of wood chips over the top. Every few days when we clean out the small water troughs, we dump the old water around the fruit trees and into the mulch.  

scratching away surface mulch reveals dark moist soil underneath
As the months go by we have been adding whatever we have on hand to the run, more old straw, goat stall bedding, cow patties, branchy bamboo tops, leafy debris.  We are hoping that we can build a truly deep litter for the poultry area.  And now that we have received a significant amount of rain the moisture has soaked into the ground leaving the soil dark and spongy, resulting in a happier, healthier poultry flock.

A few more additions have been put in the run, a grapefruit tree, two granny smith apples, a fig, and two melon berry trees.  Let's hope these trees benefit from all the composting action going on around them.  Now if we can only stop the goats from sneaking in and nibbling the trees down to stubs! 

1 comment:

  1. Hi Maya- I googled deep bedding with wood chips and low and behold, your blog appeared near the top. I just added a bunch of wood chips to the coop and run. Looking forward to some actual rain this week. I'm sure Ginger is too!