What's that got to do with chicken litter? Well, this...
|Sheet mulching with the chicken litter|
Here it is, the coop cleanings for the year, spread out (albeit thinly) over the lower half the garden, ready to be tilled in. And the heart of our outdated gardening technique is in the last phrase of the previous sentence, "ready to be tilled in". The thing is, my husband loves to till. He loves his tiller. He doesn't want to make raised beds. One can't till raised beds. So there you have it.
But back to chicken litter, or in our case, the deep chicken litter method.
There seem to be two theories about chicken litter:
- change it weekly to keep the smell down
- keep it thick, loose, and stirred up, to keep the smell down.
Which works best? I've only tried one method, so I can't compare the two. What I can tell you is that the deep litter method, properly done, works. Our chicken coop does not stink. There is no manure odor. There is no ammonia odor. What's more, it's easy and the chickens love scratching around in it. Plus, it produces a goodly amount of pre-composted material.
What you see in that photo is about 8 months accumulation of dried leaves, chopped straw, pine needles, chicken droppings (dried and fresh), feathers, hardwood ashes, old sawdust, shredded newspaper, and spilled food. I would call it disintegrated more than composted. This can either be added to the compost pile, or tilled directly in to the garden. This is what I spread on the garden.
The theory behind the deep litter method isn't new. There are several good articles about it around the internet:
Deep Litter in Chicken Houses at Robert Plamondon's website
When Life Gives You Lemons - a 3-part article over at the Modern Homestead website, and
Brooding Chicks on Deep Litter - by Jean Nick
The biggest difference in these articles is that Robert Plamondon's information is based on a 1949 article, which recommends adding lime to help combat any ammonia odor. I didn't do that, but followed the other two articles, and did not add lime to the litter at any time. By keeping it stirred up and frequently adding more litter materials, we didn't need to. It is possible though, that the addition hardwood ashes, spilled by the chickens from their dust bath box, helps with this as well.
It had disintegrated down to less than six inches by the time I cleaned it out. Then I added a new layer of dried leaves, and we begin the cycle again. The key is to use materials that don't compact easily and are easy for the chickens to scratch up. I don't buy anything special, I just used what I have on hand, including discarded bean pods from the beans I've been shelling.
Tilled in, the lower half of the garden looked like this...
Of course we had snoopervision...
The day after it was tilled we raked it out, planted annual rye for a green manure crop, and rolled the seed into the soil. Just in time too because two days later we got a long gentle rain. What a relief to get the timing right on this one. Now we're just waiting for the rye to sprout.
Of Chicken Litter © November 2010 by