Since the chickens started living in their coop back in May 2009, we have never cleaned it out. Now, this wasn’t because we were lazy, but because Lee wanted to try out the deep litter approach. I must admit that I had some reservations about it. I was afraid that is was going to stink and be really gross, but that was never the case. The chicken coop rarely smelled. Whenever it did get a little bit smelly, I would just add a new layer of wood shavings on the top of the litter layer and fluff everything up. Fluffing is accomplished either with a pitchfork or by throwing a few handfuls of crack corn across the floor and letting the chickens go nuts. That would take care of any smell instantly.
Besides the time savings, deep litter is reported to help control coccidiosis, reduces aggression, and supports chicken health by producing vitamin B12. Deep litter is best used in conjunction with open-air housing so excess ammonia is ventilated. The concept is very similar to operating a compost pile. You can find a complete guide to the whys and wherefores here. We didn’t use any lime in our management of the litter, because although it would help the texture it must be manually mixed to avoid hurting the chicken’s feet.
Since the girls got moved out to the garden I decided that I was going to clean out the coop so I could use their litter to make compost for the garden later. It was also getting quite built up in the coop which made it difficult to close the door.
During the past 9 months of using the deep litter approach I probably should have lofted the litter more regularly then what I did, but it still seemed to work out fine. Another problem that we had in the coop was that the litter would get a little too wet from our waterer. We have a hanging waterer that, once it gets low, tilts and spills water onto the shavings below it. Sometime soon we are going to try to solve this problem.