The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Deep bedding issues

Deep bedding chicken coopWhen we moved our chickens from tractors to a coop and rotational pasture system, we had to deal with manure for the first time.  Deep bedding was the perfect solution, but we did run into a few minor problems this year.

The real cause of the trouble is that it's tough to find enough high carbon biomass to fill the coops (and to keep filling them as manure builds up).  Autumn leaves are may favorite, and I've tried a bit of the sawdust we bought for the composting toilet, with good results.  But when I ran low on optimal bedding, I decided to try treating the coop floor as a compost pile.

The positive side is that I was no longer creating bare patches in the pastures where I threw our food scraps.  Unfortunately, the scent of sweet corn cobs was irresistable to the neighborhood raccoon, who came for the scraps and Carrying a chickenstayed for a chicken dinner.  The hen he was hunting got away, but it took us weeks of effort to make our flock feel comfortable in the coop again.  Now corn cobs go in the worm bin, and the raccoon seems willing to stay in the woods.

The issue of never having enough high carbon materials is one we run into in the garden as well, and I've got all kinds of ideas for solving the conundrum.  Maybe we'll commit some open areas along the sides of our homestead to growing rye for straw, or we'll plant a high quality leaf tree (sugar maple is my favorite) in a pasture that stays mowed so raking leaves will be easy.  We're also pondering chop 'n drop plants, although that will probably be less helpful for the chicken coop than for the garden.

But these issues aside, deep bedding has been a boon to our farm.  Having that high quality mulch/compost to topdress the berries with this spring was worth every minute of coop maintenance!

Our chicken waterer keeps the coop floor dry so the deep bedding can do its job.

This post is part of our 2012 Chicken Experiments lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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We have the opposite problem -- never having enough "green" materials to compost all of our autumn leaves. I suggest planting a cottonwood. You will never lack for leaves again. (Although, admittedly, our cottonwood is over 200 years old and enormous, so you might have to wait a while.)
Comment by Bess Thu Nov 8 14:38:53 2012
When I experimented with rye, I got a job just as it was maturing and didn't have time to thresh it. I mowed it and tossed the whole plants in the outdoor run. The chickens loved pecking through it for seeds.
Comment by Faith T Thu Nov 8 16:24:09 2012

Bess --- We'd be low on greens, but we have access to a nearly unlimited supply of horse manure. So good for the garden!

Faith --- I did the same with some buckwheat cover crop that I accidentally let go to seed this year and it was top-notch in the chicken coop!

Comment by anna Thu Nov 8 19:10:29 2012

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