Welcome All! I'm a dreamer, I hope you are too! A Posse ad Esse, or From possibility to reality, is a general state of mind. I hope you'll share your possibilities with me as I will with you. Namaste~

April 2, 2008

Small-Scale Coop-Care

I've been reading this book, "Chicken Tractor: The permaculture guide to happy hens and healthy soil.", a little here and a little there, over the last couple of weeks. One of the concepts that I've picked up from it I've been using on a modified, smaller scale in the "Cardboard Chicken Condo"; the "Deep Mulch" technique. This method was conveyed in the book as a way of building garden beds through a deep mulching of one area with successive layers of manure and straw leaving, after some weeks, a deep mattress of well mixed compost with a solid ratio of nitrogen to carbon. (The essential elements of any good compost pile.)I've tweaked the idea a little to suit my needs, and have been very pleased with it.
Basically, what I've been doing, is rather than having to clean out my small temporary coop every couple of days, I started with a thin (approx 1") layer of sawdust. This was covered by a pretty consistent layer of manure within a couple of days, the time when I would have had to clean the coop. I know it's a bit gross, but the picture to the right was taken this afternoon, while the birds were on the other end of the coop feeding, and illustrates what I'm talking about. It's at this time that I take the opportunity to apply a layer to the deep mulch.

What I do is, rather than remove and replace the sawdust, I just add a thin layer over the top of it. It really doesn't need to be heavy, in fact I've found that thinner is better. If I put the new layer on too thick, it really doesn't make it any better, and all that does is fill up the coop faster, negating my effort at reducing the frequency of cleanings. Better to add a thin layer once a day that to try to go a few days with a thicker one, it just doesn't mix together as well. A thin cover of the saw dust is very effective at keeping down any odor, and the birds are happy with it. They will immediately begin to lay around on the sawdust, something they don't do when it's covered with manure. The birds also have a natural tendency to scratch around in the mulch which mixes it up, further incorporating the two elements and keeping the smell down.

The one other thing that I do when maintaining the coop is to break up the mulch before adding a new layer. After the mulch gets a couple of inches thick, I find that the birds have scratched it up into corners or mounds and have compacted the rest to a certain degree. I break this up and redistribute it evenly around the coop before adding the thin layer of new dust.
Now what I'm left with, is a well mixed bed of sawdust and manure that is just begging to go in the compost pile. Some of this I'll be experimenting with trying to make a high nitrogen, dilutable, manure tea for the lawn. ( I'll be testing it in a small area before doing the whole lawn.) I'll let you know when that experiment begins.
Hope this tidbit helps with some of you aspiring small scale urban chicken keepers.

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