Meet Another Chicken Blogger

Sign of the Shovel writes about chickens, composting, and more at her blog. Today’s topics:

The noise a full-grown hen will make. “Now that my hens are laying, they are braying. A classic BRAW-brap-brap-brap-BRAW that can be heard all the way down the street. “

Yeah, I hear you. My girls love to announce the arrival of the first egg of the day, and sometimes they just like to announce whatever’s just flown into their silly little heads. Fortunately, they don’t start until well after daybreak, but there have been mornings when I’ve left my toasty bed a bit earlier than I would have liked to go let them out. I don’t want the neighbors to complain, although if they ever did, we’d have a serious talk about the decibel levels of the dogs on our street, most of whom don’t wait until sunrise to begin their orations.

And: “Thanks to the birds, the backyard composting operation is starting to become slightly earnest for an urban yard…I clean out the chicken coop completely every other week, generating three wheelbarrows full of straw and chicken droppings every time.”

Now, tell me, chicken people: what’s your litter management system? I’m a believer in the deep litter method, which I devoted about five minutes to studying before adopting it. There’s probably a more sophisticated way to do this, but my process is:

Use pine shavings as litter. Nice and clean, smells good, slow to break down.

Rake it around regularly. Add fresh regularly. Don’t shovel it out much.

Over time, the litter accumulates and the droppings break down by themselves.

From time to time–maybe once a month, maybe once every couple of months–I scoop out a few wheelbarrows full and take it to the compost pile. I scoop out anything that’s wet (a little rain can seep in between the boards of my coop, and hens can get sneezy from the mold) and anything that’s very manure-intensive. But in general, I just keep a nice deep layer that breaks down constantly, and I add more pine shavings often.

The old litter, as I said, goes on the compost pile, where it gets mixed with chipped garden waste and dried leaves. The kitchen scraps get fed to the worms or the chickens. The chickens love to dig around in the compost pile looking for worms and bugs, so it continues to get worked over once it’s left the coop.

Of course, I only have four hens, not a dozen. But this works for me.