A couple of months ago when I
ran my comparison
of chicken tractors, chicken pastures, and deep bedding systems, I felt like the last was
the least. Since then, I've changed my tune.
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To recap, deep bedding
consists of raising livestock on thick layers of dry bedding, like
straw, autumn leaves, or whatever you have on hand. The manure
from the livestock mixes in with the bedding and starts to compost,
heating up the coop. Meanwhile, you keep adding fresh bedding on
top, so the animals are never walking through their own waste.
Although I still don't
think raising chickens on deep bedding without access to pasture is a
good idea, after a month in which snow kept our flock's pasture nearly
completely covered at all times, I've discovered that our hens
thoroughly enjoy deep bedding in winter. In fact, on cold, wet
days, they may not set foot outside the coop once, especially if they
can trick me into feeding them inside.
Meanwhile, the biomass-loving
side of me gets pure joy from scuffing my feet through the deep bedding
on the floor of the coop. The top three or four inches are fresh
leaves, but below that is a dense pack of compost that will clearly be
a boon to my garden in the spring. At first, I thought it was a
waste of good organic matter to use up two bags of leaves per month in
the chicken coop, but clearly I'm getting a value-added product out of
it. I suspect I'm also capturing more manure than I have in years
past, which will mean less storebought compost for the garden.
Clearly, deep bedding is a good tool to have in your shed, especially
in the winter.