Cleaning out the deep bedding in the fall

Cleaning out the deep beddingLast year, I cleaned
out the deep bedding in February
, but this time I opted to do
so in December.  While I’d like to say my reasoning was
biological, I was really just greedy for the mulch to put my berry
bushes and fruit trees to bed properly.  (I was also bumping my
head going into the main coop, so I figured the bedding was getting a
bit high.)

I started my clean-out
by pitchforking the top layers of most of the coop’s bedding into a
pile, then scooping out the decaying bedding underneath to wheelbarrow
into the garden as mulch.  The area under the perches was twice as
deep and much higher in fertility since most of the manure collects
there, so I shifted the (rather nasty — I should have added more
bedding sooner) top layer from under the perch to the now-bare soil
elsewhere before taking out the lower layers under the perches to use
as a compost-mulch mixture.  Finally, I forked the top layers of
bedding from most of the coop under the perches and on top of the
manure-laden bedding to keep the chickens’ feet clean and to keep the
deep bedding system going.

Spreading deep beddingIn the garden, I treated the
bedding from under the perches and the bedding from elsewhere in the
coop a bit differently.  The former is very high in nitrogen and
was already breaking down into a compost that will feed my perennials
but won’t keep the ground covered for long.  In contrast, the
bedding without much manure in it will act as a longer-lived, complex
mulch.  I figure I’ll need to top off the rich bedding in the
spring to keep weeds at bay, and can probably leave the areas mulched
by the less rich bedding alone until summer or fall.

Cleaning out both coops
and our brooder only managed to fertilize our blueberry patch, one long
row of blackberries and raspberries, and two peach trees.  As
usual, I want more deep bedding, but our pastures can’t bear any more


(By the way, there were
no signs of worms under the deep bedding, so my
in the dark
was a failure.)

Our chicken waterer is the POOP-free alternative
to traditional filthy waterers.

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