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

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

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