How the Deep Litter Method Benefits Your Winter Chicken Coop

Inside: Explore the deep litter method for a cozy, efficient winter chicken coop bedding. Discover the benefits of this chicken coop management.

First-time chicken owners always worry about winter chicken coop bedding and keeping their birds warm enough in the middle of winter. It is really easy once you realize just how simple it is. It's actually less work in the winter than during the summer when you are trying to keep them cooler.

Small coop from the outside

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How the Deep Litter Method Benefits Your Winter Chicken Coop

There are a number of different materials that chicken owners use as bedding.

  • pine shavings
  • sand
  • straw

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No Drafts

The coop should not be airtight, as that would definitely lead to frostbite. The coop needs ventilation to carry the warm moist air up and out of the coop.

unfinished chicken coop

Deep Litter Method

Consider practicing the Deep Litter Method, a great example of working smarter, not harder. This is where winter coop maintenance can be easier in the summer:

Simply layer the floor of your coop with pine shavings, and periodically rake the chicken waste into the bedding mix. Once a week, add a layer of fresh pine shavings to the top.

Together with the pine shavings, your chicken’s poop will form a compost layer that fosters microbe growth.

Microbes cut down on harmful bacteria, and can also help prevent mite and lice infestations in the coop. For the kicker, composting organic matter generates much-needed heat in the wintertime.

This is what we do in the winter for all four chicken coops. It is much safer than adding an alternate heat source.

chicken coop

Freezing Eggs

Collect your eggs frequently. You will get to know the laying habits of your chickens and learn to gauge when they lay eggs, so time your collections around the chicken’s schedule. A thick nest of straw is a great insulator.

Thankfully chickens rarely poop in the nesting box so it's easy to keep clean.


Do not put Vaseline on your chicken's waddles or cones to prevent frostbite. Petroleum jelly is an occlusive moisturizer, which means you are trapping moisture on the comb. As the petroleum jelly absorbs into the skin, the moisture is sitting on the tissue, increasing the frostbite risk.

You need to keep their coop draft-free, but with ventilation for cool air to move up and out. The deep litter method will help keep your flock warm.

chickens roosting in a coop

It's not hard to raise chickens in the winter, nor hard to keep them warm enough. Remember they have warm-down feathers that help to keep their body heat. The chickens will also roost together in their coop to keep warm. This is one reason why you want more than just a couple of chickens in your coop.

During the winter in Nova Scotia, we get rain. Usually, snow is followed by rain a day or two later. I do keep some straw on hand to toss down in the run if it gets too wet. I don't want them to get wet, cold feet, especially in the evening/night. Overwise, I don't do too much in the winter for our chicken runs, but you can definitely do more!

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    Frequently Asked Questions

    Is the deep litter method healthy? Yes! The deep litter method is a way of composting in your henhouse by letting the litter and chicken droppings build up over time. You are adding materials throughout winter so it does stay clean in it's own way.

    What are the disadvantages of deep litter system? If your birds are not healthy when you start this method – think parasites – then you are not going to be able to get rid of them, this is going to be the perfect environment for parasites.

    Does the deep litter method smell? This method is stink-free after you add new shavings. I smell less “chicken” using the deep litter method than when cleaning weekly during the summer.

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