Beekissed

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We use mostly pine shavings, though you're inspiring me to try lots of other things in there too. Unlike the chicken litter, which stays loose and dry and basically turns into dust, the sheep litter has stayed pretty moist and quickly becomes packed and dense. When I turn it over with a pitchfork it looks like mud and often has a smell. Are we doing it wrong?

I throw scratch grain in the sheep stall pretty much every day to encourage the chickens to scratch through it, but they can't seem to get below the top layer. Whenever I turn it over, they're all over it, but then it just packs down again in the next day or two. Is this what you're talking about when you say you're composting it? Do you let it stay moist and packed, or are you adding enough carbonaceous material to keep it loose? I feel like it would take a bag of shavings/leaves every day to accomplish that with what we have going on.

Any advice for this newbie?? :)
As mentioned before, one has to create air spaces in the mass with the use of different particle sizes and density, so having the pine shavings make up the bulk of the mix is always going to produce a sodden, packed down mass that smells highly of ammonia.

The chickens can't move it, as you've found, so they can't really help. The packing down is not composting....it takes a long time for pine shavings to break down and they don't bind well to sheep pellets, so you'd have to move all that out to a pile and let it sit for a year or so to get it to compost completely.

I have 4 sheep in a pretty confined space, as far as space goes, but it's not a barn....one side has a cattle panel hoop shelter and the other is part of a lean to that is open to air on all sides, so I have excellent ventilation. That added ventilation helps with the moisture and smells a lot, but it also helps that I started building this mass way back in the fall when I cleaned out the garden, when I added big vines, corn stalks, branches, woody flower stems. As I built onto the layers, I added large pieces of bark, branches, leaves, hay, etc.

For what you have right now if you can throw some small branches down on top of all of that, then layer in leaves, wasted hay, wood chips(not shavings....bark, twigs, chipped branches, etc.), and anything else that will break down but still create spaces in the mass for air. I'd not try to stir it, but rather cap the moist areas with dry material. That's what I do the most. If I have areas that are overly moist and I have a windy day, I'll turn those moist areas up to the sun and wind for a bit, but since we are in the middle of rain, rain and more rain, I just throw dry material onto the wetter areas and just keep things evenly moist with a layer of dry on top.

If you can cap the moisture and poop, you can cap the smells, while also giving the sheep cleaner footing and dry places to rest. If you don't have a lot of air moving through, I'd make sure you do, with good air coming in at the bottom and stale air moving through and out the top...that will help a good deal on keeping things from being overly humid in there.

Next year, see if you can contact some folks you trust who rake up all their leaves and bag them so you can get you some free bedding that didn't cost you anything but picking it up. Don't even have to do the work. There have been years I've picked up over 250 bags of leaves in a season, but you need a place to store them out of the weather and that gets difficult.
 

thethinkingweasel

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Thank you! Yes, the pine shavings are so expensive!! After posting I realized there were 11 pages' worth of posts, so I did go back and read through all of them. We will be trying lots of sticks and leaves and such very soon!
So do you think I should clean out the muck that's in there currently before we start layering more stuff on top? Or will the lower layers compost effectively underneath?
 

Beekissed

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It does work, it just takes a change of thinking, away from the traditional way of doing bedding. We were putting large slabs of bark down in the high traffic areas today, forking out overly damp material by a gate and replacing it with wood chips/bark from our splitting area. Spread all that overly damp stuff out in the sunshine and put a light layer of wasted hay on top of it. Covered all poop piles with dry stuff from other places and now it's all evenly dry, covered and smelling nice, even in the 70* day we got.

Let the sheep out of the pen for the second time only since Nov. Let them eat some of the new grass(very short, so not much of it there) and gave them some hay to balance it, which they sampled well until it was nearly gone. Loved seeing them eat grass for awhile, then come back to the hay, then grass, and hay again, etc. Smart sheep. Means I won't have sheep with a bellyache tonight. Put them back in the pen after 4-5 hours out on the grass, but it was sad to have to do so. Can't WAIT to get the fencing done.

Took pics of the DL in the pens today and other days, just haven't downloaded them yet...will post them when I do so.
 

Baymule

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I rotate my sheep from the barn to the lush spring grass. I started out with 1 hour, then slowly increased it to 3-4 hours. They yell at me to go out on the fresh grass. LOL LOL I make them eat hay first, and put out baking soda for them to avoid bloat.

We have mined the sheep barn for the garden and tilled in the manure compost. We have mined the dead sheep hay to spread on the new dirt where I will soon plant bahia grass seed. I have mined one of the chicken coops to spread the compost on a pasture. Deep litter is a valuable resource!
 

Beekissed

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I rotate my sheep from the barn to the lush spring grass. I started out with 1 hour, then slowly increased it to 3-4 hours. They yell at me to go out on the fresh grass. LOL LOL I make them eat hay first, and put out baking soda for them to avoid bloat.

We have mined the sheep barn for the garden and tilled in the manure compost. We have mined the dead sheep hay to spread on the new dirt where I will soon plant bahia grass seed. I have mined one of the chicken coops to spread the compost on a pasture. Deep litter is a valuable resource!
It sure is! That's one reason I can't wait to get the girls out on pasture full time....I want all that valuable litter that's been composting all winter long for the raised beds in my garden and for bare spots in the yard, for around the apple trees, etc.

Now more than ever folks need a more sustainable routine for farming that doesn't rely so very much on outside resources and deep litter is one of those things....take something free and unwanted by others and turn it into food for all. It's a good solution for an ongoing problem of hygiene on the farm.

Hopefully, this will be the last year I need to build deep litter in a shelter for sheep, as they will be spreading the goodness on each section of paddock as I move them all winter long....each year that will lead to more and more grass, to be stockpiled for winter grazing. Deep litter benefits without my actually having to build and tend to deep litter....it's a win/win!
 

Beekissed

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People in towns and cities should be allowed to keep hens for their eggs and manure. It would encourage people to raise gardens for fresh vegetables.
In towns, maybe....in cities, no. And that's if those towns have good ordinances set up to prevent abuse of the situation. I can see a whole lot of problems with town and city folk trying to raise an animal they know nothing about, won't house or contain properly or in healthy conditions, and then can see the shelters overrun with a problem they can't handle. It's already happening in many places....animal control out to capture feral chickens, having to remove those in abusive conditions, noise complaints, not being able to cull your flock for food due to neighbor complaints of cruelty, etc.

Living in a town or city comes with certain luxuries that rural folks don't have and vice versa....there's a trade off for both places, but trying to have your cake and eat it too rarely pays off the way you expect it will. When rural areas get urban advantages, the city moves out to the farm and pretty soon you can't farm any longer....too much zoning and complaints. When cities get the right to farm, then pretty soon you have folks who live in the city for a reason complaining about the noise and smell of farm animals, the cruelty of eating said farm animals, etc. Can't even keep honeybees in most towns and cities now due to complaining city folks. They like their stinging insects to be out in the country. ;)

That's why God made farmer's markets, so city folks could trade for goods they can't grow and farmers can make money they can't make unless they move to the city and get a city job.
 

Baymule

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There was a push for chickens in Houston some years back, called Hens for Houston. To my recollection, it was successful for hens only. There were stipulations, but people could keep a few hens for eggs. There needs to be more of that.
 

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