When it comes to commercial poultry farming, there are two major systems you can rely on which are the battery cage system and the deep litter system.
Either of these two systems of poultry housing come with their own advantages and disadvantages.
It all depends on what you want to achieve and the capital you have to fund the project.
But, if you are thinking of starting a poultry farm using the deep litter system, then this article is for you.
In this article, you will get to learn about the advantages as well as the disadvantages of a deep litter system of poultry farming.
In addition, you will find some powerful tips that will help you raise chickens successfully using the deep litter system.
At the end of this article, I have shared some important links that will help you in your poultry farming journey.
If you really want to attain success, then click on the links and read the complete guide to poultry farming.
Now, if you are ready to learn more about the deep litter system of poultry management, let’s dive right in.
Table of Contents
- What is a deep litter system for chickens?
- What are the advantages of a deep litter system for chickens?
- What are the disadvantages of a deep litter system for chickens?
- What are the common mistakes farmers make in deep litter poultry farming system?
- How to be successful using the deep litter system for chicken farming
- 1. Provide the chickens with good food that meets their nutritional requirement
- 2. Enforce strict biosecurity measures
- 3. Choose a good bedding material for the poultry house
- 4. Practice proper management of bedding material
- 5. Handle the feeders and drinkers with care
- 6. Disease control and management
- 7. Prevent pests and predators from invading the chickens
What is a deep litter system for chickens?
Deep litter system is an intensive system of poultry management that requires you to raise chickens on a concrete floor having a layer of bedding materials such as wood shavings, groundnut husk, rice bran etc.
The bedding material is what is referred to as “litter” and that is where the name “deep litter system for chickens” stems from.
What are the advantages of a deep litter system for chickens?
Raising chickens using the deep litter system comes with a lot of benefits for the farmer.
Unlike in the battery cage system where the chicken poop drops to the floor, litter plays a vital role in absorbing the moisture in chicken poop.
It also promotes drying by increasing the surface area of the house floor and provides insulation for chicks from the cooling effects of the ground.
In addition, it also provides a cushioning effect for the chicks.
This goes a long way in helping the chicks to gain balance as they move around the chicken house.
As the chicks grow and gain weight, the litter material adjusts to the chicks’ new weight and this is essential for bone and muscle development.
In a glance, here are some of the benefits of using the deep litter system of poultry farming.
- It increases efficiency in poultry management
- Using wood shavings as litter material helps to reduce smell as it reduces the ammonia in the air that comes out of the poultry droppings.
- Facilitates the management of the very large flock
- Maximises use of land
- Helps to eliminate the bone disorders usually common with battery cage system.
- Increases rate of growth/production
- Maximises use of labour
- Chickens have enough room to run around and stay healthy.
- Reduces loss of eggs to vermins, snakes and thieves
- The deep litter system also allows chickens to exhibit their natural behaviour of scratching the floor in search of food or warmth.
- Insulates the chickens from cold weather conditions
- Facilitates the ease of identification of sick birds.
- Another advantage of the deep litter system is that you can remove the bedding material from the poultry farm and use it for mulching or as manure on the farm.
What are the disadvantages of a deep litter system for chickens?
Growing up as an agriculture student, I was told that anything that has advantages also has disadvantages.
The same is true about the deep litter system for chickens.
Even though this chicken farming system comes with a lot of advantages for the farmer, it also has some disadvantages.
Here are some of the disadvantages of the deep litter poultry farming system;
- The deep litter system requires a large quantity of litter which adds to the cost of production.
- There is a higher tendency of cannibalism and pecking of feathers in this system than in the cage system of poultry farming.
- In addition, diseases and parasites spread easily in the deep litter system.
- Raising layer chickens using the deep litter system makes eggs dirty.
- Finally, it is difficult to determine the unproductive birds in the poultry house and it is also difficult to catch a bird on the farm.
What are the common mistakes farmers make in deep litter poultry farming system?
Even though the deep litter system of poultry farming is quite easy to use, a lot of farmers get bad results from it.
The problem they always encounter is mostly associated with poultry care and management.
So, if you don’t want to fail while using a deep litter poultry house, then you must avoid these mistakes as well.
Some of the common mistakes farmers make while using this system include the following.
1. Poor management of bedding materials
When it comes to deep litter system of poultry farming, management of bedding materials is paramount.
This is because the chickens will spend most of their time on the litter.
You must make sure that you top up the litter regularly and ultimately change it completely when due.
2. Using the wrong choice of litter material
Another common mistake is the use of wrong litter materials on the poultry farm.
For instance, the use of a fine litter material like sawdust will only cause more problems for your chickens.
Because of its fineness, it is not durable for use as litter material.
In addition, the birds inhale the dust which congests their lungs, leading to respiratory problems.
3. Not observing the birds to separate infected chickens
Like you already know, being unable to easily identify sick chickens is one of the disadvantages of the deep litter system.
But, no doubt, you still need to be very observant so that you can identify those sick birds and isolate them.
If you are unable to quickly spot a sick bird and separate it from the flock, then you may lose all you birds to the disease.
4. Poor pest management
This is another mistake which most chicken farmers are most likely to make using the deep litter system.
Because the chickens are free to run freely in the poultry house, you need to make sure that you block all loop holes.
If rats or even your pet cat or dog find its way into the poulty house, they will most likely cause a damage.
5. Poor handling of feeder and drinkers
Finally, poor handling of feeders and drinkers (especially drinkers) is a common mistake farmers make while using the deep litter system of poultry housing.
I have to emphasize on the drinkers because a lot of farmers handle the drinkers carelessly and spill water on the litter material.
When water come in contact with the litter material, it makes it wet and uncomfortable for the chickens.
Also, a wet litter tends will cause your poultry house to smell badly which may be harmful to the health of the chickens.
Have you read some or all the mistakes poultry farmers make in deep litter system?
How to be successful using the deep litter system for chicken farming
So far, I believe you now know what a deep litter system is all about including the benefits and disadvantages of this system.
Now, it’s time to see how best to use this system in order to be successful.
Whether you are keeping chickens for the purpose of egg or meat production, here are some tips for you to raise chickens successfully in a deep litter system;
1. Provide the chickens with good food that meets their nutritional requirement
Chickens in deep litter poultry housing need to eat very well to stay healthy.
You should know that since the birds move around freely in the poultry house, they tend to use up energy.
They use up more energy for perching, running, scattering and scratching the ground.
As a result, you must ensure that you help them replenish for the lost energy.
You achieve this by providing enough food for the chickens to supply energy and meet their nutritional needs.
2. Enforce strict biosecurity measures
Chickens are very vulnerable to infections from bacterial and viruses.
Because of this, you must ensure that you take precaution to keep diseases out of the poultry house.
You may decide to restrict access to the poultry house so that a vistor does not bring a disease into the farm from outside.
Another way of ensuring biosecurity is by using special clothing and footware to access the farm house.
In addition, you must make sure that you disinfect all clothing, footware, tools and other accessories you use in the poultry house.
Install foot and hand bathtubs at the entrance of individual pen to maintain cleaniness.
Also, paste instructional aids on walls to guide the movement of visitors and restate the farm rules.
If you ever lose a bird in the poultry housing, always bury the carcass far away from the farm.
By doing all of these, you will be protecting your birds from harmful diseases that may lead to high poultry mortality.
3. Choose a good bedding material for the poultry house
One thing you must knkow is that your deep litter poultry house is as good as the litter in the house.
So, it is very vital that you select the best poultry materials for your the house.
There are different types of bedding materials you can use in your poultry farm.
However, ther are certain criteria that the litter material must meet.
For a bedding material to qualify for use in your poultry house, it must meet this checklist;
- It must be absorbent
- The bedding materia must be dry and friable
- Must be free of pest and disease causing organisms
- Finally, it should be cheaply and readily available.
Some examples of bedding materials are suitable as litter material include;
- Wood shavings
- Goundnut husk
- Rice bran, etc.
Among all these, sawdust and wood shaving are more commonly used.
If we consider the characteristic above, you will find that wood shaving is the most suitable bedding material for chickens, especially in deep litter system.
Sawdust is also good but it is suitable for birds kept in the battery cage system where the birds do not have access to the ground.
One of the major disadvantages of using sawdust is that its small particles can cause blindness or respiratory disorder in chickens.
So, if you want to raise your chickens in a deep litter system, I recommend you use wood shavings as your litter or bedding material.
4. Practice proper management of bedding material
It is one thing to use the best bedding material for your deep litter poultry house, but it is another thing to maintain it.
The bedding material is important in the farm for absorbing both the solid and liquid wastes that eh chickens produce.
As a result, it helps to keep the floor dry and comforable for the chickens.
If you don’t manage the litter properly, it may begin to harbour harmful bacterial and viruses that may lead to an infectious disease outbreak.
So, it is very crucial that you don’t let that happen.
Always replace the litter every 2 weeks or on a montly basis as long as it is not too bad for the chickens.
Also, ensure that the liter is always dry no matter what.
A wet litter material is hell for chickens as it facilitates the development of harmful bacterial and it also causes the chicken house to smell horribly.
It is good practice to prevent all of this from happening in order to be successful using the deep litter housing system.
5. Handle the feeders and drinkers with care
Feeders and drinkers are very important pieces of equipment that you need in your deep litter system.
These equipment make it easy for chickens to get access to food and water.
As a result, you need to provide as many feeders and drinkers as possible to ensure that the chickens do not struggle to access food and water.
Also, you need to ensure that you provide the chickens fresh clean water and refill their feeders everyday so that they don’t fall sick.
In addition, you must maintain hygiene by washings the drinkers regularly and ensuring that the feeder is free of litter material and chicken poop.
To prevent chicken from dropping faeces on the feeders and drinkers, it is best to use the hanging version of the equipment.
Just make sure the the equipment is set to the level of their breast for ease of access.
6. Disease control and management
Because of how chickens live in a deep litter system, they tend to be more vulnerable to diseases than the battery cage system.
Also, the fact that all the birds gets to interact with themselves makes it very easy for a disease to spread.
Because of these reasons, it is very important to curb the spread of diseases in your chicken farm.
In this case you need to monitor the birds everyday for signs of a sick bird.
Once you identify one, you must isolate the bird to stop the sickness from spreading.
Also, you may need to call in a vet if you are not an expert in this area.
The vet will help you identify the disease, causes and what you can do to end it.
7. Prevent pests and predators from invading the chickens
Just as you are protecting the chickens from diseases, you also need to protect them from pests and predators.
The common pests and predators that may attack your chickens in the deep litter system are snakes, cats, termites as well as rats.
To prevent these pests, you need to keep your farm environment free from bushes and weeds.
A bushy and dirty environment tends to harbour pests, especially snakes and rats.
Cut down the bushes and grasses around your pens up to 3 meters away from the pen.
If possible, dig a trench around the farm, use blocks and cement to create a gutter, fill the gutter with water and then add black engine oil.
Doing this will help to repel termites and other crawling insects from having access into the pen
To stop rats and other rodents, ensure that you block all holes and crevices on the body of the building.
Using the deep litter poultry housing system is one easy way for beginners to start poultry farming.
So, you are someone with very little startup capital for your chicken farming project, you may want to adopt this housing system.
This system is best for the purpose of raising birds is for meat production – that means for broiler farming.
Because of the free movement the birds have in the pen, they have a lower tendency to accumulate fat.
Also, the free movement allows the chickens to exercise and eliminates the problems of bone disorders.
There are many benefits of using the deep litter system of chciken farming which goes a long way to prove that it is a good system.
Poultry farming is a very profitable business which you may want to venture into today.
To get access to all the information you need to succeed in poultry farming, check out the articles below.
Also, share this article now because you may be helping someone.
- Turkey Farming – A complete guide with facts for beginners
- The Complete Guide to the Cage System of Layer Chicken Farming
- The Complete Beginners Guide to Poultry Housing Systems
- How to Construct a Good Poultry House
- How to reduce poultry mortality and make more profits
- 8 Unusual Reasons for High Poultry Mortality