Deep Litter Method for Chickens: A Simple Guide To Calculating The Cost

Today, I’m going to show you exactly how to calculate how much deep litter your chicken farm needs.

This method will be perfect for:

  • any type of poultry litter material
  • any size poultry house
  • any bird (layer or broiler)
  • any unit of measurement
  • all currencies

Now, let’s go through the steps of estimating your layer or broiler farm’s deep litter needs and cost.

#1 Choose your chicken’s deep litter material #

Quick tip:

Use this poultry litter material table for a quick comparison of the most common options.

The breakdown:

When using the deep litter method when rearing chicken, the litter material you use could vary depending on:

  • quality
  • availability
  • cost

…amongst other variables.

Your choice of litter here largely influences other parts of this calculation, like density, for example.

#2 Find the density of your deep litter #

Quick tip:

Search Google or Bing for “[insert your chosen litter material here] density”. There you have it.

Sawdust Density for Poultry Litter

The breakdown:

The next step is to identify the density of the deep litter.


Because the density will help us determine the weight of the litter required.

And in most markets, deep litter material is often sold according to weight.

#3 Calculate the floor space of your poultry house #

Quick tip:

Planning a layer farm? Use my layer floor space calculator.

Do you have broiler chicken in mind? Use the rule of thumb of 2 sq. ft. per bird. This is ample space.

The breakdown:

This is a critical step in finding out how much deep litter we need for your poultry farm.


Floor space is an essential physical parameter when determining amount (or more precisely, weight) of litter needed.

You will understand more by looking at this KEY equation:

density = mass / volume

But, what we want is to determine the mass or weight of litter at the end of this.

So, we rearrange the equation and arrive at:

mass = density x volume

Now, we have already identified the density of litter in the previous step above (…according to whatever type of material you have chosen).

And the mass or weight of deep litter is where we EVENTUALLY want to get.


…we can do nothing at this stage without knowing the volume of the litter required in the poultry house(s).

The emphasis on the words: “poultry house(s)”.

Finding the volume of deep litter needed for your poultry farm #

The volume of the deep litter needed is dependant upon the size of the poultry house and its floor space.

And volume being a cubic measure (3 dimensions: length, width & height), dictates that we need to know not only the depth of the litter…

…but also, the length and the width of the floor space which the deep litter will occupy.

Hence, the need for measuring out the area or floor space of your poultry house.

#4 Determine the cost of your deep litter material #

Quick tip:

Quality of deep litter material is critical.

(Paying cheap prices for poor product is actually more costly (in the long run) than paying high prices for good product)

The breakdown:

This short tutorial would not be complete without arriving at a cost for your chicken’s deep litter.

So, you’ll need to run a short RFQ (request for quote) exercise here:

  • Research to find some reputable vendors.
  • Make a shortlist.
  • Sample their litter.
  • Speak with their current customers (or read some reviews).
  • Ask prospective suppliers about service levels like delivery.
  • Request some price quotes.
  • Weigh up the pros and cons.
  • Go with the best value option.

#5 How deep should deep litter be? #

Quick tip:

Here’s a quick recommendation from the UK’s DEFRA for optimal depth of poultry litter.

The breakdown:

This depth of poultry litter is the 3rd dimension required to calculate the volume of litter.

Now, with density and volume identified in previous steps, we can now make use of this formula:

mass = density x volume

…to calculate the weight of litter.

#6 How many times should you change your chicken’s deep litter? #

Quick tip:

ALWAYS change over litter between batches.

The breakdown:

The number of times you expect to change the litter will dictate how many times you will buy litter material.

A key multiplier in this exercise.

#7 Get the units of measurement right #

Quick tip: 

Use the units of measurement quoted by your supplier. This gives you a common language and avoids misunderstanding.

The breakdown:

Convert the unit of weight measurement quoted in the density research to your preferred units.

#8 Calculate the weight of your poultry litter #

Quick tip:

Remember your units here might not be what you eventually want them to be.

The breakdown:

Density x volume = mass (weight). It’s that simple.

#9 Convert poultry litter weight into the most usable unit #

Quick tip:

Again, the most usable unit for your litter will be the unit your suppliers will use.

The breakdown: 

This figure here is the one you will serve your supplier with. Their quote will use this measure.

#10 Calculate the cost of changing the poultry litter #

Quick tip:

Add a little contingency (extra on top) to make sure you have a little more than enough to fill the space.

(Although, any extra shouldn’t be kept – because of degradation in the period you wait.)

The breakdown:

It is important to remember at this stage that this is not your final figure for planning.


It is the cost of covering the floor once.

But when writing your project report, say over the course of 5 years or more, you’ll need to multiply this ‘cost of changing’ figure.

#11 The TOTAL cost of supplying deep litter for your poultry farm #

Quick tip: 

Your number of batches reared per year may not be identical, every year.

i.e. If you have a layer farm using 1+2 / 1+3 / 1+1+5 production models, the number of batches reared will vary per year.

The breakdown:

This total cost of poultry litter is the figure you can assign to your business overheads.

It is an indirect or semi-variable cost of operation.

In other words,

It is fixed according to the size of the poultry house, not necessarily the exact number of birds.

But then again, the number of birds is the principal factor behind determining the size of poultry house.

They are related and inter dependable.

Example deep litter calculation for a layer farm #

  1. What is the poultry litter material?
    • Sawdust
  2. How dense is sawdust typically?
    • 0.21 gram per cubic centimetre
  3. How much floor space do your birds require?
    • 17670 sq. ft. / 16415960.01 cm2 (1,500 layers in a 1+1+5 production model)
  4. What is the cost of litter material?
    • $2.96 per ton
  5. What is the chosen depth of poultry litter?
    • 6 inches or 15.24 cm
  6. How many times a year will the poultry litter be changed?
    • 12 times, once per month…every house: brooder, grower and layer
  7. What is the required volume of poultry litter?
    • 250179231.92 cm3 (16415960.01 x 15.24)
  8. How much does this volume of litter weigh?
    • 52537638.70 grams /  (250179231.92 x 0.21)
  9. How much is that in tons?
    • 51.71 tons (52537638.70 x 0.00000098421)
  10. How much does this weight of poultry litter cost?
    • $153.06 (51.71 x 2.96)
  11. What will the annual litter cost for all poultry houses be?
    • $1,836.67 ($153.06 x 12)

(Restricted) A spreadsheet deep litter calculator for a poultry farm #

(Restricted) An online version of the poultry deep litter calculator #

[N.B. This calculator will email you the results immediately.]

Resources: #

Did you know you can convert units of measurement directly in Google? Type in ‘convert units’…and you’re away!

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