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Chicken Poop. How To Make Manure To Use In Your Garden
As chicken owners we look forward to charming scenes of gathering eggs, feeding our flocks their favorite treats and hearing their excited “cluck, cluck, cluck!” as we approach the coop. What we do not appreciate however, is this unwanted, yet ever present problem: piles and piles of chicken poop.
This is the battle of feces. Don’t get stuck with scads of scat!
Keep reading to learn about how to turn your chickens’ pesky poop into egg-cellent compost that will boost your garden’s productivity, pad your pockets with extra cash, and reduce your poop problem.
What Is Compost?
Compost is a substance put on gardens to increase productivity. It is essentially plant food. Quality compost contains green material, brown material, air, and water.
Many folks attempt composting, but few get it right because they don’t understand the underlying science. Often people think composting is just throwing a bunch of rubbish in a pile and hoping for the best. The result? A pile of fedid trash (or poop in our case.)
Don’t pile trash on your garden. Be thoughtful and plan your approach. You need strategy and consistency in order to make quality compost that contains all of the nutrients your plants need to grow.
What Kind of Nutrients Do Plants Need?
To grow, plants need nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. The ideal compost includes each of these nutrients. Below are the main components of compost:
- Greens (energy): nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium
- Browns (bulk): give the compost body
- Air: aids in oxidation and chemical breakdown
- Water: aids in oxidation and chemical breakdown, distributes good bacteria and microorganisms throughout the compost
To start your compost, you need the proper ratio of ingredients. Your compost should have one part green material (chicken poop,) to two parts brown bulking material. Add water to the mixture and move your compost with a pitchfork or shovel once a month to incorporate air into the mixture and expedite chemical breakdown.
Examples of Green and Brown Ingredients
Green material provides energy. Examples of green ingredients can include:
- Manure (in this case, chicken manure!)
- Grass clippings
- Kitchen scraps
- Coffee grounds
- hair/ fur
- Fish emulsions
- Blood meal
Brown material provides bulk to the compost. Examples of brown material include:
- Shredded newspaper
- Shredded cardboard
- Dried leaves
- Old hay
- Weed chips
- Small branches/ twigs
- Paper towel
- Tissue paper
- Wood ash
- Dried grass clippings
- pine needles
Comosting Principals: How to Care for Your Compost
Different chicken farmers prefer different composting systems. Some people simply have a pile for their compost, others make bins out of materials they already have around the farm. Click here for an easy tutorial on how to build your own compost bin for close to free. Still others purchase composting containers premade.
Once you’ve settled on your composting system, add your one part green to two parts brown materials to the container. Wet it with a hose, and wait for the magic to happen!
Turn your compost with a shovel or pitchfork once a month to speed up chemical breakdown. When mixing your compost, try to bring the center of the compost heap out to the edges. By doing this, you’re spreading the good bacteria throughout the pile. These microorganisms feed on the green and brown material. The byproduct is amazing compost!
When making compost, be aware that it will take some time for the ingredients to break down. This is a summer or year-long project, not something that can be done in an afternoon.
It is also helpful to note that compost should not be gross. If your compost is slimy or you feel like you’re digging through the dump when you go to turn it, you probably have too much green material in your mixture, and need to return to the proper ratio of green to brown ingredients.
Another common problem is that people add too much water. If the compost is soaking wet, add more dry brown material to compensate and absorb some of the moisture. Avoid watering our compost as frequently in the future.
When Can I Tell That My Compost Is Ready?
Many factors contribute to the time it takes for compost to break down and be usable on the garden. Humidity, frequency of stirring, size of compost pile, ingredient ratio, temperature, and many other factors can make a difference.
Generally speaking, your compost can be ready in as little as three months, but it may take longer if you have big pieces of brown material or the weather is cold.
You will know when your compost is done when it looks uniform and the solid matter has broken down and changed into a soil-like consistency. It should be dark brown and crumbly.
Using Your Compost In The Garden
Compost can be used on all kinds of gardens from flower gardens to orchards and vegetable patches.
Your compost can be applied around the base of plants. This is a “slow release” method. Each time it rains the nutrients will be carried down to your plants’ root systems and feed the plant.
Another method is tilling the compost directly into the soil. This means that the compost is incorporated into the soil before seedlings are planted. With this method, the nutrients are more readily available than topically applying compost around the base of plants.
These two methods can be used separately or together depending on the nutritional needs of the plants you are trying to grow.
Have Too Much Compost? Try Selling It!
If making compost for yourself isn’t enough to get rid of your poop problem, consider selling compost online. The internet is a huge resource for getting rid of your excess compost.
You could use Craiglist.com, the Nextdoor application, or Facebook Marketplace to find people interested in your homemade compost. By selling compost you’re not only ridding yourself of unwanted poop, you’re also making money in the process!
Chicken poop doesn’t need to be a drag. Armed with the knowledge of how to compost, you can take what used to be a useless byproduct and transform it into something useful. Is composting a project? Sure. But you are a chicken person, right? And If there’s one thing I know about us chicken people, it’s that we love a good project.
Good luck in all your composting endeavors!