For some individuals, owning poultry is an opportunity for small-scale agricultural sustainability and self-reliance through meat and egg production. However, one issue with backyard poultry keeping is managing the waste of your chicken, particularly the manure that builds up over time in the coop.
On average, a hen produces one cubic foot of manure every six months. If you have hundreds of them at your disposal, you are going to have lots of manure that when not properly managed, it might cause problematic over-accumulation.
You can’t let chicken manure pile up in your coop. Besides producing an awful smell, it also attract flies and rodents. It also releases ammonia gas which is unhealthy, particularly if you care about your chicken’s health.
In this article, we’re going to learn whether chicken manure is a good addition to both your compost and garden.
Is chicken manure good for compost?
Chicken manure is definitely good for compost.
It is an excellent product that can be used as an organic fertilizer for your garden or lawn.
Since chicken manure is naturally high in nitrogen, it must be broken down through the process of composting before it can be used as a fertilizer.
Aside from macronutrients like phosphorus, nitrogen, and potassium, which are essential for plant growth, chicken manure also contains sulfur, calcium, and magnesium, which aren’t naturally present in synthetic fertilizers.
Besides, in its raw form, chicken manure contains high concentrations of bacteria, including pathogenic salmonella, so you shouldn’t apply it to your garden.
It also contains excess salt and nitrogen, which may pose health risks to your plants. Therefore, the best way to dispose of chicken manure is to first get it composted and then apply it in a correct and safe way.
What are the dangers of handling and applying raw chicken manure to your yard or garden?
As I’ve briefly mentioned, chicken manure can contain bacteria and other pathogens.
Some of them, namely salmonella, can pose a serious threat to your health.
While the pathogens that pose a risk to your health may not harm the existing plant life in your garden, they can be harbored in the soil over extended periods of time and may ultimately infect you through your plants.
Also, chicken manure is very high in nitrogen, and this means it might burn or even kill your plants. The roots of your plants can be damaged if they come into contact with a material that contains excess nitrogen.
Lastly, albeit not much of a concern, chicken manure releases an unpleasant odor.
How do you compost chicken manure?
Composting raw chicken manure ensures the more powerful nutrients are broken down, so they are more safe and usable by plants.
Composting chicken manure is relatively simple. On average, it may take six to nine months for raw chicken manure compost to be ready.
However, the exact time it takes for composting chicken manure largely depends on the prevailing conditions under which it is composted. Below are proven, practical, and effective tips to incorporate chicken manure into your compost pile:
- Use both manure and poultry bedding: Most poultry farmers usually use bedding such as sawdust, shavings, straw, or dry leaves to create a dry cushion for chickens and to help regulate pests and smell. You can add both the coop bedding and the manure into your compost bin.
- Ensure the right carbon-nitrogen balance: A proportion of 3 parts carbon and 1 part nitrogen will create the desired environment for microbes to break down the organic materials to produce compost. How can you achieve the ideal carbon to nitrogen ratio when mixing coop bedding with chicken manure? Bear in mind that different coop beddings have distinct C:N ratios, the ratio of bedding to manure will largely depend on the type of bedding used. Because poultry manure is high in nitrogen, try to keep your bedding to manure ratio at 3:1, so that means 75% bedding and 25% manure.
- Use a hot composting recipe: The easiest and quickest way to compost chicken manure is to employ the hot composting technique. Because you combine the right ratio of bedding and manure to form the compost pile, you must add moisture to produce a hot pile. It is recommended that the compost pile attains a temperature of 130-150 degrees, and maintains it for 72 hours. Heating helps destroy all the unwanted pathogens. You can consider buying a compost thermometer (this one on Amazon is pretty good) to help you attain the appropriate temperature requirements.
- Turn the pile repeatedly to allow for aeration and proper composting: While the internal pile is perfectly treated, the outer part isn’t. Therefore, you need to turn the pile every two days to ensure every part of the pile is treated as needed.
- Give it time to cure: Carefully and closely monitor the compost pile and ensure all its components are well treated. Cover it loosely and allow it to cure for at least fifty days. Your compost should be ready when it is dark, smells fresh, and has a crumbly texture.
Can I add animal wastes such as cat or dog feces to the chicken manure compost pile?
You should never add cat, dog, or even human feces to your compost pile.
The disease potential from human, cat, or dog waste is higher than that of chicken manure. Adding them to in your pile is a huge risk.
Is there any composted chicken manure for sale?
If you feel like chicken manure is incredibly valuable to grow plants, but you don’t own any chickens and have no raw chicken manure to compost, you can also purchase ready-made versions.
Here are two options I found to be pretty interesting on Amazon:
Unfortunately, these are not products you can easily find online, so there are pretty much the two options I found to be the most promising.
Is chicken manure good for roses?
Chicken manure is actually an effective fertilizer for roses.
It adds good amounts of nitrogen to the soil, helps build soil structure, increases water retention, attracts earthworms, and also adds important organic matter.
However, it’s important to note that chicken manure doesn’t provide adequate amounts of potassium, so it might be a good idea add in potassium from a different source. Naturally, this will depend on how varied your compost is.
The bottom line
Fresh chicken manure is too strong to be used directly on most vegetable and flower gardens. It will not only produce an awful odor, but can also cause harm to your plants.
However, once composted, chicken manure boasts numerous benefits.
It not only adds essential nutrients to the soil, but equally boosts the soil’s ability to hold moisture. Also, it adds nutrients like potassium, nitrogen, and phosphorus to the soil in somewhat larger quantities than other forms of manmade compost.