Chickens poop a lot, there's no doubt about that. Even without teeth, chickens have arguably the most efficient digestive system in the entire animal kingdom. Maybe its because they're constantly eating and moving around, maybe its because their digestive track is simple and efficient. Maybe its because they poop roughly 15 times a day.
By the way, can you imagine pooping that much?
Typically your chickens won’t have regard for where they do the #2, be it on your favorite chair or your dog's bed.
It's very hard to train them to poop in only certain places, so often, chickens parents opt for a pen or run attachment without a floor.
While this sporadic pooping might seem like a major downside to raising chickens, you can make this situation work to your advantage by learning how to turn Chicken Poop into Compost.
Why Chicken Manure Compost is Useful
The high nitrogen content in chicken manure makes for the best kind of manure.
If you were to buy this stuff in the store, it'd be extremely pricey compared to most run-of-the-mill brands.
- Maybe this stuff is so good because of the number of balanced nutrients in it.
- Or, maybe its because it doesn't sit inside your chicken's digestive system for so long the stomach acids eat up all the good stuff.
- Maybe chicken poop is equivalent to masticating organic matter, breaking down the enzymes, and making it for easier for your plants to absord.
But no matter how you slice it, there's no denying that chicken poop makes excellent fertilizer.
However, I want to caution you that it needs to be composted before you use it as fertilizer. The high nitrogen content in raw manure is dangerous to plants if it hasn't been properly composted. (I know, annoying right) - but the extra step is crucial!
Further, raw chicken poop used as fertilizer can burn, or kill your plants - so here's what you need to do with it in order to use it the right way.
Step #1 Collecting resources
A controlled coop environment ensures you won’t have a hard time collecting manure from all over the garden.
You can handpick manure from the chicken coop, or wait for it to build up enough so that you can take out the droppings - plus the bedding - for composting. This is usually an easier option.
Alternatively, you can save yourself a lot of work by adding new bedding over the soiled bedding until it builds up to a nice concentration. Be warned though, an unchecked accumulation of feces can invite pests and diseases into your coop.
*Note: some coops come with a removable tray for easy cleaning.
Step #2 Balancing the Ingredients
Next, you have to find the right balance of carbon and nitrogen. This will ensure the microbes have an optimal environment to work in, and the right balance to create good manure.
Typically, green parts need to be twice the number of brown parts i.e., in reference to coop beddings and manure, respectively.
In other words, there should be [at least] twice as much bedding as there is poop. However, since chicken poop has a higher nitrogen concentration than your average manure, a ratio of 1:1 is recommended. So your mix should be half and half but at bare minimum 1/3 poop and 2/3 bedding.
The nature of the bedding should also be taken into account while determining the appropriate Carbon to Nitrogen ratio.
Step #3 Creating a “Hot Pile”
Once you have the material you need, you can set up your pile in the shade or sun.
Yes, this parts easy. You literally are going to let it cook.
You’ll need to add water to the mixture to create a hot pile and get the heat up to about 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep the heat between 130-150 degrees Fahrenheit for three straight days, adding water when necessary.
You’ll need to purchase a compost temperature gauge to keep up with the temperature reading.
A temperature below 130 degrees Fahrenheit encourages pathogens (disease-causing organisms) to overwhelm your brew so be careful with this. If it's too cold to properly compost, just buy commercial fertilizer until the warmer months come back around.
Note: anything above 150 degrees Fahrenheit will kill the good bacteria & nutrients, including the beneficial microbes that trigger the composting. It's crucial to keep the temperature in the sweet zone, using water to cool it down when it gets too hot.
Can you use hot water to heat the compost pile?
Not exactly. You won't need to.
Cold vs Hot Composting
Hot composting requires a little more diligence than the cold method, but it will finish more quickly.
For hot composting, nitrogen (chicken poop) and carbon(usually straw or hay from the coop bedding), are put into a pile and set in direct sunlight. The pile is adjusted often to keep the temperature high. And the compost is ready to use in a month or so.
Benefits of hot composting:
- the high temperature kills weed seeds and pathogens
- it's a faster process
- you'll also have the ability to make hot water without fire or electricity
This is the easier of the two methods.
You use the same nitrogen/carbon components, and leave them to rot. Different elements can be added as they become available over time. However, this method can take a year or two to provide a rich compost.
Step #4 Repeating the Heating
After three days, it’s time to turn the pile inside out.
Take apart the core and push it to the edges and then bring the outside material to the center before repeating the heating process. You’ll need to do this flipping motion at least three times for every cubic yard of the compost mixture.
Also, make sure to water your pile thoroughly and then turn it every few weeks to allow air into the center of the pile.
Step #5 Curing
Once you’ve done enough heating, it’s time to let the compost sit for about two months.
During this time, be sure to cover the pile loosely. You’ll know it’s ready when it smells somewhat like soil and has a crumbly and dark texture. At this point, you can work the manure into your flower bed or garden.
Gently spread it over the soil surface, underneath, and around the plants.
A Quick Summary
In summary, to effectively compost your chicken poop, you need a good balance of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and water. To achieve this, begin with a mixed feedstock with (C/N) ratio of 25 to 30. The pile it up in some sunlight, and turn the pile every few days. Also, make sure to water the pile every few weeks to allow air into the center of it.
Chicken manure is an excellent organic alternative to commercial fertilizers that harm the environment. Using this kind of manure is also beneficial to the human body because after all, you will be eating the plants that comes from your garden. Just think of how much dirt you miss when washing off fruits and vegetables.
It sounds gross, but would you rather eat the chemicals trapped in that dirt? Or the raw, organic matter that's actually healthy?
By knowing how to turn chicken poop into compost or "black gold," you’ll not only save a great deal of money on fertilizer but also enrich the soil and increase the output of your garden.
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