This post was most recently updated on March 1st, 2020
If you have chickens in your backyard, you will have plenty of chicken poop. Here are some useful ideas for what to do with chicken manure and how to use your chicken manure in the garden.
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I like to keep my nutrient cycle as closed as possible, and part of this is making sure we are using the chicken poop for something useful in the garden.
How much manure does a chicken produce in a year?
For every 4oz/100g of feed a chicken eats it produces 1.6oz or 40g of poop. An average laying chicken eats about 120g of feed per day so your yearly manure production will be about 44lb/20kg of poop per chicken.
That is a lot of chicken manure! We have 30 chickens – that gives us over half a ton of chicken manure per year wet weight.
For many poultry owners chicken manure is a big stinky issue. However, if you manage it well, it can be a great resource.
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What to do with chicken poop: Can you put fresh chicken poop on a garden?
No. At least not in to a garden containing plants that you want to survive. Using chicken manure in the garden is not as easy as simply adding it your your plants as it is very high in nitrogen and it will burn and maybe even kill your plants.
How to compost chicken manure
Manure is high in nitrogen. To break down well, it needs to be in a balanced heap with a carbon to nitrogen ratio of 30:1.
This ratio describes the chemical composition of a material and does not mean that you need a volume of brown materials that is thirty times greater than the amount of green matter! Don’t make this mistake!
Generally speaking, you can get C:N ratios of 30:1 by adding two parts of fresh manure to one part of a brown material.
A “part” can be defined as a certain quantity of the material, such as two 5-gallon buckets of manure and 1 packed bucket of wood shavings.
Not enough carbon (wood shavings, cardboard, dried leaves, straw etc) will mean that much of the nitrogen will be lost as gas to the air.
Turn the pile daily for 3 days, weekly for 3 weeks then monthly for 3 months – at the end of this it is ready for the garden. Or to save all that shoveling – use a tumble composter.
In the hen house deep litter system, I do not expect you to be really measuring this – if it stinks add more brown, it is that easy in this situation.
Using Fresh Chicken Poop in the Garden
One time I have used fresh chicken manure in the vegetable garden with very good effect. I bought wood based compost that wasn’t broken down enough, and it has resulted in nitrogen starved leafy greens. Find out about my fresh chicken poop tea here.
How long until you can use chicken manure in the garden?
If you are taking chicken poop straight from the coop fresh and placing it in a pile as described above, then waiting 3-4 months will be fine.
If you are using the deep litter bedding method, you are best to leave the manure until it is at least 6 months old. The difference is because of the speed that a well balanced, large, well turned heap will compost at is a lot faster and a lot hotter than a spread out thick layer that is not well turned regularly.
How much chicken manure do I put in my garden?
The chicken manures nutrient value will vary depending of the
- age of the birds
- the type of birds they are (meat vs layers vs dual purpose)
- the feed that they are eating
The main nutrients considered in fertilizer is the nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium, often referred to on a packet as NPK.
Chicken manure also contains calcium, manganese, chlorine, boron, iron and sulphur.
Dry, aged chicken manure has the following values (g/kg):
Nitrogen – 28-62
Phosphorus – 9-29
Potassium – 8-21
Calcium – 17-67
Magnesium – 3-8
Sulphur – 4-7
To compare these to commercial fertilizers you can say that aged chicken manure is N 1.8%, P 1.5%, K .8%
To use aged chicken manure in the garden, add 1-2 inches to the surface of the garden and gently rake it in.
3 Easy ways to collect chicken manure
There are several ways that you can use to collect the chicken manure.
1 Cardboard or plastic sheeting
Place a layer of cardboard or plastic under the chicken perches. Chickens do 50% of their pooping when they are perched!
Daily or weekly remove the sheeting and scrape it clean and replace it.
2 Thin bedding
Spread a 1-2 inch layer of wood shavings (pine is good), straw or sawdust on the coop floor, use a rake to stir it a couple of times per week. Once every couple of weeks, clear it out and compost it all together.
3 Deep litter
Add at least 4 inches of bedding material on the coop floor. The droppings will start to decompose into the wood shavings over several months. Rake it, or throw some grain in to it and let the chickens turn it for you.
Once a month add more fresh bedding, and remove it totally every 6-12 months, it should be fairly well composted by now and ready for the garden.
This is the most efficient way of dealing with chicken manure, as it essentially becomes its own composting system.
For compost to work well, you need to keep the ‘browns’ up – so add plenty of bedding to soak up and deal with the nitrogen.
5 Tips for deep litter bedding with chickens
1 Turn it often
The mixture needs to be mixed often to stop a caked layer of poop forming on the top. Encourage the chickens to scratch around by sprinkling some grain on the floor each day.
2 Rake under the perches
Half or more of the poop a chicken makes is while it is perching, so you will get a build up under there. Get out the rake once a week and pull it out to even it up and spread it out.
3 Keep it dry
Wet compost is stinky compost. Keep the deep litter dry and you will have very little issue with smell.
4 Keep it thick
At the entrances make the bedding extra thick, this will help absorb any sneaky drifting rain that comes in the door.
5 Keep it fresh
Every time you clean out the nesting boxes, throw the bedding in the deep litter system. Keep adding dry material to the system to help keep the dry matter to poop ratio level high.
A well managed deep litter system should not smell bad, and can be used directly on the garden when you clean it out once a year.
What to do with Chicken Poop – How to use chicken manure in the garden
Chicken manure, when dealt with well, can be a useful and effective addition to your garden. Keep your coop and poop dry and age it well before adding it to the garden.
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