Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Composting Chicken Poop

Chicken poop straddles the line between manure you can compost and manure you need to avoid. Since chickens will eat anything (and I do mean anything) they are omnivores so you need to follow special rules if you want to compost the manure of your domestic avian friend.

Cock-A-Doodle Do’s and Don’ts
If you decide to add chicken manure to your compost, follow a few basic precautions to make sure any pathogens in the manure do not make you or your family sick.

  1. Wear gloves when handling manure.
  2. Practice hot composting techniques with manure to ensure the pile heats up enough to kill pathogens.
  3. Only use fully composted manure on your plants (nothing fresh).
  4. Wash all vegetables planted in soil that you amended with compost derived from manure.
  5. If you are susceptible to food borne illness (e.g., very young children, pregnant women) avoid eating raw vegetables planted in soil that you amended with compost derived from manure.
  6. Do not use chicken manure in vermicomposting.


Chicken-Out
Each chicken will create about two cubic feet of manure in a year. Even with a few chickens, all of that poop and associated bedding really adds up! Of course, like other birds their manure is mixed with urine in a gross weird mess (sorry to get so graphic, but what did you expect?).

If you keep chickens, you know the smell of ammonia all too well and know that you must clean up the fowl droppings often (pun intended).  

Which Comes First?
Fresh chicken manure is way too strong to apply directly to plants or even work into soil as an amendment. It would damage the plant roots and possibly kill the plant. However, chicken manure makes an excellent addition to your compost pile since it has higher levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium than most other domestic animal manures. The organisms in your compost bin will break the manure down into a soil amendment your plants will love.

After the manure has fully composted, give the compost plenty of time to cure (at least two months). Although a little extra work, composting chicken manure creates a beautiful, black crumbly material high in nutrients for your plants.