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Did you know chickens are great gardeners? Not only does their scratching aerate the soil, they also keep the weeds at bay and can clean up some of those nasty bugs when you let them in the garden at the end of season. The number one reason chickens are great for the garden though, is their valuable manure compost. So when cleaning your coop, save that wonderful manure for fertilizer in your garden!
Organic, rich soil makes beautiful gardens and what better way to spruce up your soil than with your own compost makers…chickens! The manure gathered from your flock is already mixed with grains, seeds, greens, bugs, worms and has helpful bacteria that can improve the soil. The perfect combination for making a compost pile and adding it to your garden! Chicken manure is the best for adding to your soil as long as you give it time to decompose first. It is referred to as “hot” because of its high nitrogen content and should not be used until it has time to break down or it can burn your plants. As the chicken manure ages, all the stuff the chickens ate that is inside the manure, decomposes. That along with the high nitrogen, make the perfect compost. Some poultrymen refer to it as “Black Gold,” and for a very good reason.
Making organic chicken manure compost from home is very rewarding and does not have to be a complicated process; just a little patience is worth the effort. Chicken manure compost has proven time and again to produce the largest and most productive gardens. Purchasing such composts can be expensive but here are a few simple steps to make your own. The first method involves mixing chicken manure with other organic carbon materials such as shavings, grass etc. The second method is called “Hot Composting” where chicken manure is “aged” faster by using heat. Our method of hot composting is meant to age only the manure without adding other ingredients except the bedding from your coop.
* Gather the chicken manure and shavings from your coop. You can put your compost pile in a compost bin, or pile on the ground (a pile about 3’ high and 5’ wide.) Mix equal parts of topsoil or dry grass clippings, dry leaves, sawdust, newspaper or hay to strait manure and mix well.
* Lightly wet the compost pile down and cover it to keep compost warm and improve decomposing process.
* Allow the manure compost pile to decompose. If using a compost bin wait at least 60 days, (follow manufactures instructions for the type of bin being used.) For a pile on the ground, wait 6 months to a year. Rotating the soil or stirring it every so often and covering it again will speed up the decomposing process.
* The compost is ready when it is dry and loose, it will have a slight sweet smell and be nice and dark. Till compost into your garden 1 part compost to 2 parts soil.
* Clean out the manure from your coop with the bedding in it. Bring the temperature to approximately 130* – 150* Fahrenheit by either containing it in a compost bin, a black plastic garbage bag or another method. If using a plastic bag, set the bag in a sunny location first and then add the manure. (It will be too heavy to move the bag once it is full.)
* Maintain the warm temperature for 3 days using a compost thermometer and then stir it. If using a black plastic bag, stir it by replacing the manure in a new bag and leave for 3 more days.
* After the manure has had about a week of maintained hot temperature, rotate the compost bin (then leaving the compost inside the bin for about 30-60 more days) or cut the bag open and leave the pile on the ground. If piled on the ground, cover the top and let manure cure for 45-60 days of hot weather. If possible, continue to stir every week. Make sure manure is ready when it is dry, falls apart easily and is nice and dark. Drying times can vary depending on the area you live.
* Once the manure is cured, till it into your garden soil about 3-4 parts soil to 1 part manure.
**Another tip for adding manure to your garden is waiting until the end of the season, when your garden is dormant. Sprinkle fresh manure on your garden beds and let it sit through the winter. In the spring , simply till the manure into your soil!