If you have chickens roaming around your yard, you probably have chicken droppings scattered all over your property. Since there’s such an abundance of manure (especially if you have many chickens), can you repurpose it for your garden?
While chicken manure is an outstanding soil amendment and fertilizer for the plants in your garden and around your home, there are a few things you need to know before using it. You need to properly handle and age the manure before using it on your plants, as it can carry specific pathogens harmful to humans and animals.
However, once you age or compost it properly, it’s one of the best manure additives for your garden. Here’s what you need to know.
Is Chicken Manure Safe For Vegetable Gardens?
Chicken manure is safe for use in vegetable gardens, but you need to be careful with how you handle it. Raw chicken manure (without being composted or aged) can have pathogens that can be harmful to animals and humans.
However, as long as you go through the composting process correctly, you don’t need to worry about these potentially harmful pathogens. The process destroys these disease-causing organisms, meaning you can safely use chicken manure on plants and around people and pets.
How Long Do You Have To Wait To Use Chicken Manure In Your Garden?
The process of composting chicken manure for your garden isn’t quick. On average, it takes anywhere from six to nine months to safely compost chicken manure in your garden. Of course, the exact time frame may vary based on the conditions in which the manure is composted.
How To Safely Compost Chicken Manure
Creating chicken manure compost isn’t a complicated process, but it does take a while. Patience is key, as you can’t rush the curing period. However, your patience will pay off in time, and the chicken manure will be ready to add to your garden.
Here’s how to safely compost chicken manure:
Collect Your Materials
To start, you need to collect the necessary materials. Most chicken owners use shavings, dry leaves, sawdust, or straw as cushioned bedding for the chickens, which helps control odors and pests.
Since these materials are safe for composting, you can scoop up the entire contents of the coop bedding along with the manure. Some folks may prefer to sift the manure out of the bedding so they can go longer before changing it, while others simply add more bedding over the manure.
It’s up to you – do what works best for you.
Balance Nitrogen And Carbon
A solid balance of carbon to nitrogen is essential for the composting process to function. Nitrogen helps create the perfect environment for beneficial microbes. In a cozy environment, the microbes work to break down organic material, which produces compost.
If you decide to use the entirety of your coop’s bedding materials along with the manure, you need to ensure you have a good balance between the two. Generally, you should shoot for a combination of 30 parts carbon to one part nitrogen.
Each bedding type has its own carbon to nitrogen ratio, so the bedding to manure proportions will vary based on what type you’re using. For the most part, 1 part brown to 2 parts green is a good combination. Many composters decide to go with this ratio, as it’s simple and straightforward yet still yields good results.
That said, chicken manure has a high nitrogen content, so it might be better to use a 1:1 mixture or a 2:1 mixture. Ultimately, it depends on the scenario you’re working with, so do what you feel is best.
Build The Pile
After you determine the best ratio for your compost pile, your next step is to form the pile. You should have at least one cubic yard of material, layering bedding and manure alternately to create a large pile.
Once you pile the material, add water. There should be enough water in the pile that it isn’t dry and crumbly, but there shouldn’t be so much water that the mixture is sopping wet. Ideally, the moisture content in the pile should make it feel about as damp as a well-wrung sponge.
Meet The Right Temperature
Next, the pile needs to reach the correct temperature range. Experts recommend the pile should reach a temperature between 130 and 150 degrees Fahrenheit and maintain this temperature for several days.
The high temperature ensures unwanted pathogens will be destroyed. However, it’s essential the temperatures don’t exceed 160 degrees Fahrenheit, as these temperatures can kill beneficial microorganisms vital to the composting process.
To eliminate the temperature guesswork, invest in a compost temperature gauge. You can find these online or at your local nursery.
Repeat And Continue Heating
Once the center of the pile reached the correct temperature and maintained for three days, it will begin to cool. As it cools, you need to move the outer materials to the middle of the pile to heat them as well.
So, pull the center apart using a pitchfork or a shovel, then move the core materials toward the outer edge of the pile. Drag the material from the edges to the center for heating. One cubic yard of material usually requires three cycles to heat the entirety.
Give It Time
After you finish the heating process, all you need to do is wait. At this point, you simply need to monitor the pile for about 45-60 days. Keep a loose cover over the pile and allow it to sit for about two months before using it.
Once ready to use, the material will be dark, crumbly, and have a sweet scent similar to soil.
Use It As A Fertilizer
After completing the heating process and waiting the necessary time, your compost is ready to use as fertilizer. Add it to your vegetable garden or flower beds.
You can either spread a small amount over the surface or gently work it into the existing soil around the plants. Make sure you don’t use straight composted chicken manure for planting, as it can damage the plant’s roots.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can You Plant Directly Into Composted Chicken Manure?
It’s not a good idea to plant directly into composted chicken manure. Why? Chicken manure contains high nitrogen levels, which will burn the plant’s roots. This doesn’t work out well for the plant, so it’s best to avoid planting directly into composted chicken manure, even if you did the process correctly.
Can I Use Composted Chicken Manure On My Lawn?
Chicken manure is safe to use on your lawn if it’s composted correctly. It’s an excellent lawn fertilizer thanks to its high nitrogen content. This helps improve the appearance of your lawn, giving it a more vibrant and healthy appearance.
On top of that, chicken manure is an excellent source of phosphorous, which supports a healthy root structure. However, it’s essential that you compost the manure correctly, or it can do more harm than good. Fresh chicken manure isn’t ideal for use on plants, so composting is an essential part of the process.