Lesson 715 – Using Chicken Manure in the Garden

Let’s talk a little bit about chicken manure.

As spring approaches, not only am I getting lots of questions about chicks but I’m also getting questions about using chicken manure on gardens. When I recently gave a chicken presentation for a garden club, many people in particular wanted to know about this “black gold.”

Chicken poop is high in nitrogen which is something that plants love. Seriously, you add nitrogen to your garden and your plants will rival those of a Miracle Grow commercial. The poop is also high in good pre-digested organic matter. However, like a kid eating his candy on Halloween, too much of a good thing is going to make you sick. Chicken poop is too strong to put directly on your plants.  It will end up burning and killing them.

So what’s a gardener to do?

You need to compost your chicken poop before you use it and you can do this in one of two ways:

Traditional compost

The rule of thumb is to add approximately 1 part of manure to 1 part of organic compost. If you are using woodchips in your coop and you’ve left them there all winter, when the thaw comes you will be almost ready to use your litter, just add some good “green” material (grass, leaves) to the mix, turn it over a few times and it’s ready.

The problem with all of this though is that using Chicken poop as fertilizer is more of an art than a science. If the poop hasn’t started to already compost a bit in your coop, it may not be ready. If you’ve uncovered a particularly poop filled corner, you may need to adjust your compost levels and use a bit more added organic material. (wood chips compost a lot slower than high water content material which is why adding grass and leaves speeds things up.)

It’s always best to err on adding more organic material than less.

Water runoff

I know of some people that fill a bucket with poop-filled chicken litter and then add water. After the mess has fermented for a few days, they then use that water on their plants (both inside and out.) This is a perfectly fine way to remove the poop’s nutrients for your garden but the same warnings apply as above, keep an eye on the poop concentration, if it’s too strong, you may need to add more water to dilute things a bit, but even a little nitrogen is going to help your garden.

And, because as some of you know, I used to be a clinical microbiologist, here come the warnings.

Chicken poop is fecal material and as such *can* contain pathogenic bacteria and possibly parasites (but no more than any other animal’s poop.)  If you are using animal manure in your garden, please be careful to use gloves and wash your hands afterwards.

And all vegetables should be thoroughly washed before eating, but then you already knew that one, right?

SONY DSC

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I write about the lessons learned while raising children and chickens in New Hampshire. Contact me at Wendy@SimpleThrift.com

Also, join me on Facebook to find out more about the flock (children and chickens) and see some pretty funny chicken jokes, photos of tiny houses, and even  a recipe or two.

16 Comments

Filed under All things chickens, Backyard Chickens, Personal

16 responses to “Lesson 715 – Using Chicken Manure in the Garden

  1. Alan Kemp

    Just a note about the “art” of composting chicken poop in the Southwest or anywhere the humidity is low and the wind is high: it needs lots of water to get the action going, and at least a few turnovers. We have a hard clay soil, too, so lots of ground up leaves helps, too.

  2. Ami

    Thanks (I think) for reminding me, it’s time to clean out the coop. I usually mix it in with the stuff we already have composting, and till it all into the dirt together before planting. I may try to water runoff trick, too, this year. Wait…I just had a vision of the 3yo playing in an unsecured bucket of watery chicken poop…never mind!

    • Wendy Thomas

      Ami,

      You know I was almost going to post a warning about the runoff bucket and then thought, no, I’m being too much of a mom. But you’re right! The fermented resulting soup needs to be properly stored and protected.

      Thanks for pointing that out.

      Wendy

    • Cindy

      We do the same thing, we have a large compost pile, when cleaning out the coop goes in and gets turned all year long. The husband tills whatever amount he needs into the new garden beds.

  3. Jill

    Can I add it straight to my garden and then work it in a couple time before planting?

    • Alan Kemp

      It really is better to let it work on other plant material first, Jill. My daddy always called it the “hottest” fertilizer, and it does warm up a compost pile very fast, and will burn roots if it’s not fully digested

      • Wendy Thomas

        Alan,

        You beat me to it!

        Jill, I absolutely agree with Alan. Chicken poop is very strong and I’d cut it down (through compost) first before ever putting it in the garden. It doesn’t take long to break down just add some organic material (grass, hay), sprinkle it wth water, turn it over a few times, and in a matter of days, it will be ready.

        Wendy

      • Jill

        thanks for the info!!!

      • ARE YOU TALKIN ABOUT YOUR DADDY OR THE CHICK BEFORE YOU START TALKIN?!

      • Alan Kemp

        Oh, look, a garden troll showed up! ↑ ↑ ☺

  4. When I was a kid, we had chickens, 2 ducks, 1 cow, & two goats on our Southern California “hobby farm.” We said “chicken manure happens” (or something like that). We baked chicken manure brownies for our plants as it is not healthy for plants (which are sometimes referred to as “the lungs of the earth”) to smoke chicken manure.

  5. Pingback: Grow A Great Summer Garden | thegogreenspot

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