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:
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.
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?
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.