-- Quote of the Day --
“You need good jobs and a clean environment. Without both, you will have neither.”
~ Leo Gerard
Utilizing Chicken Waste for Compost
* Written by: Melissa Reinhart
Eggs are not the only beneficial byproduct of chickens. While a hen can produce an egg every 24 hours, they also produce 2 cubic feet of manure every year. The large quantity of manure that is being produced will be utilized in our three onsite greenhouses.
Chicken manure is high in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, which makes it a good fertilizer. The concentration of these beneficial elements is higher in chicken manure than it is in more commonly utilized varieties, such as those derived from cows and horses. Chicken manure is too potent to be used on flowers or vegetables in raw form. Therefore, the manure must be composted before being added to the soil; otherwise it could damage roots, kill plants, or even cause illness. Once composted, however, chicken manure adds organic matter and beneficial biota content to the soil, and increases its ability to hold water.
The first step in composting chicken manure is to create a proper compost bin. The bin should be a minimum of 1 cubic yard. Composting chicken manure will require a two bin system: one will for the "hot composting" phase and a second for the "curing" phase.
Your chicken coop provides all the necessary material to begin composting. The coop bedding (the "browns" or Carbon) and the manure (the "greens" or nitrogen) will mix with air and moisture in your "hot" compost bin to begin the process.
The common bedding materials used for chicken coops are straw, sawdust, or, in some cases, dry leaves. When the bedding has reached the end of its life cycle, collect it with the manure, and dump the mixture into your compost bin. This chore can be completed on a daily or up to a bi-weekly basis, depending on the number of chickens in the coop.
It is recommended that gardeners use a mixture of 30 parts carbon to one part nitrogen, when composting. This will create an environment that allows microbes to break down organic material. Creating a proper mixture will take experimentation, as different bedding has varying amounts of nitrogen content. A simple ratio followed by most gardeners is one part "brown" to two parts "green."
Moisture needs to be added after the bedding and manure have been combined, but the mixture should not be allowed to liquefy. Ideally, your compost will have light, consistent moisture throughout. The pile should then be heated to achieve a 140 degree (F) center temperature, for 3-5 days. This temperature will kill dangerous pathogens, while allowing beneficial microorganisms to thrive. After 3-5 days, the mixture should be allowed to cool. This process should be repeated three times with mixing taking place throughout.
Upon completion of the hot composting cycle, the mixture should be allowed to cure for two months before it is used. When the compost resembles potting soil, it is generally ready to be added to your garden.
Fresh chicken manure contains diseases that may contaminate root crops such as carrots or beets, and leaf vegetables, like lettuce or spinach. It is important to never spread un-composted manure (of any kind) on the soil of your garden and never handle manure unless using proper protective materials, such as gloves and masks (if the material is dry).
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