Using Chicken Manure in the Garden


As an avid gardener as well as a chicken keeper, I love having all that nice nitrogen-rich chicken manure for my vegetable garden each spring. Chicken manure is one of the best garden fertilizers you can use on your garden.
In addition to being high in nitrogen, it’s higher in calcium than other types of livestock manure. And of course, unlike commercial products like Miracle Gro, it’s all natural and safe for your family, plants and the environment.

But there are a few caveats you should know before you start using your chicken manure in your garden. Since any livestock manure likely contains pathogens like salmonella, E.coli and other icky disease-causing organisms, it’s important to let it age before using it on edible crops.


Three to four months is the minimum recommended, and closer to six months is more conservative.

When you clean you coop, tossing the litter into your compost pile is the easiest way to recycle all that wonderful straw, shavings, manure, and even chicken feathers.

-photos courtesy of Drinking with Chickens on Instagram and Facebook-

In the fall when I clean out my coop before winter, I spread the coop litter right on my garden since I won’t be planting for at least six months.
That gives the manure enough time to lose much of its moisture and stop producing the pathogens (they don’t multiply and thrive in conditions that lack the correct moisture and nutrients) and also gives all the nitrogen in the manure to seep into the soil.
“Hot” nitrogen can burn plant leaves, so that’s another good reason to let your chicken manure age before using it in the garden.
The ammonia fumes and nitrogen levels in fresh manure are greatly reduced in just 4-5 weeks time.
I also let my chickens into my garden after the final harvest in the fall. They love to clean up anything left over, and also are helpful in eating any bugs planning on overwintering in the soil. In the spring, before I plant my seeds or seedlings, I again let the chickens into the garden.


They will gobble up an weed seeds and bug larvae they can find, and their scratching also helps to aerate the soil. Also, since they poop pretty near constantly, they help to fertilize the soil as they roam.

Contrary to what I just wrote, I don’t worry about this little bit of manure in the garden. Once the chickens are done, I just turn over the soil with a rake and go about planting.
While I wouldn’t pile fresh chicken manure onto my plants, a little bit here and there in the garden isn’t going to hurt anything (and anyway, it’s always good to wash your produce and your hands when you return from the garden).

But all this chicken manure really increases the nitrogen levels in the soil. And that’s not beneficial, since it throws the makeup of the soil out of whack.
A many of you likely know, garden fertilizer needs to be balanced for optimal plant growth.

Composted poultry litter and manure are rich in some plant nutrients, but low in others. Using chicken manure alone won’t provide your garden all it needs to prosper, and using “regular” commercial bagged fertilizer along with your chicken manure will likely result in too much nitrogen in the soil, which can lead to excess foliage growth in the plants.

This comes at the expense of poor root growth and fewer flowers which means less fruit on the plants.
I don’t use any commercial fertilizer on my garden, relying solely on our chicken manure, straw and feathers from the coop and other organic material that I compost such as leaves, pine needles and the like.
If you are interested in learning more about composting and different ways of using your chicken manure in the garden – including how to make chicken poop “tea” and how to use the deep litter method in your winter coop – pick up a copy of my book Gardening with Chickens.
There’s a whole chapter devoted to composting! Gardening with Chickens is available from Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and various feed stores and garden centers around the country.

Happy composting ❤



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General Advice

  • Store in a dry, frost-free place away from weed killers and other garden chemicals
  • Always reseal box after use
  • Gloves are recommended when handling this product
  • Suitable for use where children and pets are present. However, some pets like to eat manure; in this case make sure all the pellets are thoroughly worked into the soil
  • To be used only where there is a recognised need. Do not exceed the appropriate application rate
  • Check your vegetables regularly for pests and diseases
  • Ensure that dogs do not get access to the packed product by making sure the pellets are well incorporated into the soil
  • Only to be used only where there is a recognised need. Do not exceed the appropriate application rate

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Can my children & pets go into the treated area?

A. Yes, children and pets can go back into the area straight after application

Q. Will my pets or wildlife be attracted to this product?

A. Some pets like to eat manure. Work pellets into the soil thoroughly and water them in well.

Q. What should I do if I put on too much of the product?

A. Remove any visible pellets and heavily water the area to dissolve and wash through excess product.

Q. Can I use this on my lawn?

A. We would not recommend using this for your lawn. Use a fertiliser that has been specifically designed for lawn use such as Aftercut Ultra Green or Safelawn.

For any other questions or advice please contact our Technical Advice line on: 01480 443789 (Mon-Fri 9am- 5pm) or email [email protected]

Chicken Manure Pellets 10kg bucket

€15.00

Description

The composted poultry fertilizer pellets are perfectly suited for lawns, ornamental gardens, borders, bulbs and tubers plants, vegetable gardens, roses, pot plants and fruit trees. Based on the high content of organic matter, the pellets improve the structure and moisture-absorbing capacity of the soil, and ensure a fertile balance of natural soil systems and the natural enrichment of the soil, thus preserving the permanent balance of the soil.

Fertisol has a favourable N-P-K-value (N=nitrogen, P=phosphate and K=potassium) of 4-3-3 + 1.3 MgO.

Preparation:
Distribute the indicated quantity evenly over the area to be fertilized.

In borders and vegetable gardens rake the fertilizer through a little. Use fertilizer preferably when rain is expected, or if the surface of the soil is moist.

Applicable to any kind of soil, in any season, provided the soil is not frozen.

When planting new crop or plants, or when relocating them, add ½ kg pellets into the hole.

Properties:
-N-P-K-value: 4-3-3 + 1.3 MgO
-Improves the soil structure
-100% organic and environmental-friendly
-Odour-free based on composting process
-Pathogen-free: no germs, undesired mould or bacteria
-Contains no weed seeds
-Significant moisture-absorbing capacity
-Constant feed flow based on ‘slow release’ (slowed-down release of nutrients, resulting in a
long-term effect and high level of effectiveness)
-Minimal washing away of mineral elements due to the high content of organic nitrogen
-No leaf burning due to the extremely low content of ammonia
-Contains important nutrients and approx. 60% organic matter
-Contains calcium, magnesium and has a high content of trace elements
-Negligible dust formation
-Undesired growth of moss is counteracted
-High compost content
-Easy and accurate distribution
-Applicable to any kind of soil, in any season, provided the soil is not frozen

10 kg bucket

SKU: TH19 Category: Fertilizers

Poultry Manure Premium Organic Fertilizer Pellets 5kg (Terra Firma)

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Fertilizing is one of the most important parts of gardening. Like people and animals, plants have to eat as well. Spurred by this, people are becoming interested and involved in organic fertilizers. One of the oldest and probably most well known is chicken manure.

In many areas chicken manure is readily available. This is in part due to the number of commercial chicken houses in operation today.

Chicken manure delivers quality nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, and sulfur. It doesn’t stop there, also providing micronutrients such as copper and zinc.

Studies reveal these results, too. Increased levels of copper, manganese, and zinc appear in the soil after 4-5 years.

With all this in mind, let’s dive in to the use of chicken manure as a fertilizer. We are also going to look at how and where to get chicken manure, how to use it, and much more!

Great Chicken Manure Choices:

  • Espoma GM25 3-2-3 Organic Chicken Manure
  • Pearl Valley Organix 080951 Coop Poop All Purpose Garden Food
  • Hoffman 20505 Dehydrated Super Manure 4-2-3

What Is Chicken Manure?

Chickens relaxing in their chicken run. Source: bensheldon

When we think of chicken manure, the first assumption is that it’s just poop. While that’s true, chicken litter includes a lot more than the waste products alone.

Chicken bedding materials like sawdust or wood chips may be incorporated. So too are urine, feathers, uneaten feed, and of course the manure itself.

For each pound of feed, a chicken can produce about a half pound of fresh manure. This manure has a moisture content of about 75% when fresh. Losing water due to evaporation, the final product has a rough moisture content of 20-40%. This varies a bit depending on the mix of manure to other litter.

The manure-litter mix is usually allowed to sit for a couple days to dry out in the chicken house. In a commercial operation, a tractor then removes it and piles it outside. Residential chicken owners can rake out the manure and do the same.

What Nutrients Are In Chicken Manure?

A pile of chicken manure to compost. Source: Cornell Fungi

Chicken poop as fertilizer contains nutrients such as:

  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Sulfur
  • Copper
  • Zinc
  • Chlorine
  • Boron
  • Iron
  • Molybdenum

As you can see, it provides most of the micronutrients that garden plants need to survive in one package!

While somewhat variable, the NPK of chicken manure tends to be higher than most other manures. This variation is entirely relative to what else is blended into the poop, so let’s look at the manure alone.

A good baseline estimate on chicken manure NPK is 1.1 – 0.8 – 0.5. This is based on an application rate of a half-inch to 1″ layer of pure composted chicken manure. It’s a rapid-release nitrogen source, as chicken manure releases 75% of its nitrogen in one year.

Chicken litter contains high amounts of ammonia. As this manure cures, the ammonia will partially dissipate. The ammonium in the chicken manure makes up a large part of the immediate nitrogen availability. If it’s not worked into the soil, exposure to air makes it lose potency fast.

While ammonium is good, the reality is that it poses two problems. Exposure to the air allows much of the ammonia to escape via evaporation. This also leaves a pungent, chicken-poop scent lingering in the air which most people don’t like, especially on a hot day.

The other problem is that it may be too strong for immediate use on plants. Converting the chicken manure to a composted variation reduces its potency. Still, it also prevents the chicken poop from causing fertilizer burn to your plants.

Chicken Manure Composting

An average-sized piece of chicken poop. Source: fishermansdaughter

For every 100 lbs of mealworms or feed that they eat, a chicken excretes 45 lbs of poop. That’s a lot of waste!

But thankfully, we have a way to turn that excretion into garden gold. Hot composting works wonders. It will render the mixture of straw or wood shavings, poop, and leftover feed safe for garden use.

This solves another issue which comes along with chicken waste: bacteria. Much like eggs and the chicken meat itself, chicken waste is a potential home for salmonella. The E.coli virus may also survive in chicken poop.

Hot composting kills off most harmful bacteria. It removes most of the chickenish stink, turning it into a sweet soil-like scent. Seeds from the chicken feed will be sterilized and won’t sprout. Any straw or shavings will break down and form fresh, quality compost.

To hot-compost, you should pile your manure and coop sweepings in a large, tall pile. You can use a compost bin or compost spinner if you’d prefer. You’ll need a minimum of two parts “brown” waste to each part of “green” waste for the pile to heat on its own. Higher amounts of brown waste will speed the heating process.

Chicken poop itself is a green waste. Straw or wood shavings are brown wastes. Trying to maintain a good balance between the two is essential, so add more of one or the other if it’s needed. Dampen the pile to lightly moisten it.

Once piled, the center of the pile should begin to heat up. Use a compost thermometer to keep track of the warmth. Keep your pile between 130-160 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal compost production.

Once the center of the pile has remained at the 130-160 range for two days, turn it. The goal is to put all the material on the outside of the pile into the center of the pile to re-start the heating.

A popular “quick-heat” method uses 30 parts brown waste to each part of manure, turned every two days. Keep it slightly damp, but not soggy. This should produce composted manure in about three weeks in good weather.

Benefits of Chicken Manure Fertilizer

Commercial farmers use composted chicken manure on their fields. Source: agrilifetoday

Chicken manure has all the right nutrients to keep your garden high-yielding – and healthy too!

The phosphorous in chicken poop becomes available much slower than its nitrogen content. This makes it a reasonably slow-releasing nutrient.

Potassium is also present in chicken manure. It’s readily available in most cases, but not as long-lasting as the phosphorous. If it’s not incorporated into other stuff via composting, it may leach out and be lost.

The rate of release of the micronutrients in chicken waste hasn’t been studied. They all become available through the decomposition process. Calcium, copper, and iron are necessary to plant health and can aid in disease prevention. They are all beneficial for your plants.

Chicken fertilizer can improve your soil structure. In the short-term, it’ll increase the organic matter content in the soil. For the long-term, it helps to loosen clay soils and provides more aeration.

Drawbacks of Chicken Fertilizer

A young chicken poult balancing on one foot. Source: sillydog

All good things come with a price, and in that case, it’s a handful of drawbacks. They’re not insurmountable, but they do pose problems.

Poultry litter, and in fact the manure itself, varies in its composition. The type of poultry, number of birds, nutrition of the feed, bedding, and other factors all play a role. This means your fertilizer itself will vary from batch to batch.

Chicken manure from a commercial farm may be more easily tracked in terms of average NPK. But that doesn’t mean it’s as nutrient-dense as the manure from pet chickens might be. Most pet chickens or home layers get higher-nutrition foods than commercial farms provide.

If you don’t have chickens as pets or egg-layers at home, you face another issue. It’s possible to get manure from a commercial facility, but they usually want you to haul it by the truckload.

Unless you have a large piece of property to stockpile manure on, this may not be feasible. People who are using the Back to Eden gardening method can spread fresh manure on their wood chips. For in-soil use, though, it’s best to compost it in advance.

These drawbacks can all be overcome by creativity, but it’s good to be aware of them in advance!

Other Types of Poultry Manure

While chickens are common, they aren’t the only manure producing fowl. Source: agrilifetoday

So we’ve discussed chicken manure in depth. But other poultry manure widens the options quite a bit!

Turkey farms produce as much (and possibly more) manure than commercial chicken farms. Turkey manure is very similar in composition to chicken.

Duck and goose farms also produce high-quality fertilizer. Duck poop fertilizer may be found in smaller quantities than commercial chicken manure.

Goose and duck poop may also be found in the wild, but be careful gathering it from near lakes or ponds. Wild birds are more likely to be carrying salmonella or E.coli, so it may not be worth the risk.

Birds like guinea hens, pheasants, and the like are also raised for food or feathers. Depending on their feed, the nutritional value of the manure may vary.

So don’t limit yourself to just chicken manure. There’s other fowl which produce fine, compostable fertilizer too!

How To Use Chicken Fertilizer

There’s many different ways to use chicken poop in the garden. Let’s explore some of the options.

Chicken Manure As Fertilizer

Chicken “tractors” are used to aerate the surface of the soil and spread fresh chicken manure. Source: derekcx

If you wish to maximize poultry litter nutrient value, you’ll need to use it while fresh. It can be used in sheet-layered or lasagna-bed gardens.

Using it this way should be done with caution, as the fresh nitrogen can cause harm to the roots. Put at least 3″ of soil on top if you’re going to use fresh manure in an active growing bed.

Forty to seventy percent of the manure’s total nitrogen is available within six weeks. The remaining nitrogen slowly releases as organic residues decompose. It may take more than one growing season to free the rest of the nitrogen.

Phosphorous is much slower to release, as it takes a while for the manure to decompose.

Fresh chicken litter can be spread between rows in an active bed. Be sure it doesn’t make direct contact with the plant or its roots. Chicken manure also works extremely well with the Back to Eden gardening method! The quick-release nitrogen helps break down the wood chips much more rapidly.

Composted chicken manure should get worked into the soil to lighten clay-like soils. As a fertilizer, it can be used for top-dressing or worked in. Try to avoid overfertilizing with it, as too much nitrogen can cause fertilizer burn.

Chicken Manure Tea

Maran chickens enjoying a nice day. Source: hardworkinghippy

Compost teas are popular, and chicken manure tea is another form of that. It quickly dispenses nutrients to the root system of plants when it’s needed.

Begin by composting down your chicken litter. You want a batch that’s been breaking down for at least 80 days, preferably hot-composted.

To brew your chicken manure tea, you’ll need a few supplies:

  • A 5-gallon plastic bucket
  • An old cotton pillowcase
  • String, twine, or rope
  • Composted chicken manure
  • Non-chlorinated water or distilled water

If you’re using residential tap water, prepare 3 days in advance of starting your tea. Fill the 5-gallon bucket with your tap water. Let it stand open in a sheltered area (like your garage) to allow any chlorine that may be in the water to evaporate off.

Making composted chicken manure tea itself will take about two weeks to properly do. On the day you start, fill the pillowcase about 1/3rd of the way full with composted manure. Use your string/twine/rope to tie off the top and make a giant teabag.

Place about double the amount of water as you have compost in a 5-gallon pail, and place your teabag into it. If you had to prepare your water in advance, put in the teabag and displace excess water. Be sure your teabag is completely submerged.

Leave your bucket uncovered in a sunny outdoor location. At least twice a day, use the rope to dunk your teabag up and down a few times to keep the water aerated. Allow it to steep for two weeks.

When the two weeks have passed, you should have dark brown “tea”. Remove the compost teabag, squeezing out any excess water into your bucket. This is now a concentrated compost tea and can be stored. You can loosely cover it to store it. I like to rinse out my pillowcase and use it for that purpose.

Dump the remaining contents of the teabag into your compost pile. After all, it’s still compost! You can clean your pillowcase or dispose of it as you prefer.

To use your chicken manure tea, you must dilute it first. Use one part manure tea to four parts of water. Avoid applying it directly on leaves you’ll be eating or on root crops. This ensures you have less risk of salmonella or E.coli contamination.

A weekly watering with this manure tea will provide a real kickstart to young plants!

Where To Buy Chicken Manure

If you live near a commercial chicken farm, you may be able to buy fresh manure there. Source: USDAgov

Buying chicken manure when it’s fresh requires access to someone who has chickens. You may be able to source fresh manure from a neighbor with a henhouse for free! But otherwise, you’ll need to be more creative and contact local chicken farmers.

It’s far easier to find already composted manure. The average big box store will have at least a couple local brands available. The quantities vary; it may be as little as five pounds or as much as twenty-five.

And don’t fear, if you can’t easily find it at your local garden center, there’s still hope. There’s some great organic brands online!

Espoma GM25 3-2-3 Organic Chicken Manure, 25lb

Espoma GM25 Organic 3-2-3 Chicken Manure, 25 lb

  • Made in United States
  • Package length : 14.0″
  • Package width : 4.0″

Espoma’s chicken manure has been dehydrated and pressed into granules. This makes it much easier for people to work with than fresh chicken litter!

Guaranteed to be a 3-2-3 fertilizer, it’s certified for organic use. It’s a slow-release option that will also condition the soil.

Pearl Valley Organix 080951 Coop Poop All Purpose Garden Food, 40 lb

PEARL VALLEY ORGANIX HGR243CP40 Coop Poop Garden Food, 40 lb.

  • Improved Root Development & Nutrient Uptake
  • All Purpose Garden Food
  • Great For Flower Beds, Vegetable Gardens &…

Pearl Valley Organix’s Coop Poop is a pelletized composted chicken fertilizer. It rates out at about a 2-4-3 overall, but has an extremely high 8% calcium, which is phenomenal for tomatoes and pepper plants!

As the granules are fine, they can be used in a seed spreader to fertilize your lawn. It’s also easy to work into the soil. This one’s OMRI-rated for organic use, too.

Hoffman 20505 Dehydrated Super Manure 4-2-3, 5 Pounds

Hoffman 20505 Dehydrated Super Manure 4-2-3, 5 Pounds

  • Dehydrated super manure 4-2-3
  • Dehydrated poultry manure in easy to apply…
  • Improves soil texture; builds humus content…

Don’t need a massive amount of chicken fertilizer? Hoffman’s Super Manure is another pelletized organic option for you. Sold in 5-lb bags, it provides ample nutrition for houseplants or small gardens.

This one rates out at a 4-2-3 NPK. It’s less stinky than most brands. Still, if you plan on using it indoors, you may want to spread some on a tray for a couple days to air out. This allows some of the remaining manure scent to dissipate before use.

Chicken manure’s a great addition in your veggie garden. Source: hardworkinghippy

Chicken litter is a great natural fertilizer. It really shows its benefits in the health and yield of your garden plants! Have you used chicken fertilizer before, and if so, how much did your yield improve? Let us know in the comment section!

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Composting Chicken Manure

Chickens Produce Eggs and Manure

Your chicken produces an egg every 24 hours and it is wonderful to have your own home-produced fresh eggs. Your average size hen also produces 1 cubic foot of manure every six months. What are you doing with this? Manure simply can’t continue to accumulate in your coop. It stinks, attracts rodents and flies, and the ammonia is not healthy for your chickens to breath.

Benefits of Chicken Manure

Don’t despair; manure can be one of the greatest assets for a home gardener! Although chicken manure is too strong to be used raw on your flowers or vegetables, it can be composted and converted to “black gold”. If used without composting it could damage roots and possibly kill your plants, however, once it is composted chicken manure is:

  • A good soil amendment, chicken manure adds organic matter and increases the water holding capacity and beneficial biota in soil.
  • A good fertilizer; chicken manure provides Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium to you plants (more than horse, cow or steer manure).

If you are not familiar with composting and need to learn how, contact the Seattle Tilth Garden Hotline at 206-633-0224. Hotline staff will provide you with information about the components of composting: Carbon (browns – your coop bedding), Nitrogen (greens – your chicken manure), air, moisture, volume, and temperature. Here are some recommendations to get you started using chicken manure in your compost pile:

  • Collect manure and bedding. Chicken owners normally use bedding such as shavings, sawdust, dry leaves, or straw to provide a dry cushion for chickens and to control odor and pests. The coop bedding can be collected with the manure and dumped into a composting bin. Some owners prefer to pick manure and soiled bedding out of the coop on a daily basis; others will add new bedding over droppings and collect on a less frequent basis.
  • Carbon to Nitrogen balance. A combination of 30 parts Carbon to 1 part Nitrogen creates the ideal environment for microbes to break down organic material to produce compost. When combining coop bedding and chicken manure how do you achieve the ideal C: N ratio? Since the different beddings have their own C: N ratio, the proportion of bedding to manure will vary depending on the type of bedding used. To keep things simple most composters follow the general rule of 1 part brown to 2 parts green. However, because chicken manure is so high in Nitrogen you may be more successful using a 1:1 or even a 2:1 mixture.
  • Use a “hot compost” recipe. By combining the correct ratio of bedding and manure at one time to form a pile, approximately one cubic yard, then adding moisture (material should be about as wet as a well wrung sponge), will produce a hot pile. It is recommend that the compost pile heat to 130-150 degrees F and maintain that temperature for 3 days. Heating is necessary to destroy pathogens but temperatures above 160 degrees F can kill beneficial microorganisms and slow the process. To help you achieve appropriate temperature you can purchase a compost temperature gauge from a local nursery.
  • Repeat the heating process. Once the center of your compost pile has reached the required temperature for three days it will start to cool. After it cools, pull the center apart and move the core material to the edges and bring the edge material into the center to heat. For 1 cubic yard of material repeat the process of bringing edges into the core at least 3 times.
  • Let it cure. Monitor the pile and once you are satisfied that the entire contents of your bin has been heated, loosely cover and let cure for 45-60 days before using. It’s ready when most material is dark, crumbly and sweet-smelling like soil.
  • Add to garden. You can add the resulting compost to your vegetable garden or flower bed by spreading it on the surface or by gently working it into existing soil.
  • Composting challenges. Does your compost pile stink, never decompose, or attract pests? Get advice from the Seattle Tilth Garden Hotline at 206-633-0224.

Compost Bin

Your bin should be at least 1 cubic yard in size (3x3x3 feet). If possible, we recommend that you use a 2-bin compost system. One bin will be in the hot compost phase and the other will be in the curing phase. You may also need a storage site for the carbon materials you collect. This can be a 3rd bin or it can just be a pile of leaves or bags of shavings stored in a dry area. If you want to add grass clippings or weeds to your bin, you will also need a storage site for this material. The Seattle Tilth or WSU websites listed below under Resources provide plans for building a backyard compost bin.

Manure Safety Tips

Fresh chicken manure may contain disease organisms that could contaminate root crops (carrots, radishes, beets) and leaves (lettuce, spinach), so DO NOT spread uncomposted manure on the soil in your vegetable garden. The following “Safety Tips” are summarized from the Stewardship Gardening Program provided by Washington State University:

  • Apply only aged or composted manure to your soil.
  • Always wear gloves when handling livestock manure.
  • Thoroughly wash raw vegetables before eating.
  • Do not use cat, dog or pig manure in compost piles.
  • People who are susceptible to food borne illnesses should avoid eating uncooked vegetables from manured gardens. Those who face risks from food borne illness include pregnant women, very young children, and persons with cancer, kidney failure, liver disease, diabetes or AIDS.

Take a Class

Dig deeper! Sign up for one of Seattle Tilth’s Urban Livestock or Permaculture classes to learn more about city chickens and composting.

Resources

  • Soils, Compost and Mulch. WSU Cooperative Extension.
  • Strategies for Livestock Manure Management. WSU Cooperative Extension. King County, Agriculture and Natural Resources. Fact Sheet #539.
  • The Seattle Tilth 3-Bin Yard Waste Composter plans.
  • The Seattle Tilth Garden Hotline is 206-633-0224.

Compiled by Judy Duncan, WSU Cooperative Extension, King County Master Gardener and Cooperative Extension Livestock Advisor. Fall, 2005.

Fertilizers are nothing new to gardeners. In fact, most organic gardeners are intimately familiar with the benefits and uses for various types of manure as both fertilizer and compost material. Many gardeners are now turning to backyard chicken keeping and finding that the manure (or litter) left behind by their chickens makes for great plant fertilizer and a strong compost boost.

Benefits of Chicken Poop

A recent study by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) showed that chicken litter (the chicken poop and bedding – usually sawdust or straw) has huge benefits over other common materials for fertilizing agricultural crops. The recent weed control and other problems associated with genetically modified cotton crops in the south, for instance, has pushed many growers towards chicken litter as a choice to replace synthetic fertilizers that are benefitting weeds.

The ARS research found that poultry litter on cotton fields increased yields by about 12% and that its use resulted in better soil conditions overall and fewer problems from pests and disease in the cotton. For just about every other type of crop, whether it be your prized tomatoes or your favorite flowers, chicken poop can do the same.

Chicken litter is rich in nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium and many other trace nutrients as well. Adding crushed eggshells will also boost some mineral values.

How To Get Chicken Poop

Getting the poop, if you don’t keep your own chickens, is not hard. It’s about the same as accessing quality cow or horse manure, but will not likely stink as much. In addition, it can usually be purchased in smaller quantities, so you won’t have to split truck loads with friends or pile up excess manure for later. Most smaller-scale poultry farmers, which you’re likely to find near you, no matter where you live, will be glad to part with just bucket-fulls at a time.

You can also purchase chicken poop from many garden stores in bags of 10-40 pounds. If you can’t locally source your own, this might be a good alternative. Expect to pay relatively dearly for the bags, compared to steer manure. When purchasing direct, you may be able to get the manure for free if the farmer is just looking to get rid of it.

How To Use Chicken Poop as Fertilizer

You can use your chicken poop in the same way you’d use cow manure, but won’t need to spread it as thickly. Putting chicken litter directly onto the soil or down rows beneath plants, as you would normal manure, is one way of utilizing it immediately. Spread it about half as thickly as you would cow manure.

Adding chicken litter or poop to your compost pile is another great way to use it. This speeds up the composting process, adding valuable nitrogen. The heat of the compost will also help kill any bugs or bacteria that might be festering in the manure, so this is a good way to use the manure if you aren’t sure of its source.

Another method is to use composting chicken manure to make “tea” for directly fertilizing plants. This is popular amongst potted plant and raised bed gardeners. This process is similar to compost tea and creates a thin “juice” that can be poured directly onto the soil around plants to give an instant “energy drink”-like boost.

However you use it, you’ll find that chicken litter is a great addition to your gardening that will create miracles of growth and vibrancy without any synthetic chemicals. Learn more about other organic fertilizer options.

You can learn all about using chicken droppings as a fertilizer on these websites:

Maximizing Poultry Manure Use through Nutrient Management Planning from University of Georgia Cooperative Extension

Chicken litter has advantages over conventional fertilizers from Science Daily

Poop. It’s a word that makes little kids giggle mischievously.

And it’s something that your chickens produce a lot of.

Instead of viewing it as undesirable side effect of your backyard chicken hobby, change your paradigm and recognize chicken manure for what it is: A literally transformational, nutrient-rich substance that can work wonders in your garden and add a magical boost to your landscape.

And best of all, it’s free!

Why Use Chicken Manure as a Garden Fertilizer?

The University of Florida says the following about chicken manure as fertilizer:

Poultry manure has long been recognized as perhaps the most desirable of…natural fertilizers because of its high nitrogen content. In addition, manures supply other essential nutrients and serve as a soil amendment by adding organic matter. Organic matter in soil improves water and nutrient retention. The use of manure is an integral part of sustainable agriculture.

Just like commercially prepared synthetic fertilizers, chicken manure is very high in nutrients. The combined average percentages (per total weight) of aged chicken manure and litter — yes, you can use old litter from your chicken coop as a fertilizer! — is approximately 1.8 nitrogen, 1.5 phosphate, and 0.8 for potash.

Using Chicken Manure as Fertilizer: How Much Should You Use in Your Garden?

An annual application of 45 pounds of chicken manure and chicken litter, or more, per year for every 100 square feet will be just right to work wonders in your vegetable garden and increase the fertility of your soil. 45 pounds is the approximate amount that one hen will produce every year. Thus, the average small-scale chicken flock of 5-10 chickens should be enough to take care of your entire vegetable garden and yard!

Here are a few general pointers and tips for using chicken manure as a fertilizer:

1) Never feed fresh chicken manure to young, tender plants! Fresh chicken manure is “hot,” meaning it is very high in nitrogen and will “burn” the growing plants. This will kill your plants! Also, too much nitrogen can produce negative plant growth. This is why you need to age your chicken manure!

2) Poultry manure makes a great addition to compost! I recently received an “Earth Machine” composting bin as part of my local county government’s initiative to reduce green waste in Hawaii’s landfills. Although you do not need a “real” composter to compost, it can save you time. Whether or not you use an actual composter, any sort of composting converts nitrogen into a form that a plant can use without being burned. Composting also destroys the coccidia bacteria (a chicken disease), bacteria, worm eggs, and viruses, and stabilizes potash and nitrogen levels. Any composter will do, from the fancy type you see in Organic Gardening magazine, to simple homemade bins made of 2x4s and chicken wire.

Important note: Manure that is composted without carbon-based material (such as dry grass clippings) will overheat.

3) Give chicken manure time to age by spreading fresh poultry manure over your soil and turning the dirt at the end of the growing season to allow it time to decompose over the winter. However, you’ll be required to keep your poultry birds out of the area for at least a year, preferably more.

You can also try making “tea”. Chicken manure fertilizer tea; sounds delicious, eh? To make fertilizer tea, scoop the chicken manure into a burlap bag. Then, throw a rock into the bag to weigh it down and place the whole thing into a 35-gallon garbage can. Fill the garbage can with water and let it sit for about three weeks. Once the three weeks are over, you will have nutrient-rich chicken manure fertilizer tea as the water becomes infused with the nutrients from the chicken manure. You can use this fertilizer tea to water your plants to give them a vitamin boost.

Your plants will love you for it. Here’s to bigger tomatoes!

Additional offline reading:

1. Chicken Coops: 45 Building Plans for Housing Your Flock
2. Feeding Poultry: The Classic Guide to Poultry Nutrition for Chickens, Turkeys, Ducks, Geese, Gamebirds, and Pigeons
3. Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens

Poop. It’s a word that makes little kids giggle mischievously.

And it’s something that your chickens produce a lot of.

Instead of viewing it as undesirable side effect of your backyard chicken hobby, change your paradigm and recognize chicken manure for what it is: A literally transformational, nutrient-rich substance that can work wonders in your garden and add a magical boost to your landscape.

And best of all, it’s free!

The University of Florida says the following about chicken manure as fertilizer:

Poultry manure has long been recognized as perhaps the most desirable of…natural fertilizers because of its high nitrogen content. In addition, manures supply other essential nutrients and serve as a soil amendment by adding organic matter. Organic matter in soil improves water and nutrient retention. The use of manure is an integral part of sustainable agriculture.

Just like commercially prepared synthetic fertilizers, chicken manure is very high in nutrients. The combined average percentages (per total weight) of aged chicken manure and litter — yes, you can use old litter from your chicken coop as a fertilizer! — is approximately 1.8 nitrogen, 1.5 phosphate, and 0.8 for potash.

An annual application of 45 pounds of chicken manure and chicken litter, or more, per year for every 100 square feet will be just right to work wonders in your vegetable garden and increase the fertility of your soil. 45 pounds is the approximate amount that one hen will produce every year. Thus, the average small-scale chicken flock of 5-10 chickens should be enough to take care of your entire vegetable garden and yard!

Here are a few general pointers and tips for using chicken manure as a fertilizer:

1) Never feed fresh chicken manure to young, tender plants! Fresh chicken manure is “hot,” meaning it is very high in nitrogen and will “burn” the growing plants. This will kill your plants! Also, too much nitrogen can produce negative plant growth. This is why you need to age your chicken manure!

2) Poultry manure makes a great addition to compost! I recently received an “Earth Machine” composting bin as part of my local county government’s initiative to reduce green waste in Hawaii’s landfills. Although you do not need a “real” composter to compost, it can save you time. Whether or not you use an actual composter, any sort of composting converts nitrogen into a form that a plant can use without being burned. Composting also destroys the coccidia bacteria (a chicken disease), bacteria, worm eggs, and viruses, and stabilizes potash and nitrogen levels. Any composter will do, from the fancy type you see in Organic Gardening magazine, to simple homemade bins made of 2x4s and chicken wire.

Important note: Manure that is composted without carbon-based material (such as dry grass clippings) will overheat.

3) Give chicken manure time to age by spreading fresh poultry manure over your soil and turning the dirt at the end of the growing season to allow it time to decompose over the winter. However, you’ll be required to keep your poultry birds out of the area for at least a year, preferably more.

You can also try making “tea”. Chicken manure fertilizer tea; sounds delicious, eh? To make fertilizer tea, scoop the chicken manure into a burlap bag. Then, throw a rock into the bag to weigh it down and place the whole thing into a 35-gallon garbage can. Fill the garbage can with water and let it sit for about three weeks. Once the three weeks are over, you will have nutrient-rich chicken manure fertilizer tea as the water becomes infused with the nutrients from the chicken manure. You can use this fertilizer tea to water your plants to give them a vitamin boost.

Your plants will love you for it. Here’s to bigger tomatoes!

Additional offline reading:

1. Chicken Coops: 45 Building Plans for Housing Your Flock
2. Feeding Poultry: The Classic Guide to Poultry Nutrition for Chickens, Turkeys, Ducks, Geese, Gamebirds, and Pigeons
3. Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens

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