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Edible Acres - "chickens making compost" videos

 
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Location: Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep clay/loam with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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This is a thread devoted to some of the many wonderful 'Chickens and Compost' videos of Sean Dembrosky's at Edible Acres.

Always fun and informative...check out his youtube channel and website !


 
Judith Browning
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...and a couple more

 
pollinator
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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I love these videos!  
 
pollinator
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If there are any questions folks have or details/feedback/etc that people want to share I'm available to share ideas and such!
 
master steward
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Thanks Judith for posting these all in one convenient place!  Thanks Sean for doing all the hard work experimenting!

Question #1:  How many minutes a day do you spend turning/piling material with a pitchfork?  I'm very curious if it's 5 minutes or 60 minutes or somewhere in between.

Question #2:  How do you determine that your compost is done enough?

Question #3:  How long do you let it sit/temper away from the chickens before you use it in the garden or for potting plants?  I'm assuming that while they still have access and are pooping on it, it's too "hot" for garden use and needs to settle down for a bit.  Quite possibly that's a bad assumption on my part
 
Sean Dembrosky
pollinator
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Mike Jay - great questions!  Lets see here...
1) Minutes spent - it can vary, but I'd say perhaps 10-15 minutes a day is a good average.  If there is enough food/seed/piles around they could keep occupied on their own for a full 2 days without much fuss, but in the extreme winter cold and if the inputs are lean we need to pile it up super high every day.
2) I don't have good metrics to say it's done.  Generally it needs to leave before I'd call it aged/cured/finished compost since there is just so much coming through the pipeline.  I mainly export it to our main nursery and use it as an insanely boosting deep mulch around perennials.  OR, I make new permanent raised beds with heavy amounts of it and grow super heavy feeders year one (corn, squash, etc)
3) This is loose and hasn't caused problems.  We NEVER would use it to direct seed or transplant in for example parsley, cilantro, salad, or other greens we may wish to eat raw.  But as a deep mulch around tomatoes or to boost nursery stock, etc., its never caused us any problems.

If we had much more space I could see having bays or windrows that let it mellow on its own, but then that is just one more set of material turning, where it could be mellowing in small doses in many points in the landscape.  So far we've only had positive feedback from the system, but take it as just our 2c!
 
Mike Haasl
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Thanks Sean, it's good to hear it's only that amount of forking time.  Hee hee, I just realized you could use "forking" as a mild swear word.  "Hey Sasha, I gotta go out and spend some forking time with the darn chickens"

I had a similar problem with headroom and working space under a cattle panel greenhouse.  I solved it for my situation, maybe this could help with your winter set-up for the chicken composting system.  I put a row of pallets on edge as a wall that I built the cattle panel greenhouse upon.  The pallet wall is only on the north side and I pile my leaves against it for the birds to work through.  Here's a Post describing it better.  I'd imagine you could put a row of pallets on edge and use more pallets as braces.  I can sketch up a drawing if you'd like (and if you have a source for pallets).

I'm not running material through in a flow, they just work on it all winter.  But I could see it working for a pass through flow system.
 
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I think I've watched about all of Sean's videos over the last year or so. I think chicken compost is so cool. I don't know the difference b/w the compost I get from my chickens vs what would come out of a traditional hot compost pile, but to me the benefits of the chicken compost outweigh the effort I would need to make traditional compost piles.
I just started raising chickens about 2 years ago and my 12 hens have a run that's about 20'x20'. I throw any food scraps or garden waste I have in there. I also try to grow enough in my garden to be able to feed the chickens from it, at least as a supplement.

Last fall I took a few loads from the run for the first time to use as compost. I screened it out into a wheel barrel leaving bigger stuff in the chicken run then watered it and made a big pile in my compost bin. I thought the pile would get hot like a traditional pile but it did not get hot. The compost was already mostly dark and broken down except for some smaller pieces of brown material like sticks or wood chips. I still let the pile sit under a tarp just to age some before I started using it in the garden this spring.

I'm not real sure how compost like this compares to traditional compost. It has all the same material, browns and greens and manure, but instead of breaking down in a hot wet pile, it's picked through and sifted by chickens but not allowed to sit in a pile for long. I'm wondering if I grab a load of newer material from the run, instead of from material that's been in there for a year if that has more of a chance of heating up when I put it in a pile?

Either way, this spring will be the first year using this compost to feed my garden so as long as everything grows well this will continue to be my source of compost.
 
gardener
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I like these videos a lot, they are very informative, you can tell they care for and enjoy there chickens.  I have chickens and have been trying to hot compost and its not going very well.  I have heard of people throwing there food scraps to the chickens, but I haven't tried this because I was worried there might be something in there that is harmful to chickens.  Like moldy strawberry's, or something like that.  If I start giving the chickens the food scraps are there things I should avoid?
 
gardener
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From personal experience I find they won't eat moldy food or food that is not agreeable to them if they already have sufficient feed elsewhere. That being said they sometime confuse 'bad things' for foods they like. I run a 'chicken compost program' and have never lost a bird to something they ate from the compost pile. That being said, it's hard for free range birds to determine exactly what they are eating that is impacting their health the most.

... I had a bird die from eating a paint ball. That's it so far. Sometimes I get food prep gloves in the compost from staff being forgetful/lazy and they will try and eat them if I don't catch them before hand. However, they will eat the compost in the order of foods they like the most and leave items they don't care for (like onions and citrus).
 
Jen Fulkerson
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Thank you Ashley.   It occurred to they may steer clear of "bad food", but I caught my chickens eating Styrofoam once, lucky I caught them and no one seemed worse for where, but it made me doubt theme being smart enough to know what is and isn't ok for them to eat.
 
pollinator
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Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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Jen, I've had my hens eat styrofoam too. Apparently no problems. They gleefully eat shredded paper. I once tried using shredded paper in their nest nixes. Came back the next morning to find it all gone. The birds pooped paper mache!

Like Ashley, I mix all sorts of collected food waste for the hens to pick through. I do cook it first because I don't want to introduce pathogens common to commercial flocks that might be introduced via raw chicken meat and eggshells. But the girls will eat all sorts of things that would kill a person---rotten meat, mold, maggots, rotting veggies and fruits. It's incredible what those little "dinosaurs" can eat. While most of their food is wholesome, there's plenty of food that's gone bad. It doesn't seem to bother them. In fact, they actually prefer some rotted than fresh, like the soft blackish pumpkins.
 
Jen Fulkerson
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Thanks for the laugh Su, and the good info.  Nice to know I don't have to worry so much.
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