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Chicken Litter and Gardening Question

 
Posts: 2
Location: Georgia
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Hey Y'all,

I keep my chickens in a 10 x 20 dog kennel style chicken coop over the winter to collect their litter to use in the garden.  They free range spring-fall.  Can I clean out all the litter/compost and put it straight into the garden or do I need to let it sit for 6 plus months?
 
gardener
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Location: Ohio, USA
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That depends on concentration and proximity to your mouth.  Straight poultry manure is very high in nutrients, so much so it can kill a plant if dumped on.  It may also contain certain things that, if ingested, will make you sick. You can always test your soil and then apply what fertilizer you need with a home chemistry kit. Here's a link that describes the nutrient concentrations in detail. Most organic fertilizers are about a 5-5-5 (varies based on ingredients), poultry poo can be 50-50-50. Of course,  if you let it sit and build up over winter, it may be a little less.

https://www.agprofessional.com/article/nutrient-availability-and-value-poultry-litter
 
gardener
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Chicken manure usually works best if the litter is composted prior to use on gardens.
Like Amit brought up, it is high in NPK and may have pathogenic organisms thriving in the fresh (not composted) litter.

The animal you can use untreated (not composted) manure from is the rabbit, but you can also use deer droppings as if they were large rabbit manure.
All other animal manures work best once they have been composted, even the "aged" cow manure is actually a composted product.

If your chicken litter has been scratched through many times by the chooks, it will not look like "litter" it will look like compost and at that point you should check the basic composition and microbiology present so you don't add something you really don't want in your growing soil.

A decent chemistry set and a microscope are always good additions to have for anyone wanting to grow their own foods and My opinion is that if you are a homesteader selling products, you really need these tools and know how to use them so you limit your liabilities.
 
master pollinator
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This may sound strange, but cavie/guinea pig litter, like rabbit, is also safe, directly in the garden.
 
steward
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Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
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Hi Gary, welcome to Permies!  Is it just straight chicken poop or is there other material mixed in?  Bedding, straw, leaves, etc?  My chickens poop on a bunch of leaves all winter (70 leaf bags worth) which starts to compost decently in place.   Once spring rolls around I haul it to the garden, pile it up in a compost bin and water it well as I pile it.  It cooks hot for a month or two and then I put it on the garden.
 
Posts: 40
Location: Douglas County, WI zone 4a 105 acres
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Welcome, Gary. In your pretty warm climate, you'd probably get best and safest results by layering Winter bedding/coop-cleanout with LOTS high-carbon input like Fall leaves, spoiled hay, paper/cardboard shreds, etc. into a 2-bin pallet system. Flip it one side to the other once a month and make sure it's damp but not soggy. Four months should be plenty, then you can use it for Fall planting. Add some worms early on - a couple little cups of bait worms will work wonders.
Most advice is 90 days from fresh manure to be added to EDIBLE plants. Best of luck!
 
Posts: 29
Location: Northwest Missouri
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My strategy is to collect chicken poo from the poo board under their roost throughout the winter. Then in spring I make a big batch of compost by layering the first grass cuttings with leaves (that have partially decomposed over winter) and the collected chicken manure. Then the chickens themselves come in: they hate piles. So when the time comes to turn the pile, I just open up the front of the compost bin and let them do the hard work of turning it. Then I fork it back in to break down some more and repeat. You could easily make your own big batch that should be ready in time to top dress feed the garden before the vegetables set. That way you know your chicken manure is not "hot" enough to burn the plants because it's mixed with other organic matter  and you don't have to worry about pathogens because it has had time to cook in the compost pile.

A batch composter could be as simple as a small circle of scrap farm fence.  
 
Gary Nelson
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Location: Georgia
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The chicken droppings are mixed with a variety of plant matter.  During winter, I add leaves to the coop.  Spring-Fall, grass clippings are added.  Most of the floor looks like dark rich compost.  This spot is also uncovered and open to the elements.  The only place that doesn't is directly under their roosting bar which has a roof over it and doesn't get much water.
 
Mike Jay
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Oh, that sounds like delightful stuff!  I'd probably dig it all out (except the area under the roosting bar) and let it sit in a pile for a month and then apply to the garden.  
 
pollinator
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I have my birds in a chicken tractor, with the coop built on top.  I move it about every 2 weeks or so, and when I do, I rake up all the goodness that is on the ground below and use it directly on the garden.  Because I use a lot of wood chips in my garden/orchard, the majority of the time, the chickens are pooping directly onto that heavy carbon mulch.  It's easy enough to rake it up and use it around the garden.

I've never had a problem with chicken poop burning my plants.  I side dress with the chicken crap and then toss a bit of mulch over the top of it.  Everything does great with it.
 
Posts: 32
Location: Europe - CZ, Pannonian / continental zone
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I keep my birds in a coop with a quite high layer of woodchips. I throw also many other things (weed, grass..) there. Hens scratch it all over all the time. Time to time I make a pile of it with a shovel for them to collect worms.. After several months the mix is ready to use in a gardren. Either as a mulch or as a materiál for compost. I also collect poo from under the roost - I give it in a barrel with water, let it ferment for several weeks and then I use it as a liquid fertilizer for my vegetable garden..
 
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Depends on what you put it on.

I have to clean mine out about twice a year, so what I do is dig out the manure in the fall and lay it on the garden beds I'll plant in next spring.
For spring cleaning of the poop, it depends how fresh it looks, but I scatter it on top of the beds I know I'm not using for a few months, hoping the sun will kill any bad bacteria before I do plant, and I also don't mind using raw chicken manure around my fruit trees, because it's not as if fruit is sitting on the manure - just don't concentrate it too highly in one place or it could overpower the tree.

I'm also always happy to mix manure - fresh or aged - into soil underneath a tree if I'm ready to plant one. Also, if I have some fresh manure that I need to move that I can't use on food stuff, I just spread it around decorative plants (again, not overpowering them - the fresh stuff is strong, but aged is fine to use more abundantly).
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Carla Burke wrote: This may sound strange, but cavie/guinea pig litter, like rabbit, is also safe, directly in the garden.



Yes indeed, if the poop is "pelletized" when it comes out of the critter, it is safe to use directly on a garden bed
 
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