I have been keeping chickens, rabbits and parrots for a number of years. The chickens have been a great asset, not only for their eggs, but for helping to keep smell and parasites under control. My chickens are free range over my tiny half acre. I provide a free feeder, but use a 50 lb bag of feed every 4 months. I caught my dogs eating it the other day, so the chickens my be eating even less than I thought.
But every day when I feed the rabbits and parrots, the chickens follow me around picking through the parrot food that gets winnowed out, or dropped by the parrots. ( Parrots are notorious for doing the 'one bite for me, one bite for the floor" thing. Their cages are elevated off the ground so the chickens can go under the cages.)
The rabbits get some fruit, if I have it, each morning and the chickens are right there to pick up any thing that falls on the ground. They scratch through the manure and, unless we get a lot of rain (ha ha, not in So Cal) things never get smelly.
I also use them for clearing the garden at the end of the season.
I recently added a pig to the homestead and am going to be composting the straw and manure from her pen. No, I'm not free ranging her since she could top our at 800 pounds or more and could easily topple my elevated parrot cages. I want to find a way to integrate the pig into the system better.
My question is:
"Is it safe to allow the chickens to pick through the compost pile made from the pig manure and straw? "
Many people have told me not to compost the stuff from the pig, but Lawton says you can compost anything if you do it right. It's mostly a matter of leaving it long enough and using it on trees and the like, similar to what you'd do with humanure.
If you want to be more intensive and productive about it, start a bin with pig manure and black soldier fly larvae. You can research these, there are bins for sale and plans to make your own. This will reduce the volume and odor of the manure, and provide you with a significant yield of feed insects which are a favorite of chickens....and might be of interest to the parrots too! This bin will also happily eat up other problematical stuff around the farm, even including dead animals, slaughter trash, human and pet manures, and poisonous mushrooms, all the while converting these into edible feed.....
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