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chicken manure heated hot frame

 
Gilbert Fritz
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Location: Denver, CO
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I'm thinking about building a chicken manure heated hot frame. I envision it as follows:

Every few days, I would add another layer of straw or dead vegetation to the floor of my chicken coop. In late Febuary, I would shovel out the coop, and move it into a two foot thick layer in the bottom of a deep frame, wait till added water and the heat of the sun got the compost working, and then cap it with a foot of soil.

Would this work?

And would it pose too much of a contamination problem for salad greens? I've always heard that chickens are little walking biohazards.
 
Thekla McDaniels
gardener
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Location: Grand Valley of Colorado's Western Slope
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Hi Gilbert
Here are my first thoughts:

I think people are doing this in one form or another.
I don't think it would be a "biohazard", since you plan to separate the chicken manure from the plants you intend to eat.
With a deep enough layer of soil for the plants to grow in, which it seems like you would want to put in when you put in the chicken litter so the soil would also get warmed, the biggest threat would be the cold frame got to hot.  So, if you have a way of monitoring and venting the heat and can devote your attention to it, it "should" work.

As for the plants growing in your cold frame, it seems like we could trust them not to put roots into the chicken litter layer until it had reached the conditions that the roots would like.  

The first year might be a learning process for you if you can't find gather wisdom from others who are experienced in this method.
I think it is a great idea.  I hope it works.
 
Sharon Carson
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Gilbert ,
I used to make hotbeds to grow foods in the dead of winter . I used fresh horse manure and filled a 4 ft pit when we lived in the NM desert after it went through its main heat it shrunk in size and we added a foot of sand then a ft of composted soil mix to plant in ,then a glass frame. We covered the frame with a quilt on cold or snowy nights and opened it up in the day as well as vented or even removed the glass on sunny days .It did require close monitoring. Here in Delaware, we did the same old chest freezer. Chicken and horse are both hot manures but I would use horse rather than chicken.... especially any sort of commercial manure . I no longer need to use yhis as I now have a passive solar greenhouse built with old doors and windows .
Hope this helps Sharon
 
Austin Grant
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Location: Aboyne, Scotland, U.K.
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This is a link to some good info on chicken poo.

https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?PID=297

If it doesn't work look up UK Royal horticulture society - and search for chicken manure

I have always been told to make sure that it is well rotted before using as fertiliser to help bacteria control in soil.
 
Joy Oasis
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Maybe you could make a bit larger hoop house, and make chicken poop bed there and put plants on top in pots or planted nearby. Then if it gets too cold or too hot, you have more control - you can make additional pile, if it is cooling down, or move the plants or reduce pile, if it is too hot. Here is one video about hot bed inside of the hoop house:

These people are doing exactly what you want to do, but with cow manure:

He actually is UK writer about gardening, and has a book Winter Vegetables, but I am not sure, if that book has more detailed information on his hot beds or not.
 
Joy Oasis
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So it turns out there is a book about it although not by Charles Dowding, but by Jack First called Hot Beds: How To Grow Early Crops by Using an Age-Old Technique. It turns out hot beds is not a new thing at all - it was used before, but then somehow forgotten.
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
pollinator
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Location: Massachusetts, 6b, urban, nearish coast, 39'x60' minus the house, mostly shady north side, + lead.
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I always knew Catholicism was a hotbed of something, but a hotbed of chicken___? 

I think this is a great idea and seems sound.  I'm just not sure how much oxygen will get down to the poop to allow for aerobic breakdown, and if it's anarobic it seems like it'll be too hot for plants' roots and possibly too quick to last all winter.  But if others have experiences with it that prove otherwise then maybe that's not an issue.

The other thought is that you can increase the amount of sun heat and light in the space during the day using Chris Marron's technique (modified from Penny Kelly's _Robes_) of blowing bubbles along the west side in am, east side in pm, roof of the greenhouse to reflect more sun back into the space--a small input for a bubble blower and leveraged response.  This also will keep a bit more heat in.   (if you search perpetual harvest Chris Marron it should come up hopefully--but the idea is pretty much all described there.  It's like turning that whole half of the roof into a mirror for half the day.  Near to noon you might turn the bubbles off completely or run them along hte north wall if you can.  It's a bit more tech but not a lot.  Maybe could be made to run off a solar chimney drawing air too, i don't know.

If the chicken poop is a propblem because of too much nitrogen, maybe you could save some from this year and use it next year, and just put the poop in a sealed container in water as the heater. 

 
Gilbert Fritz
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Location: Denver, CO
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I always knew Catholicism was a hotbed of something, but a hotbed of chicken___? 
Meaning what, exactly?
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Joy,

Separating the plants from the pile sounds like a great idea. I think I will have a line of plants in 55 gallon barrels, with the compost pile in between, and then flats or trays sitting on the top of the pile. That way as the pile sinks they can "ride it down" and I can move them to tend the pile.

I also think I will add an insulating layer of plain straw to the top of the pile, further isolating the plants from the actual compost.

I will order that book from the library.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Thekla,

I will be putting an automated vent arm on the frame, and will also be checking it twice daily to make necessary changes. Has anyone here heard of the oven bird? It builds a large compost pile to warm its eggs. It monitors the pile with its tongue,and scrapes material off if it is too hot, and piles more on if it gets too cold!
 
Sharon Carson
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There are other issues involved in using fresh horse or chicken manures they give off ammonia when composting as well as heat ,which is why you want the initial heat stage to be over before growing food in the hotbed. Cow manure does not heat up like horse or chicken .
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
pollinator
Posts: 520
Location: Massachusetts, 6b, urban, nearish coast, 39'x60' minus the house, mostly shady north side, + lead.
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Wow well tehy should really rename it the Compost Bird, that is amazing!!!

just want to plug rabbit poop here too--you may not have rabbits, but if someone in your neighbrhood has (nextdoor.com plug and craigslist and putting pu ads) they may be more than happy to donate poop to the cause.  It is slow-nitrogening, I don't know about heat.  You could potentially have a regular  supplier.
Gilbert Fritz wrote:Thekla,

I will be putting an automated vent arm on the frame, and will also be checking it twice daily to make necessary changes. Has anyone here heard of the oven bird? It builds a large compost pile to warm its eggs. It monitors the pile with its tongue,and scrapes material off if it is too hot, and piles more on if it gets too cold!
 
Gilbert Fritz
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I do have rabbits, so that is something I can look into.

As far as the ammonia; I've heard that a layer of soil or peat over the pile can absorb it all, thus avoiding problems and salvaging a valuable resource; and, I will be venting the frame quite a bit. I'm not sure if this will solve the problem or not. I will definitely document my results on this thread.
 
Sharon Carson
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one of the reasons I am not a fan of high heat piles is that the ammonia given off is literally your nitrogen going up into the air rather than turning into a stable form of humus . I have horses, chickens and rabbits and have been making compost by hand for 50 years . I no longer use raw manure in any form. Rabbit manure is said to be fine used straight but I do not use it that way. I either mix it with the chicken and horse or spread it under my fruit trees along with seaweed and azomite in the fall. I use pine sawdust as bedding now as well as hay that was wasted ,hardwood leaves and weeds. Mostly it is horse manure . It quickly shrinks down and is full of worms. I never turn it . I spread it by hand in the fall and through the winter I make a pile about 12 'by 20' every year and use it when it is a year or 2 old.
 
Joy Oasis
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Gilbert Fritz wrote: Has anyone here heard of the oven bird? It builds a large compost pile to warm its eggs. It monitors the pile with its tongue,and scrapes material off if it is too hot, and piles more on if it gets too cold!

What a smart bird. Instead of sitting on the eggs for days, he found an easier way. True permaculture bird -work smart, not hard.
 
Joy Oasis
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I found this video about oven birds, but they do not say anything about compost like work they do, just adobe nest:
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Got the wrong name, it is a Brush-turkey, not an ovenbird. They live in Australia, and their nests are quite large. Here is a link. http://compost.css.cornell.edu/birds.html
 
Gilbert Fritz
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6800 kg of compost nest! That is 14900 pounds, more or less! Some compost pile. I wonder if any clever Australians have got the turkeys to make compost pile for them.
 
Joy Oasis
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I see, here is one video about them:

And one more

I would love to find already done pile for my garden.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Location: Denver, CO
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Do you suppose one could tuck some chicken eggs into a pile without the turkey noticing? Free brooding and free compost! 
 
Joy Oasis
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Gilbert Fritz wrote:Do you suppose one could tuck some chicken eggs into a pile without the turkey noticing? Free brooding and free compost! 

I am sure one could, if he would be gone at the time. He doesn't recognize his own chick anyway and treats him as another intruder. How does he know then when to stop protecting the nest? Good thing is, that their chicks can fly very soon and take care of themselves right away. Very interesting bird.
 
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