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Chickens making compost from wood chips. Analysis results.  RSS feed

 
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bike greening the desert trees
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I'm waiting for the Utah agricultural dept. to get back to me on my compost results.  I had it tested at their request when I was having issues with salt build up in my clay soil.

Anyway, I have ten chickens in a large coop (in ground swimming pool) that I filled on average about three feet deep with wood chips last fall.  I also throw almost everything organic I can right on top of the chips.  Grass clippings, tree trimmings (I cut the branches so they're only a few inches long), leaves, food scraps, leafy greens (for chicken food), coffee grounds, egg shells, etc.  The bigger wood from branches I burn, and then throw the ashes on top of the wood chips.   I also use a small hand held fertilizer spreader, and broadcast several pounds of the granular azomite rock dust once every month or two.  Other than  having to shovel around the doorway (where the chickens kick the woods chips too deep for it to open properly), I don't mix or turn, or anything.  The chickens keep the place pretty tidy by their own scratching.  

So, it's been about a year of this, and I just had the compost tested.  The ph seems a bit high (if I'm reading the results right), the salt seems low, and I'm a bit disappointed that the N is a bit low too.  
Digging several inches down from the top layer of wood chips, the buried portion has broken down into a sweet smelling, black humus? like compost.  The particle size is very small (although there are chunks not broken down here and there).  Not many earth worms, but there's no soil contact at any point in this process, so that makes sense.  There are lots of pill/sow bugs, though.  (I have chronic issues with them in my yard now because of the wood chips I've spread everywhere.)

Just figured I'd waste some time and post up what I ended up with so far.  Feel free to give me any input one way or another.

Thanks.

(copy and paste didn't work too well for the pdf, but here it is)

Date Received 8/22/2018
Date Completed 10/19/2018
Identification Compst

Moisture, % 60.6

pH - 2:1     8.4

EC, dS/m - 2:1      0.53

Nitrogen (N), %      0.74

Phosphorus (P), %  0.18

Nitrogen, lbs N/ton   14.80

Phosphorus, lbs P2O5/ton     8.41

Moisture, lbs/ton:    1212.00

pH - 2:1    8.4

EC, dS/M - 2:1     0.53

Potassium (K), %     0.18

Calcium (Ca), %     1.85

Magnesium (Mg), %     0.27

Sodium (Na), mg/kg    167.6

Sulfur (S), %    0.16

Boron (B), mg/kg     17.88

Zinc (Zn), mg/kg     42.68

Copper (Cu), mg/kg    11.29

Iron (Fe), mg/kg    1158.94

Manganese (Mn),mg/kg     73.01

Potassium, lbs K2O/ton 4.33

Calcium, lbs Ca/ton 36.97

Magnesium, lbs Mg/ton 5.44

Sodium, lbs Na/ton 0.34

Sulfur, lbs S/ton 3.21

Boron, lbs B/ton 0.04

Zinc, lbs Zn/ton 0.09

Copper, lbs Cu/ton 0.02

Iron, lbs Fe/ton 2.32

Manganese, lbs Mn/ton    0.15

pH - calc sat paste 8.16

EC, dS/m-calc sat paste 1.1

pH - calc sat paste 8.16

EC, dS/m - calc sat paste 1.1

Carbon (C), % 9.33 Carbon, lbs C/ton 186.6

A value of zero indicates analyte below detecton limit. Results only reflect sample received.
Methods of analysis: pH+EC-2:1 direct analysis; C,N-Elementar total combustion; Mineral-HNO3-H2O2 dig+ICP analysis
 
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Great stuff, I am doing something similar in my chicken coop. Mine is on a slight hill with hardware cloth on all sides (also the bottom) to keep the raccoons out. What that means is that when it rains, the smaller particles drain through the hardware cloth and of which some collects under the chicken coop. Once in while, a raccon tries to dug under the coop, pulling all that good soil from under the coop for me to access. An unintended consequence I like.

"I'm a bit disappointed that the N is a bit low too. "

I am assuming that the wood chips take up so much N to convert into compost that not a lot is left. Thanks for noting, I will probably have the same deficiency in my compost.

Does your compost/wood chips show any signs of hyphae?

Thanks for sharing your research

M
 
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Maarten Smet wrote:Great stuff, I am doing something similar in my chicken coop. Mine is on a slight hill with hardware cloth on all sides (also the bottom) to keep the raccoons out. What that means is that when it rains, the smaller particles drain through the hardware cloth and of which some collects under the chicken coop. Once in while, a raccon tries to dug under the coop, pulling all that good soil from under the coop for me to access. An unintended consequence I like.

"I'm a bit disappointed that the N is a bit low too. "

I am assuming that the wood chips take up so much N to convert into compost that not a lot is left. Thanks for noting, I will probably have the same deficiency in my compost.

Does your compost/wood chips show any signs of hyphae?

Thanks for sharing your research

M



Research is a bit overstating it, but yeah, no problem.  

That makes sense about the nitrogen.......I don't know how many times I've heard the chips tie it up.....but it didn't occur to me until you wrote it down, lol.  Thanks!  

That's a coincidence about our systems.  I actually have the deep end of the pool dammed off with boulders so that when it rains, I can capture the water so it doesn't make the compost anaerobic?  (sorry I'm not sure if that's the right term, but basically I thought it to be bad for the chips to be sitting in a pool of water. )  I pump the water out with a bilge into 55 gallon drums, and figure it's a really good compost tea.

As for the hyphae.  So I have tons of chips on clay soil out in the yards, and yes, out there where there is soil contact there is a lot of it.  I have noticed that it's only in the areas where the chips aren't very deep...maybe a few inches or so.  Where the chips are really deep (over 12") I don't seem to see it much.  In the shallower areas the chips become solid "units" kind of like cow patties.  I took some pictures just now.
As for the coop, nope.  I don't think I've ever really noticed it in there.  Maybe because the chickens are constantly digging and breaking it up?  or because there's no soil contact? or?  I don't know, but it doesn't seem to occur in there to a noticeable degree.
Again, I took some pictures of the "finished(ish) compost from the coop.

So if these upload in order, the first two pictures are of a chunk of the compost from the coop (dark black), and then a picture of it broken apart.

The last three are of the wood chips naturally breaking down in the garden.  You can see the cow patty chunk I pulled up, and how the hyphae are what's basically holding it into that shape.



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Just an observation here for you. I too often use woodchips as a base in the chicken coop and runs, and basically throw everything in there, whether they would eat it or not. Including things like shriveling or rotty 'shrooms. So occasionally they begin growing in the runs or even later in the garden beds after the litter is spread. I once watched a chicken find a bit of fungal hyphae and stand and slurp it up like spaghetti noodles.
 
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