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Composting Chicken Manure

Chicken Compost

Chicken Manure Compost

Well how hard can it be?  Just toss it in a pile and let it sit right?  Sure you can, but if you want to use it without the burn, or wait a year or more, you might want to take a few more steps to get it right!  Chicken manure is high in nitrogen and is dangerous to plants if the manure is not composted properly.  The composting process allows time to break down the more powerful nutrients so that they are more useable by the plants. Depending on how diligent you are, composted chicken manure can be ready in as little as two months or if not so diligent, up to nine months.

When chicken manure is just piled up dry and left to sit, it will do just that, sit!  While the outside may get wet from sprinklers or rain, the inside of the pile will remain very dry.  The outer layer will form a crust and not let water penetrate.  You must have all the manure moist in order to begin the break down process.  You can use straight chicken manure, but I prefer to add other composting matter to the pile, this way it won’t smell like it would if you just used chicken manure.  Things like leaves, grass clippings, garden or kitchen scrapes.  You know, organic matter! Simply start to pile your manure in layers and sprinkle every layer.  Chicken poop, leaves, water, chicken poop, etc.  Add a couple of cups of blood meal or cottonseed meal to the mix (for a 3x3x3′ pile).  I know…it would seem that it wasn’t necessary, but it really does speed up the process!  Turn the pile to get everything mixed up.  If you want finished compost sooner, turn the pile every few days.  If time seems to be few and far between, try every week or even every other week.  Just remember the less you turn the longer the process will take.   If the pile seems rather dry, sprinkle it with water while turning.   If the pile gets to wet and becomes stinky, you can spread it out and allow it to dry for a few days.  You can use a compost thermometer to gauge how hot your pile is getting.  A temperature between 140 and 160 degrees is the optimum temperature range to break down pathogens, weed seed and get the decomposition really moving!  When the pile no longer heats up after turning, you know your compost is getting close to a finished product.   It should be dark and smell like earth.  Clean earth!  It’s time to add that black gold to the garden.  Till or spade the compost into the garden beds or use as a side dress for plants.  Chicken manure compost is full of nitrogen, it contains a good amount of phosphorus and potassium making it excellent for your veggies to grow in.

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Making Compost

Compost is a beautiful thing for gardeners!

If I could only put one thing into my garden it would be compost.  I have been composting for twenty years now.  When I first started to garden I would just simply put the plants into the soil and expect them to grow.  My gardens have since improved dramatically thanks to compost.  When people come to me and ask what they should do to get their garden going I always say ” compost, compost, compost”.  I think it is the first step!  Composting can be as simple, or as complicating as you make it.  I like to compost everything.  Whereas some like to add manures into the garden without composting, I will compost it first.  I feel this way I still get the benefits of the manure without it robbing the soil of nitrogen and it also kills weed seeds that I would rather not deal with later.  Composting choices are numerous, ranging from worm composting to what I call “dump and run”.  Pick a spot in your yard for your compost pile, ideally near your garden for easier access and where the sun hits it for most of the day.  You can just simply build a pile right on the ground with nothing around it, or you could use pallets, a wire fence enclosure or something of the sort to encase it for a more tidy look.   I don’t like to make composting rocket science.  For one, I don’t have the time, and two I’m not a rocket scientist!  What I have available at the time is what I use.  Water near by is a must because if it’s not…..well, we have a tendency to neglect giving our compost heaps enough water that it requires and if we have to drag a bucket it probably won’t get done.  At least that would be in my case!  One thing to get out-of-the-way and I can’t stress enough!  DO NOT use synthetic fertilizers (chemical) to heat up your pile!  Compost is made when billions of microbes  digest the waste you provide for them.  Think about it.  Would you eat a cup of synthetic fertilizer?  Of course not, because it would be lethal.  Yes, it will decompose with synthetic fertilizer, but I prefer not to add such things that will go in the garden and then my body.  Carbon, Water and nitrogen are the key ingredients.  I like to have bare earth beneath my compost to allow worms and other organisms to get into the pile.  For better drainage you can add straw or twigs for the first bottom layer.  Start layering greens (nitrogen) and browns (carbon).  Like I said I use what I have.  If I have loads of fresh grass clipping I don’t add much water, because there is enough moisture.   Add kitchen scrapes, leaves, garden waste or wood chips for layers.  When adding a new layer I like to add a handful of blood meal and bone meal.  Every layer gets a little stir. Your compost needs to be moist, not soggy to break down.  Like a wrung out sponge.  I cover my pile with burlap to help keep the moisture and heat in.  You can turn your pile every few days, every few weeks or just let it sit and rot.   The moral of the story is-everything rots.  The hotter the pile the faster it will decompose.   Chopping or shredding your materials also helps speed things up.  Water occasionally.  Nitrogen materials consist of:  grass clippings, kitchen waste, coffee grounds, eggshells and chicken manure.  Carbon materials:  dried plants, straw, newsprint, cardboard, dryer lint and wood chips.  Things you shouldn’t compost:  meat, bones, milk products, diseased plants, weeds with seed heads, walnut leaves and roots from pernicious weeds.  Some people add wood ashes and that’s okay if your soil pH is low (acid).  I don’t because our area has a high alkaline count.  If your compost is soggy and/or stinky, turn the pile to aerate and you can add some dry peat moss to tame it.  Things that I keep near my compost pile:  Pitch fork for turning, blood and bone meal, machete for chopping,  compost thermometer and burlap.   An unknown author once said; You know you’re a real gardener when you think compost is a fascinating subject.

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Filed under Compost, Gardening