How to Fertilize With Chicken Manure

Overview

Chicken manure is considered the king of animal manures because it is higher in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium than any other. An added bonus to using chicken manure; almost no weed seeds. Fresh chicken manure can be added to gardens but only in fall and only to fallow areas. Composted and pelleted chicken manures can be used at any time of the year. Chicken manure isn't just chicken poop; it contains bedding (usually wood shavings), uneaten feed and the microorganisms that feed on and survive in chicken poop. The exception is pelleted chicken manure, which is manure that has been dried and formed into pellets. It is high in nitrogen but can lack other nutrients. Use pelleted chicken manure with compost or other organic fertilizers.

Fresh Chicken Manure

Step 1

Choose a fallow area (an area without plants) in your garden to spread fresh chicken manure. This manure should only be added to gardens in mid- to late fall. Adding fresh manure at the end of the growing season allows it to compost over the winter.

Step 2

Move fresh chicken manure into your garden using a wheelbarrow. Do not handle it with your hands and use a face mask if you have asthma or other respiratory problems. (Particulates in chicken manure, when inhaled, can exacerbate respiratory illnesses.)

Step 3

Spread a 2- to 3-inch layer of manure over the fallow area in your garden. Use a fixed-tine rake to smooth the manure and break up clumps. You want an even layer that will be easy to till into the garden in spring.

Step 4

Cover the chicken manure with a 2- to 3-inch lay of compost in early spring as soon as the ground can be worked. The compost will add nutrients and micronutrients to the soil the chicken manure lacks.

Step 5

Till the chicken manure/compost into the top 6 inches of garden soil. The soil should be crumbly, dark brown and have a sweet earthy smell after tilling. Use a fixed-tine rake to break up soil clods and smooth the surface. You are now ready to add plants.

Composted Chicken Manure

Step 1

Add a 3- to 4-inch layer of composted chicken manure to soil and till into the top 6 inches. Composted chicken manure can be used at any time of the year and is safe to handle with bare hands.

Step 2

Use composted chicken manure as a mulch. Apply a 2- to 3-inch layer of composted manure around plants that have a high nitrogen requirement, such as ornamental grasses.

Step 3

Make your own container soil using composted chicken manure. Mix regular potting soil with composted chicken manure in a 2:1 ratio. Composted chicken manure will release nitrogen and other nutrients slowly over the growing season, negating the need for supplemental fertilization.

Step 4

Fertilize your vegetable and ornamental plants with composted chicken manure by mixing three to four handfuls into the top 2 to 3 inches of soil around the plant.

Pelleted Chicken Manure

Step 1

Spread 1 to 2 inches of pelleted chicken manure around the base of the plant you want to fertilize. This manure is best used to fertilize "heavy feeders." These are plants that require a lot of nutrients to grow and produce fruit or flowers. Tomatoes, begonias and fuchsias are all heavy feeders.

Step 2

Mix the pellets into the top 1 to 2 inches of soil.

Step 3

Water the plant well. Water will help expand the pellets, releasing nitrogen and nutrients.

Tips and Warnings

  • Never apply fresh chicken manure around plants. The urea in the chicken manure will "burn" plant leaves, stems and roots, possibly killing plants. When using fresh chicken manure, wait 120 days before planting edible flowers or plants. Doing this eliminates any chance of parasite transfer from the manure to the gardener.

Things You'll Need

  • Fresh chicken manure
  • Heavy-duty gloves
  • Face mask (optional)
  • Shovel
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Fixed-tine rake
  • Tiller
  • Composted chicken manure
  • Pelleted chicken manure

References

  • Seattletilth.org: Composting Chicken Manure
  • Washington State University Extension: Composting and Using Manures
  • The Garden Primer; Barbara Damrosch; 1988

Who Can Help

  • North Carolina State University: Soil Facts, Using Poultry Manures
Keywords: fertilize with chicken manure, compost, nitrogen