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How to Age Chicken Manure for Use as Compost

By Angie Mohr

Providing your garden with composted chicken manure gives it a high-energy dose of nutrients and can turn even the poorest soils into fertile loam. Chicken manure straight from the chicken, however, is too high in nitrogen for delicate plants, and can burn them. Aging chicken manure reduces the nitrogen content and balances the nutrients that plants need to thrive.

Find a source of chicken manure. Speak with local farmers or urban homesteaders who keep a few chickens in the backyard. Chicken manure is plentiful, and many farmers will gladly part with used chicken bedding as they clean out the coop.

Set up your compost area. You can compost in a barrel or garbage can, but for the large amounts of chicken bedding you're likely to obtain, a larger area is more desirable. You can wire together shipping palettes to make a box (or a series of boxes) with an open top. If you compost only chicken bedding here, you will not have to worry about animals, such as raccoons and skunks, digging though it.

Fill up your compost area with the chicken bedding. The bedding will most likely be composed of straw or pine shavings, which can be composted right along with the manure and provide the compost with extra organic material. It is best to fill the entire area so that the pile composts at the same rate rather than adding fresh material continually to the pile.

Add some water to dampen the pile if it is dry. This helps jump-start the composting process. Do not allow the pile to become soaked through. If your area is subject to substantial rains, place a tarp over the pile during rainy periods.

Turn and aerate the compost every two weeks to allow air to circulate through the pile and aid the composting process. Dig into the pile with a pitchfork and turn over material to expose the center of the pile. The center will be where the most activity is happening, and turning allows new material into the center of the pile.

Use the compost in your gardens when the pile has substantially broken down and turned into dark soil. Pieces of chicken bedding may still be visible, and that is fine for most garden applications. The process should take two or more months, depending on the weather and the amount of turning. You can dig the chicken compost into new beds to incorporate with the existing soil, or you can side-dress your plants by topping with the compost the soil that surrounds them.

 

Things You Will Need

  • Compost bin (garbage pail, shipping palettes or wire fencing)
  • Pitchfork
  • Used chicken bedding

Tip

  • If you have a garden bed that will not be used for several months, you can simply spread the fresh chicken bedding on the garden and let it compost in place.

Warning

  • Using fresh chicken manure can burn your plants' leaves and roots.

About the Author

 

Angie Mohr is a syndicated finance columnist who has been writing professionally since 1987. She is the author of the bestselling "Numbers 101 for Small Business" books and "Piggy Banks to Paychecks: Helping Kids Understand the Value of a Dollar." She is a chartered accountant, certified management accountant and certified public accountant with a Bachelor of Arts in economics from Wilfrid Laurier University.