Are you planning to raise a flock yet wondering how to collect chicken poop?
Proper waste management is an important aspect of responsible chicken keeping.
This guide explores the intricacies of how to collect chicken poop effectively, from selecting the right tools to implementing sustainable disposal methods.
These practices let poultry enthusiasts strike a balance between maintaining a pristine coop, promoting environmental responsibility, and harnessing the benefits of chicken waste for improving soil health and microbial diversity in the backyard.
Without further ado, let’s get to it!
6 Reasons to Collect Chicken Poop
Do you need to collect chicken poop?
This question might have popped into your mind, and you even hesitated to push through the task at one point.
But before you make any final decision, here are six reasons why you need to collect chicken poop and how this unfavorable task can be all worth it!
Chicken Manure is Rich in Nutrients
Chicken manure is a valuable organic fertilizer rich in nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and Potassium.
These nutrients are crucial for plant growth and soil fertility.
When properly composted, chicken manure is an excellent soil amendment, improving soil structure, water retention, and aeration.
This is excellent for the soil’s microbial life, promoting a healthier and more diverse soil ecosystem.
Diversity is important because it makes the soil more stable for natural disasters and disturbances.
Healthy soil allows for better plant health, which also means better health for the animals that ingest those plants growing in the soil.
Fertilize Land in a Cost-Effective Way
Utilizing chicken manure as fertilizer can be a cost-effective alternative to commercial fertilizers, reducing the need for external inputs.
Chicken droppings are free, and you can easily mix them with soil and sand in your area.
So, in a way, it fertilizes your soil most cost-effectively and conveniently.
Manage Waste and Keep a Clean Coop
Collecting chicken poop helps in managing and reducing waste within the chicken coop.
This contributes to a cleaner and healthier living environment for the birds.
It would be best if you cleaned your coop regularly to reduce the risk of illnesses and sterilize the coop about once a year to maintain your flock’s health.
Get Tested for Flock Health
You can take your chickens’ droppings to a veterinarian or an extension agent to be tested at a lab.
These lab tests can reveal a lot about the health of your flock and give you the information you need to make amendments to best suit their needs.
These tests can reveal:
- nutrient absorption
- the health of the birds
- the fertilizer value of the litter
- parasite loads (coccidia, cecal worms, roundworms, tapeworms, or threadworms)
- infections, diseases
- overall wellness of the chickens
Create a Closed Food System
Collecting chicken manure to age it or compost it to feed your garden is a big step towards creating a closed-loop food system.
A closed-loop food system is an integrated and sustainable approach to food production that minimizes waste and utilizes resources efficiently within a self-contained system.
Chickens are raised for meat and egg production within the closed-loop system. Chicken manure is generated as a natural byproduct of poultry farming.
The chicken manure, rich in nitrogen, phosphorus, and Potassium, is collected and composted. Composting transforms the manure into a nutrient-rich fertilizer.
The composted chicken manure is applied to garden beds or agricultural fields to enhance soil fertility and structure.
The nutrients in the manure contribute to plant growth and overall soil health.
Plants grown in the enriched soil benefit from the nutrients derived from the composted chicken manure. This promotes healthy and robust plant growth.
The closed-loop system includes the cultivation of crops or vegetables.
Once harvested, these produce items become part of the human and animal diet, closing the food consumption loop.
Residual plant material, such as weeds, leftover vegetable plants, uneaten vegetables, and kitchen scraps, can be fed to the chickens.
Wastes can then be composted and returned to the system, completing the cycle.
Some closed-loop systems may include on-site chicken feed production using components like cover crops or locally sourced grains, closing the loop further by minimizing external inputs.
If sustainability in farming is something you’re interested in, we have several articles about it:
- Sustainable Farming 101: What It Is and Benefits and Challenges
- Five Eco-Friendly Farming Models That Meet Sustainability
- Waste-Based Chicken Feed Reduces Pollution, Waste, and Feed Costs
- The Ultimate Guide to Making Your Own Chicken Feed
Reduce Your Environmental Impact
Properly managing chicken manure prevents nutrient runoff and contamination of water sources, minimizing the environmental impact of poultry farming.
When not managed properly, chicken manure can contribute to water contamination and harm aquatic ecosystems and fish populations.
The primary mechanisms through which chicken manure can impact water quality and aquatic life include nutrient runoff, microbial contamination, and the introduction of harmful substances.
Nutrient runoff can cause eutrophication in water bodies. Excessive nutrients stimulate the growth of algae and other aquatic plants.
When these plants die and decompose, they deplete oxygen levels in the water, creating “dead zones” that harm fish and other aquatic organisms.
Chicken manure may contain harmful pathogens and bacteria, including Salmonella and E. coli.
If manure is washed into water bodies, it can introduce these pathogens, posing a risk to human health (if water is used for recreation or drinking) and aquatic life.
This comes with a slew of other hazards and long-term effects.
Chicken manure may contain traces of chemical additives, antibiotics, or medications given to the chickens.
If these substances are present in the manure and enter water bodies, they can harm aquatic organisms, especially fish and the animals that consume the tainted fish.
Promote Plant Growth
The nutrients in chicken manure promote robust plant growth, resulting in healthier and more productive crops.
Chicken manure is estimated to increase crop yield by 20-30% or more.
Reduce Dependence of Synthetic Fertilizers
Individuals can reduce their reliance on synthetic fertilizers by incorporating chicken manure into farming practices, contributing to more sustainable and environmentally friendly agricultural systems.
Composition of Chicken Poop
Chicken manure has a 1.1% composition of nitrogen, 0.8% phosphorus, and 0.5% Potassium.
What does this mean for your garden?
According to Oklahoma State University, about 50% of the nitrogen will be available after application during the first year.
15% will be available in the second year, and 6% in the third year.
Few studies have been conducted on phosphorus and potassium availability in poultry litter.
However, it is estimated that availability is somewhere between 80-100% for Potassium and around 90% for Phosphorus.
The Composition of Other Animal Manures
- Horse manure – 0.7% Nitrogen, 0.3% Phosphorus, 0.6% Potassium
- Cow manure – 0.6% Nitrogen, 0.4% Phosphorus, 0.5% Potassium
- Goat manure – 0.7% Nitrogen, 0.3% Phosphorus, 0.9% Potassium
- Sheep manure – 0.7% Nitrogen, 0.3% Phosphorus, 0.9% Potassium
- Rabbit manure – 2.4% Nitrogen, 1.4% Phosphorus, 0.6% Potassium
- Pig manure – 0.8% Nitrogen, 0.7% Phosphorus, 0.5% Potassium
The Main Differences Between Fresh and Aged Chicken Manure
The distinction between fresh and aged chicken manure lies in their composition, nutrient content, and potential impact on plants and soil.
New chicken manure typically has a higher moisture content, contains more active pathogens and bacteria, and often has a strong, sometimes unpleasant odor.
On the other hand, aged chicken manure has a lower moisture content, reduced pathogen levels due to the aging process, and a less pronounced or minimal odor.
Fresh chicken manure tends to have higher nitrogen levels, potentially imbalanced nitrogen-to-phosphorus ratios, and may have phosphorus and Potassium that are less readily available.
Aged chicken manure, as it matures, may see a decrease in nitrogen levels, more balanced nutrient ratios, and increased availability of phosphorus and Potassium.
Application and Plant Safety
New chicken manure should not be applied directly to plants without composting.
This is because it may contain higher levels of pathogens that pose health risks to humans and could contaminate edible parts of plants.
Due to the aging process, aged chicken manure can be applied directly to plants with a reduced risk of pathogens and a lower chance of burning plants.
Fresh chicken manure exhibits high microbial activity, including beneficial and potentially harmful microorganisms.
It requires time for microbial balance and composting.
As it matures, aged chicken manure sees stabilized microbial activity, with beneficial microorganisms contributing to the breakdown of organic matter.
New chicken manure has a strong and distinct odor due to its high ammonia content.
The odor can be offensive and may attract pests. As it matures, aged chicken manure has a reduced or minimal odor, making it more pleasant for handling and application.
Fresh chicken manure requires careful storage due to its high moisture content, and storage conditions can impact odor and nutrient preservation.
Aged chicken manure is easier to handle and store and less prone to odor issues during storage.
How to Collect Chicken Poop
Here are the best methods for collecting manure from your coop, run, and yard. Plus, how to collect manure for fecal testing.
How to Collect Chicken Dropping for Parasite Exams
Collecting the manure for these exams is only part of the equation.
You’ll also need to provide examiners with key information about your flock and coop.
Be prepared to answer the following questions to accompany the feces tests:
- Age of birds
- Type of bird
- This is not necessarily the breed but pertains to their species (duck, goose, chicken, etc.) and what they are used for (broiler, layer, show, etc.)
- Size of the flock
- Why are you sending in the samples for examination
- Mention any medication, control measures, vaccination, deworming
- Symptoms or behavior of the flock
Unless your research facility tells you otherwise, you only need about a half cup or four ounces of droppings.
If you have a small flock, send in a few droppings to fill this quota.
If you have a large flock, collect droppings from all over your coop or run, break them up into small pieces or even blend them into a powder, and then reduce the amount to a half cup.
Use gloves to pick up the manure; you don’t want that to come into direct contact with your skin.
Place the samples into a zipped plastic bag, and consider double bagging the samples.
Label each sample you send in, and record which flock or area they originated.
This will be helpful when you get your results back, especially if you sent multiple samples for testing.
Methods of Collecting Chicken Manure
Here are the two easiest methods for collecting chicken poop.
Catchment System Under the Roosting Bars
Setting up a catchment system beneath where your chickens sleep is one of the easiest ways to collect their manure.
Most of the manure in your coop will be directly beneath the roosting bars, so this is the most effective place for a catchment system.
I have seen people use tarps, sliding trays, totes, sand shelves (like an elevated litter box), tin, and dropping boards.
I’ve even seen people use long kids’ sleds here, which worked surprisingly well.
These catchment systems are beneficial for several reasons:
- They make it easy to catch and collect the manure.
- They offer your chickens more usable floor space.
- They might keep you from getting dirty while in the coop. I have a small coop, and because of that, I placed my coop door beneath the roosting bars. When I have to get close to that door, I know I’m safe from the chickens roosting above me.
- It’s much easier to spot sick birds. The catchment systems have the manure closer to your eye level, so if someone has an odd stool, you’ll see it first thing in the morning. This gives you a great advantage for nipping illnesses and injuries in the bud.
- If your chickens fall off the roost, they won’t fall to the ground. This means a reduced risk of broken wings or legs. Chickens are clumsy creatures (or at least mine are), and sometimes they aren’t as careful as we would like them to be.
What to consider when building a catchment system:
Does your area have hard freezes?
If so, consider adding sand or sawdust shavings to the catchment station.
If the manure is falling directly onto wood, tin, or even laminate flooring, it can freeze in place and pile up.
You won’t be able to remove the manure until the coop thaws in the spring.
How often do you want to clean this area?
If you intend on dumping out the area a few times a week, you can use shallow pans or plastic sleds.
If you want to clean it a few times a year, consider getting something deeper, like a 45-gallon tub, barrel, crate, or tote.
However, this will be heavier to lift, so consider your mobility and physical abilities first.
Flat or slanted?
I slanted my catchment system, thinking that the manure would roll down it and into a gutter.
While this slant kept the chickens from roosting directly on the tin (and therefore, avoided them getting pooped on in the night), chicken manure is a lot stickier than I thought, and it ended up piling right where it landed anyway.
I still have to use a scoop or snow shovel to remove the manure from the catchment tin.
The elevated litter boxes that use sand or sawdust seem more beautiful than plain wood, tin, bins, or tarps.
Don’t use kitty litter because it is not safe for chickens. It’s toxic for them to eat, and many of them will.
It’s also a lot dustier, which is not good for their surprisingly fragile respiratory systems.
Gathering Manure from the Floor or Ground
For the manure on the floor of your coop or the ground in the run or backyard, you’ll need a fine-toothed manure fork or a flat snow shovel to scoop.
It’s much easier to scoop manure up with shavings or sawdust if you don’t mind combining both.
Sand may be a better option if you only want to collect the manure.
Where to Store Chicken Poop
Here are some considerations for setting up a chicken poop storage area.
If you aren’t composting it, keep the manure as far away from your coop and home as possible because it will smell.
Furthermore, it should be away from water sources, especially any streams, ponds, wells, or springs on your property.
You do not want to contaminate the water with a concentration of manure.
Make it accessible. You want this to be an easy space to add or remove manure from.
You will probably visit this spot a lot, so it’s nice if it’s not a hassle to access.
Areas for New and Aged Chicken
Set up several dump locations in the collection area to rotate through new and aged chicken manure.
Aged manure is safe for vegetation and gardens; fresh manure will burn plants.
If you have a few stalls or stations, you can rotate which pile you take from and keep your plants much safer.
Chicken Manure Compost
Consider composting the manure. Compost piles do not have an odor if you balance them well.
We have a complete article on compost manure that you may find helpful.
Use a Cover
Consider using a cover for the storage area to protect the manure from rain.
Excessive moisture can lead to unpleasant odors and complicate composting, especially if you live in a wet climate.
This is less necessary for arid places.
Practice Biosecurity Measures
Implement biosecurity measures to prevent the spread of pathogens.
This includes limiting access to the storage area and practicing proper hygiene when handling the manure.
If you let your chickens free-range, they may visit the manure pile. For instance, if your chickens were recently sick, this could be an issue.
You might want to keep your chickens in a run or enclose the manure area so they can’t access it.
Think about how much space you’ll need. Each chicken will make about fourteen gallons of litter each year.
So, a flock of twenty hens will yield roughly one and a half cubic yards of manure annually.
This results in a pile that is six feet long, three feet wide, and about two feet tall.
10 Steps on How to Compost Chicken Poop
Composting chicken poop is an excellent way to transform it into a nutrient-rich and beneficial soil amendment.
Here are the ten basic steps on how to turn chicken poop into rich, ready-to-use compost.
- Collect chicken manure, bedding material (straw or wood shavings), and other organic materials like kitchen scraps or yard waste.
- Select a well-ventilated and partially shaded area for composting. This can be in a designated compost bin or a compost pile. If you have a garden or greenhouse, consider setting this compost pile nearby for your convenience.
- Start with a layer of coarse materials at the bottom, such as small twigs or straw, to promote airflow. This works well if you have an untreated pallet or leftover lumber. Add a layer of chicken manure, followed by layers of bedding material and other organic waste.
- Aim for a balanced carbon-to-nitrogen ratio (C: N ratio). The ideal ratio for composting chicken manure is 25-30 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen. Include brown materials (carbon-rich) like straw or leaves and green materials (nitrogen-rich) like chicken manure.
- Top the compost pile with a thick layer of brown materials to prevent unpleasant odors and trap in a necessary amount of moisture.
- Regularly turn the compost pile to aerate it and speed up the decomposition process. Turning the pile every few weeks helps distribute moisture and microbes, facilitating even decomposition. Add more brown materials to the top of the pile to prevent unpleasant odors.
- Once the compost is ready, apply it to garden beds or use it as a soil amendment. It provides valuable nutrients to plants and improves soil structure.
About Your Chicken Poop Compost
Chicken manure composting typically takes 3 to 6 months, depending on pile size, materials used, and humidity.
It’s ready for use when the compost becomes dark, crumbly, and has a rich, earthy smell.
The compost pile’s temperature will also decrease when the composting process is complete. It will essentially look and smell like rich garden soil.
Remember that if you don’t keep adding to the pile, it will naturally shrink in size as the raw materials slowly turn into compost.
Guidelines and Considerations for Using Chicken Poop in the Garden
While adding manure to your lawn or garden is simple, there are a few pieces of information you should know before you get started.
Compost or Age Manure First
Compost chicken manure before applying it directly to plants. Composting helps eliminate pathogens, reduce odor, and create a well-balanced fertilizer.
Composting manure means that the manure is mixed with carbon-rich materials, like dry leaves, hay, straw, pine needles, cardboard, or other “brown” materials.
Compost has a more diverse blend of nutrients than plain-aged manure.
Aged chicken manures are those that have decomposed for at least three to six months.
It is less likely to burn plants and is more stable as a soil amendment. It’s also safer for use in the garden.
Some fruits or vegetables will sit on or graze the ground, and you may eat them raw.
This isn’t ideal if you’re using fresh manure that contains potentially harmful bacteria.
As mentioned, aging the manure ensures the dangerous pathogens and bacteria are dead and non-threatening.
Consider Testing the Soil First
Test the soil pH before applying chicken manure.
Chicken manure is generally acidic, so monitoring soil pH and adjusting as needed is important to maintain optimal plant growth conditions.
If your soil is too acidic, adding manure will only worsen your issue.
Balance the Nutrients
Apply chicken manure in moderation. Excessive amounts can lead to nutrient imbalances and may harm plants.
Follow recommended application rates based on the nutrient content of the manure.
Be aware of the nutrient content of chicken manure. It is high in nitrogen, beneficial for leafy green vegetables but may require additional phosphorus and Potassium for fruiting plants.
You can use other types of manure to fill this gap or create a special blend of your compost to make sure your soil is balanced and happy.
Wear gloves when handling raw (fresh, not aged or composted) manure.
Apply chicken manure in the fall or early spring before planting. This allows the nutrients to break down and integrate into the soil without affecting growing plants.
Use caution when applying chicken manure near root vegetables.
Direct contact with manure can lead to soil-borne pathogens on edible parts. Compost the manure and apply it to the soil surface.
Also, avoid direct contact between fresh chicken manure and plant foliage, as it can cause burning. Composted manure poses less risk and can be applied closer to plants.
Practice crop rotation to prevent the buildup of specific nutrients or potential pathogens associated with chicken manure.
You can add fresh manure to a garden if you add it in the fall when the garden will be dormant over the remainder of the fall, all of winter, and for part of spring.
It is safe for you and your garden in this circumstance.
Troubleshooting Common Chicken Manure Issues
Here are some of the most common problems with chicken manure and composting it.
- Proper Aeration. Ensure adequate aeration of the manure by turning the compost pile regularly. This promotes oxygen flow, reducing the anaerobic conditions that lead to unpleasant odors.
- Balance The Carbon-to-Nitrogen Ratio. Adjust the carbon-to-nitrogen (C:N) ratio by adding more carbon-rich materials, such as straw or dry leaves. This helps control nitrogen levels and mitigate the generation of foul odors.
- Cover the Compost Pile. Use a cover or lid on compost bins to contain odors and prevent them from spreading. Another good alternative is to cover the pile with a thick layer (3 or more inches) of carbon-rich (brown) materials.
- Add Dry Materials. Incorporate more dry materials like straw, wood shavings, or leaves to absorb excess moisture. This helps maintain a balanced moisture level in the compost pile.
- Increase Aeration. Turn the compost pile more frequently to enhance aeration. Proper airflow encourages moisture evaporation and prevents waterlogging.
- Use a Cover. If composting in an open pile, consider using a tarp or covering the pile during rainy periods to prevent excess water infiltration.
- Add Water or Manure Slurry. If the compost pile is too dry, water it lightly to restore moisture. You can also add in a slurry for more nitrogen and water content in the compost.
- Mix in Green Materials. Mix in more green materials, such as fresh kitchen scraps or green plant matter, to increase moisture content. Green materials contribute nitrogen and help balance the compost mix.
Pests in the Manure
- Regular Turning. Regularly turn the compost pile to disturb and discourage pest habitats. Turning exposes pests to predators and disrupts their environment.
- Avoid Meat and Dairy Products in Compost Piles. Refrain from adding meat scraps or dairy products to the compost, as these can attract pests and scavenging animals like raccoons, rats, weasels, and mice. Stick to vegetable and plant-based kitchen waste.
- Use a Secure Bin. If pests are a persistent issue, consider using a secure compost bin with a lid to prevent access. This will make aeration more difficult, though not impossible.
How to Collect Chicken Poop FAQ
What Is the Best Tool for Picking Up Chicken Poop?
The best tool for picking up chicken poop depends on the coop setup and personal preference.
Many chicken keepers use a rake, shovel, or a specifically designed manure scraper.
If you have sand, use a fine-tuned fork. This looks like a large litter scooper with a long handle. If you have straw in your coop, use a traditional pitchfork.
If you have sawdust or wood shavings, use a scoop shovel or a snow shovel to scoop it up.
How Do You Collect Chicken Waste?
To collect chicken waste, follow these steps:
- Wear appropriate protective gear.
- Use a rake or scraper to loosen dried droppings.
- Use a shovel or scoop to collect the loosened waste.
- Dispose of the waste in a designated compost bin or waste disposal area.
- Regularly clean nesting boxes and roosting areas.
What To Do With Chicken Poop After Cleaning Coop
After cleaning the coop, compost, mulch, pile, or sell the manure.
You can add it to your compost pile, let it dry age in the sun, give it away, or sell it.
Aged or composted chicken manure is excellent for lawns, gardens, and landscaping.
How to Collect Chicken Poop: Before You Go…
In conclusion, effective chicken poop collection is essential for maintaining a clean and healthy coop environment.
Choosing the right tools, practicing regular cleaning routines, and implementing proper waste management techniques contribute to the well-being of both chickens and their caretakers.
Whether composting for nutrient-rich fertilizer or responsibly disposing of waste, these practices ensure sustainable and eco-friendly chicken keeping.
By prioritizing cleanliness and adopting sound waste management strategies, poultry enthusiasts can create a conducive environment for their feathered friends.
At the same time, you can harness the benefits of chicken poop for the overall health of their gardens and surrounding ecosystems.