Using chicken manure as fertilizer is a common practice for most rural gardeners.
On the other hand, most chicken keepers also dream of a big backyard garden. Garden and chickens go hand in hand!
It’s a great idea to marry the two hobbies together whenever possible.
Not only is it mutually beneficial for plants and animals, but it’s also better for you, your soil’s health, and the longevity of your homestead.
Learning how to close loops does a world of good for everyone involved.
With that said, there is a bit of a learning curve in turning chicken manure into usable fertilizer. Let’s get into that.
Using Chicken Manure as Fertilizer: It’s Not Just Chicken Poop!
Chicken manure is a remarkably potent form of fertilizer. Its exceptional nitrogen and phosphorus content easily outpaces that found in manures from other animals, like cattle.
Not only does chicken guano consist of feces, but also an array of other substances swept up during the cleaning process.
Urine, feathers, broken eggs, chicken feed waste, and coop bedding materials like straw, wood shavings, and hay also make up most chicken manure piles.
Each of these added ingredients is natural and beneficial in diverse ways. So it’s not an issue for them to go into your compost pile and then into your yard or garden.
Every wheelbarrow of chicken manure is intrinsically unique too. The chickens’ diets, ages, health, and mental well-being all play roles in the manure produced.
Chicken manure is a natural fertilizer that provides more than just macronutrients and micronutrients.
It adds organic matter to the soil, which improves its structure, optimizes the soil’s moisture-holding capacity, drainage capability, and aeration levels, and even reduces erosion risks while retaining key nutrients better.
The addition of chicken manure also enriches essential micro biotic activity within the soil. It allows for quicker availability of vital plant nutrition.
Chicken Manure as Fertilizer is Perfect for No-Till (No-Dig) Gardening
Rather than disturbing soil, no-till gardening embraces the art of leaving it untouched.
This method is also referred to as ‘no-dig,’ and it includes only cutting off plants at their root line using pruners, scissors, or a hand saw instead of pulling them out with tools like plows, spades, and hoes.
This practice, which is rapidly regaining traction in the United States, allows gardeners to reap all the benefits that come from working in harmony with nature.
Short History of No-Till Gardening
For thousands of years before colonization, no-till gardening was the only gardening method in North America.
In a no-till world, the fertility of the soil is maintained without requiring deep mixing.
An ecosystem like an untouched meadow or forest floor provides us with glimpses into this type of cycle in action.
Here we see plant material rise and fall naturally to contribute mulch, nutrients, and biomass—while leaving behind vital roots.
Organic soil is akin to its own little ecosystem, where beneficial microorganisms work together to create a thriving environment for plants.
Not only can it provide nutrients without the need for chemical fertilizers. Studies have shown worms can even detoxify polluted soil.
On top of that, these organic soils are proven more resilient against threats like pests and drought when compared to conventionally tilled gardens.
Despite being a longstanding practice, traditional tilling of soil on commercial farms can have adverse environmental effects.
It reduces water retention capabilities and leads to more runoff from large-scale fields. However, it also fosters the release of fertilizers and pesticides into our drinking water sources (as well as oceans).
This results in dangerous and unstable algal blooms, dead zones, and other harmful consequences for all ecosystems involved.
So how does this method of gardening work with chicken manure?
After you’ve successfully aged your chicken manure, you simply toss it atop your garden and then let mother nature do her job.
By not turning over the soil, you allow the living organic soil to maintain its sophisticated soil food web without disruption.
In turn, you get much healthier soil that produces significantly better vegetables, even when you have otherwise difficult weather and pest seasons.
How to Age Chicken Manure
While minimal quantities of fresh chicken waste are not harmful to your garden, larger amounts are!
The best way to protect your garden and the plants inside it from dangerous pathogens and “burning” is to age your chicken manure before adding it to your garden (or lawn).
Hot Composting Chicken Manure
All it takes to age chicken poop is a compost pile with temperatures reaching between 140-160 degrees Fahrenheit; this is not difficult to attain.
When the pile exceeds 130 degrees Fahrenheit, harmful bacteria, like e. Coli are killed off, and the compost becomes much safer for use.
Turn the pile weekly to allow oxygen in while keeping out excess moisture that would otherwise be introduced by rain, excessive humidity, or snowfall.
After five to six weeks have passed, what will remain are beneficial nutrients released over time into your garden beds instead of hazardous germs lingering in its soil.
Cold Composting Chicken Manure
Cold composting chicken manure is an excellent way to create garden-ready nutrients without a whole lot of fuss or effort on your behalf.
The process is easy and low maintenance, but it takes longer to complete.
Just make a pile of chicken manure, let it age, and wait.
You can use cold composted manure after six months, but it is definitely much better practice to wait a year.
At the twelve-month mark, your chances of burning your plants with too-high nitrogen or introducing dangerous bacteria like e. Coli or salmonella dramatically drop.
As you can imagine, we strongly recommend waiting a year before using cold compost chicken manure as fertilizer.
Using The Deep Litter Method
If you have long winter seasons, the deep litter method is a great way to get a head start on composting your chicken manure.
We have created a complete guide on the deep litter method for you. Here are some quick takeaways from it:
- The Deep Litter Method is an easy, lower-effort cleaning system for coops and barns.
- It reduces unpleasant smells, warms the area in cold climates, encourages a diverse population of cultures and microbes, and produces nutrient-dense compost.
- Improper management could lead to sick birds due to mold, ammonia, dampness, or parasites. It’s relatively easy to manage, though.
- The deep litter method requires four main ingredients: carbon (brown materials), nitrogen (green materials), water, and oxygen.
- Ventilation should be provided for your chickens in their coop without creating unnecessary drafts.
- To clean a coop using the method, all but one wheelbarrow of litter should be removed and cleaned before reintroducing it in the fall. This allows the beneficial microbes to survive and assist you well into the next season (and year after year).
When to Add Chicken Manure to the Garden
If you want to give your crops a healthy and natural boost with composted aged manure, be sure to get it into the soil at the right time.
Vegetables that do not touch the soil, like tomatoes and beans, can be fed aged manure 90 days prior harvest date.
Root vegetables, leafy greens, and vegetables that do come in contact with the soil will need a longer window.
For these plants, wait until 120 days before the harvest date to add the manure. This ensures that your produce is safe and not contaminated.
If you don’t feel like doing the math for this, add the manure at the end of your growing season (late fall or early winter) for a more diluted feeding or late winter to early spring for a more concentrated burst of fertilizer.
How Much Chicken Manure Should You Put on the Garden
You should add about 45 pounds of aged manure to every 100 square feet of garden. That is approximately a half-wheelbarrow load for every 10×10 section of the garden.
The wheelbarrow conversion table is especially helpful when you’re planning your garden.
FAQs on Chicken Manure as Fertilizer
Can you put raw chicken manure straight into the garden?
Because of their high ammonia content, raw chicken manure could potentially “burn” and damage the plants when put straight into the soil.
And if those plants are meant for consumption, you’d also have to think about the pathogens that the plants could absorb, which then could transfer and be eaten by humans or animals.
That’s why it’s best to age or compost chicken manures first before adding them in as fertilizer.
Is chicken manure good for all plants?
You’d be surprised how beneficial treated chicken manure is for all types of plants!
Plants that need nitrogen grow well in the soil with chicken manure fertilizer, like eggplants, squash, tomatoes, peppers, melons, cucumbers, and beans
But generally, you can add chicken manure as fertilizer to fruit trees, and even ornamental plants, turfgrass, and backyard lawns!
What happens if I put too much chicken manure in my garden?
It’s important to put just the right amount of compost into your plants, as too much of it can lead to excessive growth, nitrate leaching, and nutrient runoff.
And remember that an unhealthy plant, especially one that’s meant for consumption, is a health risk for anyone who’s going to eat it!
Using Chicken Manure as Fertilizer: Final Thoughts
Chicken manure as fertilizer would be one of the best things to have if you currently have or are just planning to cultivate your own vegetable garden.
They are helpful in growing healthy and nutritious fruits and vegetables or even beautiful ornamental plants when done right.
Not to mention, chickens and garden really go well together!