I have seen no ill effects from coffee grounds.They don't eat them, they scratch them.They are also high in N content and breakdown Carbon quickly.
Black soldier flies lay eggs in them too!
While my hens are scratching the soil, I am scratching my head about how to make a more integrated system in my backyard that yields compost. I had been buying fabulous compost from our local dump, but they had to shut down their operations due to some permitting issues. I knew it was cheating with all that shipping of materials from here to there, but it was so well-priced and so high quality that I was going with the flow. Seems universe is calling for a course correction, thus my head scratching.
I have a big magnolia tree in my yard and she is generous with her leaves, so I am thinking that is my carbon. I was shipping these leaves to the dump weekly and thinking myself foolish for exporting so much of the bio mass that my soil was busy producing. So a few months ago I bought an electric mulcher (wanted a hand-cranked one, looked around on the internet and in local hardware stores, they don't seem to make them). It's noisy and dusty, but after collecting the fallen leaves for about 3 weeks, I get the monster out and make two beautiful 5 gallon buckets of leaf mulch (leaves are ground down about to about 1/4" square).
I use the mulch in my two laying boxes, instead of store-bought straw. No complaints from my girls, I have 4 lovely layers, about laying on the new substrate. So now, how do I most effectively turn this into a hot compost? It's a mixture of urine, poop and magnolia leaves. I am thinking that the chicky waste is mostly nitrogen, yes? I know I can get my hands on unlimited quantities of coffee grounds if that would be helplful. I have about 1-2 gallons of kitchen scraps per week-not sure if they should go to start a worm compost box or to the leaf-poop pile. I also generate a 1 gallon of shredded paper every one or two months. To get the temperature up, I am guessing I need to make stack about 4 feet high and that I should build a re-purposed structure to loosely contain that pile. I guess I have time and human labor (I love to work in the garden and don't mind heavy lifting) and I am trying to reduce the stuff I send away as garbage as much as possible. Thanks for the advice above about when to add carbon and when to add nitrogen!
Given my resources, can you off any input on how best to use the leaf-pee-poop resource on the way to making fabulous compost? Also I about 20 miles from the ocean, so have a moderate level of dampness and mild winters. I am hopping to get started now at the end of December. Is that crazy? the leaves keep falling and the chickens keep pumping out their stuff!
@Gaya If you're not in a hurry, just piling it up will break it down, but it's a pretty slow process.
If you want to break the stuff down in about 2-4 weeks, then you'll need a insulated compost. I built mine about 3x3x3 feet large, with about 2" of polystyrene insulation on the sides and 4" in the lid. The bottom is open, with quarter inch hardware cloth to keep out rodents.The lid opens on hinges, and the upper half of the front can be removed, and the inside is divided in two by a piece of quarter inch marine plywood. I've covered the insides with cheap tarp to make it easy to wash. With this thing it takes about 3 weeks to break down bedding in the summer, and 6 weeks in the winter when it's around 10-20F. I put both bedding and household waste in it, including dairy and meat. The main thing is to turn it and water it often enough. If you want to read more about my compost, here's a link to a thread about it:
yes, I do want to break it down fast, otherwise I end up with too much backstocked material and I will be tempted to send it away as green waste.I was a given double barrel tumbling composter today by a neighbor, it's in need of slight repair but will work until I figure out how to repair the pin on one side (it's not what I envisioned making, but someone designed it and hopefully it will work well, there is no ground contact, but it will be really easy to tumble the mixture). maybe I will through a shovel of dirt in to make sure there are microbes. It's not insulated but is made out of black plastic and I set it up in a sunny location. It has small drain holes, so I may need to cover it in the rain so I don't pass the damp sponge moisture level. After reading your post, if it is not retaining heat well enough, I will wrap insulation around the outside. I loaded it up and used mostly used litter (mulched magnolia leaves with plenty of nitrogen containing urine and manure). I added my gallon of kitchen scraps and a little yard clean up debris (raspberry stems which I cut up, leaves). I tumbled it good and then checked the moisture level and decided to all a little more water. Tumbled it again and it looked damp spongish. Our lows in the winter are more like 30-35F, so I am hoping it doesn't take longer than the 6 weeks you are getting with your system. It's good to have that standard. Iam going to mark my calendar at the 6 week mark to see if I made it, if not I will insulate if I haven't already. I think I would like to see steam rising when I open the cover tomorrow. Thanks for you input!!!-Gaya
The tumblers are probably not the best option for winter, I haven't tried one myself, but most I've seen are made from 55 gal barrels, and that volume isn't great for retaining heat. But your climate might be warm enough for it to work well for you. Watering with the "secret ingredient" might be helpful as well, although it might start to smell a bit. Remember to turn it often, that's the main idea behind the tumblers, providing a lot of oxygen.
For my compost to cook the stuff in a matter of weeks I need to get the heat up above 150F, and I don't think you'll see that kind of temps in the tumbler. Try it for now, but keep your eyes open for sheets of rigid insulation, and wood or plywood to cover it with. Once you get the parts, it'll take you about 4-5 hours to put together a nice big composter.
Thanks for the good points. I went out today, it's a heavy fog so no sun energy. My soil thermometer measure a puny 65 C, so by your reckoning, not anywhere near hot enough for hot compost nor quick processing. yesterday it was sunny and I had a little steam rising. I am going to go to our dump to see if I can find some recyclable materials to insulate with. My husband will be thrilled he can pee in the tumblers! I think my tumblers are even smaller than a 55 gal drum. Not ideal, but they do have the advantage of not attracting skunks and raccoons. Also, I got the idea to set up a temp chicken pasture when the compost is almost finished. First I will let the girls weed for me and then I will dump the compost into it so they can pick through it. Whoever gave me the deep little idea, it is working great with the leaves that I collected, thanks!
I read every bit of this thread and it's enlightening. I don't have any closed off area for compost, I throw the kitchen scraps in the chicken run and also garden waste and grass clippings during summer. Today I just added 3 bags of leaves and pine needles in there as the run was too muddy from the rains. When I do clean the coop which has pine shavings I dump them in the run too. I was planning to dig out some of that soil and put it in the garden in spring, but from reading here I should probably close of part or the run to let the compost finish off, or just throw the scraps and stuff in one corner while the rest of the run finishes for use in spring. Thought?
@Gaya 65C or 65F? Because there's a huge difference there. 65C would be pretty sweet, you won't be able to get it much higher than that, whatever you do.
@Loc20chick basically the run might work as a compost, with the chickens turning it, but there will of course be some fresher poop in there, so you could let it rest for a while before using it. But probably it would work just fine in in your garden, if you're not worried about the poop. I prefer to compost the poop properly before use though.
Vehve, oh yeah, I get your point. It's 65F, not so newsworthy. I covered it with a water heater blanket and will test the heat again tomorrow. If it doesn't work, I have access to several wooden palette and maybe I can construct a box and slip insulation between the layers of wood. I need it to be animal proof as I an in a fairly dense neighborhood.