Chickens and compost

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by Spunky1, Jun 22, 2016.

  1. Spunky1

    Spunky1 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 4, 2015
    Durban, South Africa
    I would like to start a compost heap where my chickens can get to it so they can do all the good work I keep reading about! But I'm concerned about them eating any of the kitchen scraps that may have started rotting? I've read that rotting or moldy food is bad for them.
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    As you said, you keep reading about the benefits. Lots of people have compost piles where the chickens can work them over. I used to but predator pressure required me to fence the chickens in which unfortunately fenced them away from the compost pile. My goal is to start a new compost pile in their run when the current one finishes. It’s almost time.

    You sound like someone that likes to overthink things. I can help with that. I often do too but it can cause me to ramble. Some molds are dangerous. Either they are poisonous or somehow harmful or their secretions (waste products) are. A lot of people and sometimes animals are allergic to mold spores. Mold in grain is a really dangerous one. Consider moldy chicken feed poisonous. Some molds are beneficial, like penicillin or molds used to make certain kinds of cheeses like blue cheese. Some molds are neutral but the spores can often cause allergies.

    When they can chickens love to scratch in rotting leaves which are full of mold if the leaves are just a little damp all the way to really wet. They find all kinds of goodies in there, including eating bits of the molding leaves. It doesn’t seem to harm them. It’s one of their favorite feeding places.

    I don’t know what kinds of kitchen scraps you are putting in your compost. It’s generally recommended that you don’t put meat, grease, or milk products in there for a regular compost pile. They certainly draw critters plus they can turn rancid. Chickens love meat. I feed mine meat scraps all the time. One thing they especially go crazy for is cooked salmon skin. I toss mine into the run now for them, I no longer put it in the compost. If it is a small enough quantity that they can clean it up it won’t have time to go rancid or draw flies. I avoid grease in my compost because it can go rancid and it does attract critters but some people that show chickens drizzle a little oil or fats over their chickens’ feed because it helps make the feathers shiny. I generally don’t have milk products anyway but I might feed them small amounts of cheese if I have waste. If these products worry you, don’t put them in your compost.

    Molds are in their environment if they are allowed to forage for some of their food. Free ranging chickens are exposed to molds all the time. Mold in their compost is just something I don’t worry about.
  3. saulsx

    saulsx Out Of The Brooder

    Jun 7, 2016
    What are you composting? Fruit and veggie scraps, grass clippings, leaves, dead plants from a garden? All that should be fine for your chickens to scratch around in. They'll likely even find worms, crickets, little bugs living and breeding in the compost.

    Are you free ranging or do you have a run? If free ranging, you can make a bin out of whatever materials work best for you and leave the front part of it open. The chickens can get in and out at their leisure. Or, if you have an enclosed run, hammer a few stakes (t-posts, pvc, metal conduit) into the ground in the run and tie some hardware cloth to it (a small 3x5 or 4x5 roll should do), leaving an opening big enough for the chickens to access it. That's what we did for a 2nd compost pile to toss all the spent bedding from the chicken coop in, plus grass clippings. If it ever needs to be moved, I can easily just pull it up and move it.

    Right now, we have our chicks in a portable coop/tractor and we're putting them to work in the garden area. They'll scratch at the grass, clover, dandelions, weeds, for about a week, then get moved to a new spot. Usually once a day, I'll scoop a big heap out of our main compost pile, which is kitchen scraps (no meat, dairy, or oil) and yard waste, into a 5 gal bucket and toss it in for the chicks. Grass clippings, leaves, food scraps, crickets, bugs, etc. They go nuts for it. The chicks till the ground, leave their droppings, and the scraps and yard waste and everything composts in the spot that'll eventually become a garden bed.

    That particular compost pile has also become a breeding ground for black soldier fly larvae. So we started harvesting them and feeding the chicks. I'm now thinking about building another compost bin to "raise" and harvest black soldier fly larvae... We have multiple systems: 2 compost piles, a worm bin (great compost and fishing bait), several hugel beds that we're giving a year to compost down before planting that we tossed kitchen scraps and yard waste onto and covered up with straw, and may be adding yet another bin for bsf larvae...

    I'm also planning on re-purposing a portable chicken run we got from a friend into a fully enclosed compost bin that we can open up to put materials in and to give the chicks access to. We don't free range (too many predators) and don't have a fixed coop or enclosed run... yet. We do have plans to expand the flock and have a coop and run, and will have yet another compost pile in the run for the chickens to get to.

    Might sound a little complicated, but it works for us. Mold hasn't been an issue so far.

    Hope all that makes sense and helped.
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2016
  4. Rock Home Isle

    Rock Home Isle Chillin' With My Peeps

    The advice given is awesome...very well thought out and greatly appreciated.

    Here's another twist on composting with chickens:

    I put everything into the garden, lawn clippings, kitchen refuse and all the litter and waste from the coop. I clean out the coop twice a the spring it's done about 6 to 8 weeks before planting.


    The chickens have access to tge garden from final harvest till spring planting. I'm here to tell you, 4 birds can turn an awfull lot of debris. The ground is dark and rich...just a perfect soil.


    Once the garden is planted, the gate is closed, the birds get mad...because they love the garden and all the grubbies that they find there.

    Lawn clippings are piled between the rows as mulch to keep down weeds and keep mud off your feet while harvesting.

    These birds work so hard turning the soil in the off season, I have not had to rototil in years. It's been a great system for me, and it's fun to watch them as they go about their day, foraging and working the garden.
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2016
    2 people like this.
  5. saulsx

    saulsx Out Of The Brooder

    Jun 7, 2016
    Looks like a great system! [​IMG]

    We plan on doing something similar. For now, the chickens are working areas that are currently lawn. When we've harvested the last of the fall crops, we're going to wheel the tractor over the beds, which are lasagna style beds, and let them have at it until early spring, just before we get ready to plant again. We use grass clippings and straw in between beds, too
    2 people like this.
  6. TalkALittle

    TalkALittle Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 15, 2014
    Here's the thing. If your chickens will have daily access to the compost then any scraps you put in won't last long enough to go moldy.

    I don't even bother putting my compostable kitchen scraps in the pile. Instead they go straight into the chicken pen. I'd rather it feed my hens than feed the worms.
    1 person likes this.
  7. Rock Home Isle

    Rock Home Isle Chillin' With My Peeps

    Yes...its just a different form of recycling
    1 person likes this.
  8. mypolitedog

    mypolitedog Just Hatched

    Jun 12, 2016
    I've been adding used coffee grounds to my compost bin because my plants love them, but should I be giving access to them in the chicken compost?
  9. Rock Home Isle

    Rock Home Isle Chillin' With My Peeps

    I really don't see anything wrong with adding coffee grounds to the compost, even if the chickens have access to it. Chickens will eat things that make them sick, not always but on occasion. If the coffee grounds don't sit well with them, they won't eat any.

    Just think, you may just discover the thing that makes chickens lay three eggs a day...caffeine concentrates.!!!
  10. Rock Home Isle

    Rock Home Isle Chillin' With My Peeps


    The garden is exploding


    My neighbor's look over the fence and ask, "How do your plants get so big?"

    Last edited: Jul 27, 2016

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