Composting chicken run

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by oguzakyuz, Oct 11, 2019.

  1. oguzakyuz

    oguzakyuz Chirping

    May 28, 2017
    I am curious if it is possible to have a chicken run that also works as a composter. I would like to throw a certain amount of food scraps (things that can be composted), leaves, etc. and collect compost from the run to use in my garden. Needless to say, it should not smell as I have neighbors nearby.

    Just a few info, my run has a roof so it doesn't get wet by rain. If necessary I can spray water by a controlled amount.

    If this is possible, what would be the ideal bedding material? I am currently using construction grade sand but this is probably not ideal for compost. Perhaps some soil mixed with wood chips?

    Anybody has experience on this?
  2. Compost King

    Compost King Free Ranging

    Apr 19, 2018
    Salisbury, North Carolina
    I have about 20 different runs that are used for composting. Just keep dumping in the high carbon compostable materials and let the chickens scratch it up and drop nitrogen in it. Once a year I clean them out and make one giant pile that sits for 6 months before i put it to use in my Nursery. Sometimes I end up with a foot deep of of compacted poo, leaves, straw, grass clippings, wood chunks/chips/Cardboard and any other stuff I have thrown in. I suggest making one big pile away from the chickens for 6 months before you use it.
    sorce, Lilyput, Brigitt and 15 others like this.
  3. Cryss

    Cryss Free Ranging

    Nov 12, 2017
    Northwest New Jersey
  4. Red-Stars-in-RI

    Red-Stars-in-RI Songster

    Mar 24, 2014
    Rhode Island
    Chickens are AMAZING composters! Not only do they convert protein and carbohydrates to nitrogen, they happily turn the pile incessantly. I'm always amazed how quickly they get things broken down. Keeping enough carbon in the run is actually a challenge.
  5. Lizzy733

    Lizzy733 Songster

    Nov 13, 2018
    New Zealand
    A healthy compost doesn't stink; we top up our run with grass clippings and keep food waste to a minimum in the run as our girls turn their beaks up at it.
    We have a heap compost for their bedding - a shavings and straw combo - outside the run, which gets raked over in their free-range scratching corner when it's about half done breaking down. If you have a lot of food waste, it is better to finely chop and separate this over several bins and ensure you're balancing them correctly with ample brown waste so smell and flies don't become an issue - or get a worm or soldier fly farm.
    PS - be mindful of extra food in the run possibly attracting rats if it's left uneaten - and if you have a bin style compost, line the bottom with chicken wire to keep rats from digging under.
  6. ConnieA

    ConnieA Songster

    Mar 9, 2015
    I have a friend in town who built her compost pile onto her chicken coop. The chickens' run is covered and is dry enough for them to dustbathe, and they also have access to the compost area, which tends to be damper and is not covered.

    I use deep litter, mostly, and I add only what the chickens will eat right away. My compost pile is separate from the chicken runs.

    My duck runs are different. Most of them are high and dry and covered on the uphill side, and damp to soggy (after rain) on the downhill side. I have encouraged the mealworms and soldier flies in the damp section because it's good cheap food. However, I live in the country, so I know not everyone can or would want to try this.

    Although I don't do any composting with ducks, I move their cages every two years or so in the fall, cover the ground with straw and leaves over the winter, and the old duck areas become the new corn and squash garden next spring. BTW, I don't plow or till this area, I just plant it.
  7. Red-Stars-in-RI

    Red-Stars-in-RI Songster

    Mar 24, 2014
    Rhode Island
    ConnieA - if I had the room and the sunlight, I’d do a similar rotation...Run/compost pile and garden swap every year.
  8. BigBlueHen53

    BigBlueHen53 Crowing

    Mar 5, 2019
    SE Missouri, USA
    :pop Good questions; good answers!
  9. ScottKelly1974

    ScottKelly1974 Songster

    May 6, 2016
    I had issues with weeds and grass taking over my garden. So I put the chickens in there for two years. I secured the area and give them free run of the entire garden. They have a dry place to sleep and also for food and eggs. The rest is open to the weather. Next year I plan to plant a new garden. I can set up the chickens in a new area where there are weeds. This way I can have my garden with all the good fertilizer and the eggs. Then at the end of the year I can put the chickens back in the garden to clean up for the winter and start over again the next year.
  10. gtaus

    gtaus Crowing

    Mar 29, 2019
    Northern Minnesota
    My Coop
    I am currently using my chicken run as a composter, too. This summer I put my 10 chickens on an uncovered 13 x 13 grassy run. After they ate all the grass in the run, I put down a 2 inch layer of wood chips. Then I started dumping grass clippings from mowing. I was concerned that the grass would mat up and get slimy and smelly. That never happened because the chickens turned the grass clippings they did not eat into the wood chips below. So I had a nice green carpet for the second half of the summer.

    For the past 3 weeks, the grass has stopped growing but the leaves are falling. I have dumped about one foot of leaves in the run. I dump the leaves in large piles and the chickens love tearing it apart and leveling it out in the run. The combination of chickens working the leaves, dropping poop in the run, and days of rain have turned my run into a black colored leaf bed. It does not smell at all. I think the rain really helps with the composting process but the real work comes from the chickens scratching the material and breaking it down.

    If you have a sand bed to start with, I would just add wood chips on top. If you mix in some soil, that would probably speed up the compost. Dumping grass clippings and leaves has worked for me. I also feed my chickens kitchen scraps, but am sure to remove any uneaten meat products before night so as not to attract rodents. IF your compost ever starts to smell, add more carbon such as wood chips and/or leaves.

    Finally, I would like to say that my chickens have broken down the leaves in the chicken run and turned it into pre-compost in a matter of weeks, compared to the same process in a compost bin which would take 18-24 months. So I am very excited with all the work my girls do for me. To encourage them to keep working the compost material in the chicken run, I throw chicken scratch out everyday.
    Brigitt, Susan Dye, RLynch and 10 others like this.

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