Composting Litter and Reusing

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Salt and Light, Jul 8, 2008.

  1. Salt and Light

    Salt and Light Chillin' With My Peeps

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    For the past couple weeks, I've been using compost for litter. I previously had a LARGE compost pile of horse manure and pine shavings.

    Initially I used this 1/2 decomposed mixture for my chicken coop litter. After about 1 week, I removed the dirty litter and replaced it with some new compost. I dumped the dirty litter in a new compost pile.

    My plan to mix the dirty litter with some more horse manure/pine shavings and then reusing this over and over again.

    Has anyone ever done this? It' free, recyclable and SEEMS to work fine.

    Thanks~
     
  2. Karlachix

    Karlachix Chillin' With My Peeps

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    :hmm

    It might be a perfectly acceptable use of horse poo. It just seems so... wrong. [​IMG]
     
  3. digitS'

    digitS' Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Salt and Light, I just want to say that I've been very tempted to do almost exactly the same thing but have not. I'd let the compost fully mature before putting it in the coop.

    I grew up on a farm with various livestock. If given a choice, chickens would spend all their time in the corrals. But, I am not talking about manure these days but, rather, compost. Come to think of it, if given a choice, chickens would spend all their time on a compost pile.

    Steve
     
  4. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    It doesn't sound like a terrible idea to me, although I don't know as I'd do it myself. The two things to be slightly concerned about are:

    - the possibility of mold in the half-composted litter. If it is from the center of a hot pile it will probably not have moldy bits, but if this is 'outside' parts, or not from a real hot pile, then especially if there are clumps of hay or other vegetation in there my own piles sometimes get moldy pockets and that would not be good to expose the chickens to.

    - the possibility that you are elevating your risk of having salmonella in your eggs by exposing the chickens to A WHole Lot Of Concentrated Horse (or any other animal's) Poo that is not yet composted enough to be more safe. From my reading of what sadly little actual information seems to be available on the subject (in terms of actual case studies, not theory), it seems *to me* that the risk is low but still nonzero, i.e. more chance of an egg with salmonella inside from chickens kept in conditions with lots of barnyard poo than from those kept otherwise. The extent to which you care about this is likely to vary (do you sell your eggs, do you eat them raw or not fully cooked, do you have kids or elderly or chronically ill people in household).

    I think if I were going to do this (have been mulling this over as I sat writing this post [​IMG]) I might be tempted to try to clean my stalls into two separate piles -- one with most of the poo and ruined hay in it, and another with just the 'wet spot' shavings and smallest bits of poo (like if you toss your stalls periodically), and use the second of those as my chicken bedding source. Of course that would be somewhat more complicated.

    Dunno whether this helps,

    Pat
     
  5. Salt and Light

    Salt and Light Chillin' With My Peeps

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    The concept of bacteria never crossed my mind. Now, I don't know what to do. Dang, I've always got the manure and compost on me and my 3 y/o loves to climb the compost pile. :-(

    Is salmonella a real threat? I wonder what people used to do before pine shavings were commercially available.
     
  6. Beekissed

    Beekissed True BYC Addict

    I thought Salmonella was mainly in bird and reptile feces?
    It sounds like a good idea to me, sort of a Joel Salatin solution to keeping your compost worked up and turned well. Did you ever read where he would turn his pigs in on top of a foot of cow manure, mixed with corn, and let them root the corn out. Said when they got done you could pick up that manure and throw it into the wind ...it was that light and fluffy!

    Copy from an article on horse manure:

    Fact: Horse manure does not spread disease. Horses are dead end hosts, just as are humans, for EEE, WEE and West Nile Virus. They do not spread Salmonella, Giardia or Cryptosporidium (see same article). As an example of extreme exposure to horse manure, consider the large animal veterinarian who often is "armpit deep under a horse's tail. Nevertheless, there has never been a documented case of veterinarians contracting illness as a result of this rather extreme exposure to horse manure."
     
  7. Salt and Light

    Salt and Light Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Very interesting quote about horse manure.

    In all honesty, I just can't see decomposing horse manure from a small stable of horses as being even a slight risk for contracting salmonella. Of course, I might be "dead" wrong!

    None the less, just this AM, I removed a wheelbarrow of 1-week old chicken coop compost and replaced it with some fresh compost. I must say, I love the smell of fresh compost!
     
  8. joebryant

    joebryant Overrun With Chickens

    I'd be worried more about aspergillus that salmonella.
     
  9. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    ALL feces have a reasonable possibility of carrying salmonella, e coli, etcetera. It is just the nature of poo. Animals can perfectly well carry and shed them without actually being ill.

    This is why we wash our hands after cleaning stalls and discourage children from eating 'meadow muffins' [​IMG] And this is why organic gardeners still suggest you NEVER apply fresh manure on the surface of a vegetable bed (either use it composted, or bury it down). Fact.

    Look, I'm not being all paranoid-ooky about it, I'm just saying, the more and fresher poo bacteria your birds are exposed to, the higher the (fairly small) likelihood of internally contaminated eggs.

    This is really only likely to be an issue if a) you sell your eggs, b) you eat them raw, or c) you feed them to someone especially vulnerable.

    Unless your compost pile gets 160F+ hot and you only use the inside, it is likely to be TIME as much as anything that determines how fast the fecal pathogen count falls off. A quick google for composting time information re: bacterial pathogens turned up this
    http://jeq.scijournals.org/cgi/content/full/35/4/1170
    which, although one lone data-point, would suggest that if your manure is at least a month or so old it may be of fairly trivially-low risk by then.

    Hope this helps,

    Pat
     
  10. ravenfeathers

    ravenfeathers Chillin' With My Peeps

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    first of all, properly aged manure will not contain harmful microbes. that's one of the points of composting. the heat from the process kills the nasties. with that said, you want to make sure you're using aged, composted manure. it should resemble black soil and have no manure bits or striation left in it. otherwise you risk fungus, mold, and harmful bacteria.

    i have two concerns with this method, although i think it's perfectly safe for your chickens if done properly.

    the first concern is that you're creating a "super compost" that will be so strong that it could burn the plants in your garden soil, even after its been properly "cooked". you want to be really, really careful that you monitor your soil chemistry if you're planning on using this on your garden.

    the second concern i have is that compost is 100% organic material which means that it will hold moisture like crazy and could create a mucky coop environment. this could impact on your air quality as well as providing a nice habitat in which flies can reproduce like crazy.

    oh, i have one more possible concern: if you're trying to maintain an organic egg environment, you need to make sure that the compost you use is also organic, from animals fed organic feed and not medicated. considering that most conscientious horsekeepers worm their animals regularly, this could be a problem. if you're okay with conventional eggs or "mostly organic" eggs, this won't be an issue for you.

    super idea, though. i've done this with my cattle with good results.
     

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