Harvesting my Chicken Run Compost - Black Gold!

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gtaus

Crossing the Road
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Mar 29, 2019
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Northern Minnesota
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I turned my chicken run into a chicken run composting system a couple years ago. I throw all my wood chips, grass clippings, leaves, weeds, spent coop bedding, and just about anything else organic into the run and let the chickens break it down and turn it into compost.

Here is a picture of my run with a large pile of grass clippings I just mowed this afternoon. I don't know if the picture is clear enough, but maybe you can see that in that mowing of grass I pulled up a lot of dead leaves from last fall, lots of dead brown material on the ground, and probably a fair amount of loose dirt got sucked up into those loads. Point is, my grass clippings are not just grass, which is why I was able to pile it so high. If all I had in the bins was grass clippings, then I would never pile them that high because the pure grass clippings would heat up and smell really bad. With all that brown material in the mix I don't have to worry about a stinky pile of grass matting up and going anaerobic.

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Here is a picture of the chicken run compost that I was harvesting from the chicken run today. Note that all my chickens were all right there "helping" me as I was forking out the litter into my compost sifter. I hope you can see how darker the lower layers of the compost is. That's black gold in book.

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Here is a picture of my cement mixer compost sifter. Notice all the screened, finished compost falls into the wagon below the wire on the barrel, and the unfinished compost and larger pieces fall out the end (where I have the blue muck bucket).

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The section of the chicken run I was harvesting today was about 1 year old. In the past, I was getting about 50% finished compost in the first wagon and 50% unfinished compost in the reject wagon. Today, I was getting about 90% finished compost and maybe only about 10% rejects. So, my sifting job was really going fast today - even with the "help" of all my chickens in the area that I was harvesting. BTW, my cement mixer compost sifter sifts out about 6 cubic feet of compost every 15 minutes. I used to buy my compost at the big box stores for about $5,00 per 2 cubic bag. Now I make my own compost and sift it out to the tune of about $60 worth of compost every hour of run time with my compost sifter. Saves me a lot of money.

This year, I have built a few more 4X4 foot galvanized steel panel raised hügelkultur beds. I mix the chicken run compost 1:1 with good Red River topsoil I purchased from a local nursery. That 1:1 mix goes on the top 6-8 inches of my raised beds. Here is one of the raised beds I finished filling up today.

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I will be planting peppers in this raised bed this weekend. Where I live, our average last frost date is the end of May, so I'm right on time with my projects.

Love talking about my chicken run composting and gardening projects. Willing to answer any questions you may have, or look forward to comments and pictures of your setups. Thanks for any feedback.
 
I turned my chicken run into a chicken run composting system a couple years ago. I throw all my wood chips, grass clippings, leaves, weeds, spent coop bedding, and just about anything else organic into the run and let the chickens break it down and turn it into compost.

Here is a picture of my run with a large pile of grass clippings I just mowed this afternoon. I don't know if the picture is clear enough, but maybe you can see that in that mowing of grass I pulled up a lot of dead leaves from last fall, lots of dead brown material on the ground, and probably a fair amount of loose dirt got sucked up into those loads. Point is, my grass clippings are not just grass, which is why I was able to pile it so high. If all I had in the bins was grass clippings, then I would never pile them that high because the pure grass clippings would heat up and smell really bad. With all that brown material in the mix I don't have to worry about a stinky pile of grass matting up and going anaerobic.

View attachment 3126652

Here is a picture of the chicken run compost that I was harvesting from the chicken run today. Note that all my chickens were all right there "helping" me as I was forking out the litter into my compost sifter. I hope you can see how darker the lower layers of the compost is. That's black gold in book.

View attachment 3126655

Here is a picture of my cement mixer compost sifter. Notice all the screened, finished compost falls into the wagon below the wire on the barrel, and the unfinished compost and larger pieces fall out the end (where I have the blue muck bucket).

View attachment 3126670

The section of the chicken run I was harvesting today was about 1 year old. In the past, I was getting about 50% finished compost in the first wagon and 50% unfinished compost in the reject wagon. Today, I was getting about 90% finished compost and maybe only about 10% rejects. So, my sifting job was really going fast today - even with the "help" of all my chickens in the area that I was harvesting. BTW, my cement mixer compost sifter sifts out about 6 cubic feet of compost every 15 minutes. I used to buy my compost at the big box stores for about $5,00 per 2 cubic bag. Now I make my own compost and sift it out to the tune of about $60 worth of compost every hour of run time with my compost sifter. Saves me a lot of money.

This year, I have built a few more 4X4 foot galvanized steel panel raised hügelkultur beds. I mix the chicken run compost 1:1 with good Red River topsoil I purchased from a local nursery. That 1:1 mix goes on the top 6-8 inches of my raised beds. Here is one of the raised beds I finished filling up today.

View attachment 3126711

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View attachment 3126698

I will be planting peppers in this raised bed this weekend. Where I live, our average last frost date is the end of May, so I'm right on time with my projects.

Love talking about my chicken run composting and gardening projects. Willing to answer any questions you may have, or look forward to comments and pictures of your setups. Thanks for any feedback.
This is amazing!
 
I'm impressed, you definitely made this form of composting look easy, fun and sexy. Terrific sifter and all of the thoughtful effort put into your successful composting- including the great share with the photos for us folks- easy to glean some big inspiration and a few tricks from you.
Composting is such a great thing to do for a whole bunch of reasons that you helped make perfectly easy to follow. Mahalo!
5 ☆, 2 👍 and a golf 👏 for sure!
 
I love the sifter idea, and that is really beautiful looking compost.

For coarse sifting I have a panel of 1/2" welded wire on a wood frame (recycled from my old prefab's wall) and that can sit on a yard cart and sift right into that.

My fine sifter is a lot slower and more lowkey... hardware cloth folded around a 5 gal bucket.

Chunky bits get tossed back into the run or dumped in depressions in the lawn to help even the ground level out.
 
This is amazing!

The system is amazing, IMHO, because it uses the natural instincts of our chickens to scratch and peck for food, which mixes all the stuff I dump in the chicken run, and that turns into compost which I harvest as needed. I have way more compost than I can use, but the good thing about this compost system is that the compost just gets better the longer it sits in the run.
 
I'm impressed, you definitely made this form of composting look easy, fun and sexy.

I have never thought of making compost as sexy, but OK! Using the chickens to make compost in the run is easy. The fun part is seeing all the food I can grow with the chicken run compost in my raised beds. Also, since I save so much money on no longer buying compost at the big box stores, I guess I have more money to spend on fun stuff.

Terrific sifter and all of the thoughtful effort put into your successful composting- including the great share with the photos for us folks- easy to glean some big inspiration and a few tricks from you.

:old For years, and years, I used a manual sifter I made out of 2X4's and some hardware cloth. I just got too old to put all that work into sifting compost manually. The cement mixer compost sifter was a great solution for me as I upped my game with the chicken run composting. I have way too much compost to sift manually, even if I was a lot younger.

Composting is such a great thing to do for a whole bunch of reasons that you helped make perfectly easy to follow.

Chickens, composting, and gardening all seem to go together so well. And, I'm at an age and stage in my life where I really enjoy the process. If you don't use your chickens to make compost, then I personally think you are missing out on one of the best benefits to having a backyard flock. I tell people I bought composting chickens and get eggs as a bonus. Some people laugh, but the gardeners know what I mean.
 
I love the sifter!! I haven’t harvested any compost from the chicken run, but I should. All the chipped wood we added about 3 years ago is essentially decomposed other than the largest pieces. We have a separate compost 3-bin system bc there is no great way for us to put a lot in the run.

I know some people may have chicken runs too small to make compost like I do. But, there are probably many people who could make more compost in the run if they wanted to do that.

That cement mixer compost sifter I have is great because I can also put in different sized screens to sift my compost. I'll use 1/4 X 1/4 inch hardware cloth screen for seed starting mix. I use the 1/2 X 1/2 inch for most of my raised beds potting mix. And, I'll just take out the inner screen and use my 1 X 1/2 inch main hardware cloth for filling beds. What I like is that the wood that is too big for the sifting screen will get rejected and I can throw all that back into the chicken run for some more composting.
 

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