how well do pine shavings break down in a compost pile?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by norahsmommy, Jan 13, 2009.

  1. norahsmommy

    norahsmommy In the Brooder

    How well do pine shavings break down in a compost pile? How long does it take compared to garden scraps? I plan on using pine shavings because it just seems that they do a better job than straw, and I can get it more readily. I really want to use the dirty shavings rich with chicken poo in my compost pile so I can augment my sandy garden soil. Any tips for using the shaving in a compost pile would be welcome!
    1 person likes this.
  2. tfpets

    tfpets Mmm, tastes like chicken

    They are dense, because they are wood chips, but they break down nicely, eventually. I am not a compost expert, but I love the have the larger pieces in some of my beds as well, we have the red dirt with a clay type soil and the chips have really helped turn the soil up here into a loose, workable dirt!
  3. Bear Foot Farm

    Bear Foot Farm Crowing

    Mar 31, 2008
    Grifton NC
    They will break down faster if you mix in some fresh grass clippings ( or anything else that's green)
    Keep them moist
  4. tvtaber

    tvtaber Songster

    Aug 2, 2007
    Central CA
    They don't break down as quickly as everything else, but they are really small anyway. They give the compost some nice structure and my garden seems OK with it. I just wait until the compost is of uniform consistency and has no remnants of anything other than the chips, and it works great! I mean come on, it's oinly compost! [​IMG]
    1 person likes this.
  5. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    How quickly shavings break down depends entirely on how much high-nitrogen material (poo, grass clippings, urine, or even high-N fertilizer) is mixed into them. Pure shavings or fairly clean bedding will take a long time to really compost down unless you add nitrogenous stuff. Note that almost everyone's coop bedding is still way lacking in N for optimal composting -- it takes a *lot* of poo mixed in to get to the ideal point. (The same is true of straw, but straw does compost faster than shavings)

    You can put incompletely-composted shavings on the garden, but depending (very much) on your existing soil and plants, you will sometimes cause usually-mild temporary nitrogen deficiency in the plants, as soil microbes 'steal' N to break down the shavings. I have not had this happen often but I *have* had it happen. It is not hard to fix with high-N fertilizer though.

    Mixing incompletely-composted shavings *into the soil* is not usually a great idea for active garden beds, because you will cause a more-pronounced period of N deficiency. Again, if you have to do it, you can add high-N sources to try to balance it out.

    Have fun,

    2 people like this.
  6. katrinag

    katrinag Songster

    Instead of using them in the compost pile, I just put them in my garden as I would other wood chip bedding. My roses love it. And since I have to buy the chips for the chicken I figured I might as well use it in the garden as well, killing 2 birds with one stone. It might not be as pretty as cpyress mulch or the nuggets but works well. Just my 2 cents.
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2009
    1 person likes this.
  7. Dustoff79

    Dustoff79 Songster

    Aug 5, 2008
    San Antonio, Texas
    I agree with Pat.

    A different "set" of microbes decomposes woody materials (cellulose/lignin) than decompose leafy materials, but IF you regularly have green material (such as freshly-aged grass clippings or fresh cow manure) on hand that can be added to the 'sawdust mix' as it is unloaded, then that's a whole different situation - Your goal is to get the carbon/nitrogen level at a point where your pile is HOT.

    Compost piles will heat up if you keep the nitrogen-carbon ratio so that you have a good supply of rich high nitrogen and high protein materials mixed in your compost pile.

    You must have at least 2-3 times more carbon matrerials than nitrogen materials in the pile also. The carbon will give you odor control, and also you can't produce humates in the soil without carbon materials.

    You must keep the pile constantly aerated and moisturized. You don't have to turn a compost pile, but you can aerate it by poking it with a broom or stick, or using stationary aeration pipes or vents in the pile.

    Make sure to manage the compost pile so that it does not have any funky smells, and keep the carbon materials on top of the pile for odor control.

    I heat up my large compost stockpiles by using high nitrogen/protein, dry molasses, compost/manure teas as nitrogen/microbial activators. This way I add water, microbes, sugars, and nitrogen to my compost piles every time I use it. The microbes grow like crazy, and the pile gets hot very quickly.

    Your answers are relative to adjusting the 'regular' pile 1st-heat temperature properly, which might indicate addition of a sugar/starch amendment, since pile heat is mainly caused by thermophyllic fungi 'eating' the initial available sugars and carbohydrates from the material you build the pile with. High-carbon materials (Browns) are usually deficient in sugars/starches in a form that heat-producing fungi can assimilate.

    You can incorporate an alternating layer of a very high-carbon mix into a 'regular' pile as you would an alternate layer of dry leaves - but how much, depends also on what your 'regular' carbon/nigrogen pile materials are.
    Second focus would be on what additional material would need to be added during the 1st turn, to 'round out' the pile material to obtain a 2nd heat, and to begin maximizing production of humus percentage
    2 people like this.
  8. kmom246

    kmom246 In the Brooder

    Jul 20, 2008
    I don't fully compost my pine shavings, and it seems to work ok. I let them sit in a pile for 3-6 months, turning the pile once or twice. I also periodically water the piles because, well, we're in the desert! When I can't recognize poo bits any more, and there is more of a dirt smell than a pine/poo smell to it, I spread it around the garden in a thin layer. With 22 chickens, I can comfortably keep two piles going at a time - one almost done, one just starting. The garden loves it. It's a prime contributor to my plan on turning this pure desert sand into living, breathing, healthy Soil.
  9. sandspoultry

    sandspoultry Everybody loves a Turkey

    Feb 10, 2008
    Eastern NC
    We put about 1/2 in compost pile and the other 1/2 in the garden. When it's growing we side dress the rows and when fallow we just broadcast on top and till it under before planting. We have alot of clay in our soil and it is working well to break it up.

    Steve in NC
  10. thedeacon

    thedeacon Songster

    Nov 14, 2008
    I usually pile mine until I have an area in the garden to rototill. I then spread it out and till it in. It does decompose much slower than scraps and grass/ leaves. However, It is not even noticable in the garden.
    My manure pile sometimes get pretty big over winter and breaks down some, but tilling in retains all the nutriants.

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