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New garden and deep litter? Can I mix it in?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Mr. Frizzles Hen House, Apr 2, 2009.

  1. I'm making my first real garden this year and need help. I'm creating raised beds that I plan on filling with soil from another spot on our property which I need to amend some how(cheaply). I have been doing the deep litter method in my coop all winter using Stalldry (basically DE with clay) and pine bedding. The floor of the coop under the roosts is dry, almost compacted and the chickens have been chipping away at it. I think they might even be consuming it. So, it's time to shovel it out. Can I put it into my new garden??? And if so... Do I mix it in? Put it under the fill? On top? How does everybody else do it? Is it any concern about feed that may have been scattered in? Thanks in advance:)

  2. calgal98

    calgal98 Songster

    Having done both chickens and deep litter, I would compost it first. Or, at the minimum, use it for isles between your raised beds. It needs to decompose, and if using pine shavings, the shavings don't break down the same way as garden refuse. It takes longer and they deplete the soil as they break down. I have two HUGE compost piles going and it takes a full year for the shavings to become doeable. I love deep litter. If done in a covered area it lasts forever and is relatively easy to clean. It takes 3-4 times a year and only an our or so to clean my 4x12' coop of the buildup. Easy. I do horse manure and goat manure so the chickens are really much easier! [​IMG] I also have a huge raised bed garden which is well used!
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2009
  3. Dawn419

    Dawn419 Lost in the Woods

    Apr 16, 2007
    Evening Shade, AR
    Quote:I totally agree with calgal98. [​IMG]

  4. The last few months I really haven't been adding too much bedding. I sprinkle the stall dry for the oder and plop a small pile of the bedding in for them to kick around. It seams very broken down and crumbly. Not like the bedding that got kicked in the run that I then racked up and dumped in the yard. That is still clearly chips. Does it have to be mixed with green matter? I'm a newbie to the chickens, garden, & composting.
  5. CityChook

    CityChook Songster

    Apr 9, 2008
    Minneapolis, MN
    My Coop
    More than worrying about the chips, which take a while to break down even in a good compost pile, you need to be concerned about the nitrogen levels of the poop. It is very "hot" and can burn your new plants. Think of it in terms of grass -- if you have a dog and it pees on the grass, you'll get yellow spots (it kills the grass). Then, the following year, the grass grows like MAD in the spots that had been previously dead. That's because the nitrogen levels in fresh pee are too high. A year later, it's just right. You should pile up that bedding/poop and let it sit for at least a few months. Watering your pile and adding grass clippings will help the shavings break down faster. Does this help?
  6. GardenerGal

    GardenerGal Songster

    Dec 20, 2008
    In the winter, I top dress garden beds with deep pine-shaving litter from my barn. It makes great mulch. When the soil thaws in the spring I work the top-dressing in lightly. The earthworms and other soil critters break it down within 6 weeks once they become active.

    If the litter has plenty of chicken poop in it (in my case it's a gourmet blend of chicken, duck and goose poop), the excess nitrogen is used up by the microorganisms that break down the pine shavings. Using nitrogen is part of the metabolic/chemical process of breaking down wood tissues. I've never had problems with plants being burned by hot manure.
  7. WalkingOnSunshine

    WalkingOnSunshine Crowing

    Apr 8, 2008
    The strange thing about manure mixed with pine shavings is that you can actually leach nitrogen from the soil. Wood shavings remove nitrogen as they break down, as folks who've used uncomposted manure from horse stalls have sometimes found out when their plants are stunted. When you mix in the "hot" chicken manure, you have something that you don't really know what it will do, but it can harm your plants two different ways. Add to that the fact that fresh manure can introduce pathogens (remember the spinach recall?), it's always best to compost first

    We deep litter and clean once a year, in the fall. The garden is on a two-year rotation. Here's how it works: year one, clean out the coop and pile up the manure. I might throw grass clippings, weeds, etc. onto the pile and mix them in. Year two, in the fall, year one manure that seems composted (bottom of the pile) goes onto the garden and gets plowed in. The, we clean the chicken coop and pile the manure up again on top of what didn't properly compost last year. Rinse, repeat.

  8. GardenerGal

    GardenerGal Songster

    Dec 20, 2008
    I think that the amount or balance of manure to shavings is the key to whether there will be a nitrogen deficit or not. It works, in my case, because I also have waterfowl that spend the night in the stall with the shavings (they're outside all day, but come in the barn at night). Ducks and geese are notorious for projectile, liquid poop, and in the morning I always have to scoop the top 2" of shavings and replace it with fresh shavings because the waterfowl have, well, fouled it! So, there is a lot of nitrogen there, particularly when the chickens contribute their share from the overhead roosts.

    In most cases, I'd say what others have already said in this thread -- to compost the shavings/manure mix before spreading it on a garden bed -raised or not. Just noting that I've been applying my barn waste as winter mulch for at least 15 years now with great results. BTW, I'm a professional gardener and would NEVER put this stuff in my clients' gardens. [​IMG] My own garden is a laboratory for Mad Scientist-Gardener experiments.
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2009

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