newbie to composting

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by frog522, Jan 11, 2011.

  1. frog522

    frog522 Out Of The Brooder

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    I've been asked numerous times since I've gotten chickens to compost chicken manure to use as fertilizer in our garden (or what's left of it, haha) and yard. Keep in mind I don't know much about composting. I've gotten some questions that I'm hoping you all can answer.

    Feel free to add anything you'd like about composting to this discussion (and pictures if you have any!)

    Current situation:
    -- Right now I am picking up droppings from my coop every day. It's a small coop. I think it has helped to keep smell and moisture levels down in the coop. I have a bucket that is quickly filling up with droppings (minimal to no wood shavings in the bucket).
    -- How do I compost it?

    Questions:
    -- Where do I put it (shade, sun, other?)
    -- Does it have to be in direct contact with the ground?
    -- Would large open containers work, or does it have to be enclosed (but with some ventilation).
    -- What starting materials should I put in the compost besides chicken poop? (leaves, etc.)
    -- What's the maximum % by volume of chicken poop starting material that I should use in my compost?
    -- Has anyone had any good experiences with composting 100% chicken poop with nothing else? Does it even work?
    -- What shouldn't I put in the compost?
    -- Do I need to keep it moist?
    -- Do I need to turn it every so often?
    -- What kind of smell radius should I expect for maybe a 20 gallon compost?
    -- How do I know when it's "done"?
    -- When I use the compost as fertilizer, do I just put it on top of the dirt? Or do I have to mix it in with the ground dirt?
    -- How do I know if a plant has been "burned" by "hot" (or still hot) chicken poop?

    Whew, that's about all the questions I can think of. Care to give any a try? [​IMG] Thanks.
     
  2. oldchickenlady

    oldchickenlady Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 9, 2010
    Cabot, AR
    Well, I will get started on some of you questions...
    -- Where do I put it (shade, sun, other?) Put it where it is convenient to get to for you.
    -- Does it have to be in direct contact with the ground? No, can be in a drum, bin, etc
    -- Would large open containers work, or does it have to be enclosed (but with some ventilation). Open works, cover with a tarp.
    -- What starting materials should I put in the compost besides chicken poop? (leaves, etc.) Leaves, grass clippings, straw, hay, vegetable parings/scraps, etc
    -- What's the maximum % by volume of chicken poop starting material that I should use in my compost? Don't know this one.
    -- Has anyone had any good experiences with composting 100% chicken poop with nothing else? Does it even work? I've never done it and I dont know if it would work or not. I would say...Not.
    -- What shouldn't I put in the compost? Meat scraps, anything sprayed with chemicals (weed killer, etc)
    -- Do I need to keep it moist? Yes, but not soaked. Spray with a hose when you build the pile, then cover with tarp to conserve moisture and protect from rain.
    -- Do I need to turn it every so often? It will 'cook' much faster if you turn it.
    -- What kind of smell radius should I expect for maybe a 20 gallon compost? Not sure on that one, but if your mix is right there should not be much smell.
    -- How do I know when it's "done"? It will not look like compost anymore, will look like good planting dirt. Leaves etc will be broken down.
    -- When I use the compost as fertilizer, do I just put it on top of the dirt? Or do I have to mix it in with the ground dirt? Either...you can use as a 'top dressing' or mix into the soil. I would mix it.
    -- How do I know if a plant has been "burned" by "hot" (or still hot) chicken poop? Leaves will trun yellow, etc. but it shouldn't still be hot if the composting is complete. Another good reason to mix with soil well, though. Less likely to burn.

    Also, the bigger your pile, the hotter it gets, the faster it cooks. So...if you can come up with a lot of leaves, grass, etc and possibly add some other kind of manure (rabbit, horse, cow) you will have some awesome compost in a month or so. I would Google composting and you should come up with some answers about what percentages of stuff to put in your compost. As your pile cooks and 'breaks down' it will get smaller and smaller, so more is better to start with! Good luck!
     
  3. swimmer

    swimmer Chillin' With My Peeps

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    You will have a killer garden with all your compost.
     
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    The sister site has a whole section on composting. You might want to check over there. http://www.theeasygarden.com/

    I'll
    add to a couple of these responses.

    -- What starting materials should I put in the compost besides chicken poop? (leaves, etc.) Leaves, grass clippings, straw, hay, vegetable parings/scraps, etc

    The compost is broken down by the action of microbes in the soil. It is a good idea to put some soil in the compost to introduce those microbes, something like introducing a yogurt culture to make more yogurt if you are familiar with that.

    -- What's the maximum % by volume of chicken poop starting material that I should use in my compost? Don't know this one.

    This one is kinda hard. You have two different types of materialin a compost pile, carbon and nitrogen. Most plant material is carbon, leaves being a great example. Chicken poop is pretty high in nitrogen. The microbes that break down the carbon material eat nitrogen, so you need both. Different materials have different amounts of nitrogen or carbon, so the ratio varies. I have seen some formulas but you have to make such huge guesses about how much carbon and noitrogen different htings have that I find them pretty useless. To start with, maybe 3 parts carbon material for one part chicken poop. That is a pure wild guess. Boggybranch over on the Easy Garden site can do a lot better than me on this one.

    -- Has anyone had any good experiences with composting 100% chicken poop with nothing else? Does it even work? I've never done it and I dont know if it would work or not. I would say...Not.

    It works better to mix carbon and nitrogen. The microbes need both to digest the stuff and make compost.

    -- What shouldn't I put in the compost? Meat scraps, anything sprayed with chemicals (weed killer, etc)

    Predator poop, like dog or cat poop. They can contain microbes bad for humans.
    Noxious weeds with seeds. Not all weed seeds are killed in the composting process. You don't want to be planting really nasty weed seeds in your garden when you put the compost in it.
    Diseased garden plants. Some diseases can carry iover through the compost.
    Garden plants infested with certain insects. Some insect eggs or larva can live through the composting process.

    Meat scraps, dairy products and such can attract unwanted pests such as raccoons and rats. You can compost them but you really need to bury them to keep the flies down. I usually avoid any meat, dairy or things cooked in oil or grease. Some people compost these.
     
  5. Schrebergaertner

    Schrebergaertner Chillin' With My Peeps

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  6. frog522

    frog522 Out Of The Brooder

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    Jun 16, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    Thanks for everybody's replies. I think the probability of me ending up with a good compost after a few months is looking good! Is it even possible to fail at a compost? [​IMG]
     
  7. mistymeadowchicks

    mistymeadowchicks Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Nov 19, 2010
    Thanks for everybody's replies. I think the probability of me ending up with a good compost after a few months is looking good! Is it even possible to fail at a compost?

    You might also want to check Mother Earth News or Organic Gardening. And NO, you cannot FAIL at composting. Mother Nature eventually decomposes everything (except where man has made the mess!) given enough time. All you're doing is speeding up the process! Go for it!
     
  8. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

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    Composting really is not all the complicated but.... I garden and have read more than once that chicken manure is a hot manure, and should be aged 5-6 months before putting on the garden. So I put all the dirty bedding and poo and everything else that was once a live, (many worry about the meat aspect) but my dog or girls get any spoiled meat and the bones are organic and go in one pile till about now, January.

    That pile, perfect or not will go into my garden in June, it will all be a good 5-6 months old, what is not thoroughly broke down, well that is mulch.

    Now, in January, I start building my second pile, this pile I continue to add to for most of the summer, and in the fall, when the garden is done, this goes in the garden, cause it will be old before I plant the following spring.

    PUre chicken manure is missing the whole point of compost, you want broken down organic matter as that holds the water in the root zone, the manure contains microorganisms that break down the organic matter. If you want a hotter compost pile, mix up some fresh horse manure, and a glug of molasses, and some water, wait 24 hours and pour over you compost pile, things will get to cooking. A hotter pile cooks or breaks down the organic matter faster.

    A misconception that I had, was that you keep adding to the same pile. Really you keep adding until you get a big pile, then you let it cook, and while it is cooking, you start a new pile. The cooking pile should be damp, and turned every so often, chickens have been known to turn piles. The building pile, it really does not matter.

    If it is stinking, it does not have enough organic matter, such as mentioned above, or is too wet, which can also be dried out by adding more dry plant material.

    Good luck!
     
  9. Junkmanme

    Junkmanme Chillin' With My Peeps

    Although I haven't done this...I have read of people just putting the chicken manure in a 50 gal barrel of water, stirring occasionally, and then later using THAT as a base to further dilute with water to apply directly around garden veggies.

    Sounds to me like it would be a good method of "specifically" fertilizing various plants. [​IMG]

    -Junkmanme- [​IMG]
     

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