Starting over - no more ranging

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by jolenesdad, Sep 18, 2018.

  1. jolenesdad

    jolenesdad Crowing

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    im kind of a little compost hobbyist with the horses, I've got a huge 4 foot long thermometer i use to track the piles and turns. I know less about compost than I do about chickens though, so, you can take that for what it's worth. ;-)

    We basically try and turn it until you turn it and it DOESNT get above 100 degree inside the pile after 2-3 days. If it does, we wait a month and turn it again. Those first few turns the pile is up to 160+ degrees after a day.

    I think it will just have to be a big trial and error thing over time then. I may have to pull out a lot at a time if its getting too moist, or add more compost from an earlier pile, or different organic materials if I am not getting any breakdown.

    I used a home-test strip kit once to test the final product, and it said it was aged great, but this year I am toying with sending it off for a full analysis, just for fun.
     
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  2. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler!

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    Whoa...your compost thermometer is much bigger than mine!! ;) :gig

    I've never been real successful with compost piles,
    have tried many iterations over the years,
    so I know a lot about what can go wrong.
    Keeping pile hot is challenging!
    It's way more work that I am willing to do, why I go with dry bedding in coop, give sifted poops to someone who has a large composting setup, and use cold composting in run.
     
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  3. jolenesdad

    jolenesdad Crowing

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    Lol!!! ;-)

    I guess also I’ll need to do some research. To compost horse manure, some folks actually do it on a concrete pad now that I think about it. We are talking about different depths for sure, but it may be doable.

    I’ll have to keep notes of what and how it’s working to look back on for sure.
     
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  4. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler!

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    Do they add anything else in...is it turned and monitored for temperature..or is it just left to sit and whatever is whatever?
     
  5. jolenesdad

    jolenesdad Crowing

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    It’s turned for sure. I mean you can let it sit but that takes a year or something like that if it’s on one of those setups.

    The big-time composters of horse manure do it on a concrete pad with pvc tubes inserted to get air into the pile. They never turn it and it’s the quickest method I think. The key is air, which is probably why chickens help if they’re ACTUALLY turning it.

    My compost goes pretty well because I use sawdust shavings, not pine shavings. Those larger shavings take a LONG time to break down. I create about a six foot tall six foot wide and ten feet long pile every four to six weeks. We turn that with a tractor into pile 2 and start over piling fresh into a new pile 1. Then pile 2 gets turned to 3, 1 goes to 2, and you start over. Once a pile gets into 4 it’s usually not getting too hot and when it comes out of 4, I consider it finished. It takes me 4-6 months. It could be faster if I turned at two week intervals as soon as the heat came down.

    I think the key to chicken deep litter must be the mix of materials that compost at different rates SLOWING down the actual compost ability so you’re not truly efficiently composting because then it would be too much heat and pockets of too much moisture.
     
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  6. jolenesdad

    jolenesdad Crowing

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    @aart they’re setup something like this small and large scale it’s all about the air.

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  7. jolenesdad

    jolenesdad Crowing

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    Okay, I've REALLY delved into information, reading a lot of scholarly articles that I only get parts of, too. (That sounds smart, huh?)

    Anyway, I've found some good tools and information.... with everything coming down to Carbon/Nitrogen ratios. For good compost, you want something in the range of a 25-30 Carbon to Nitrogen ratio. It seems for good Deep Litter composting, you need closer to a 50 to 1 ratio of carbon to nitrogen. Ive done some calculating and this is what I am going to start with.

    I'm aiming for maintaining a 45-50 ratio with what goes into the flooring. With 12 laying hens, that means I'll be producing 135 pounds of manure every 3 months if all the manure got into the litter. Im going to start the litter with a 3 month base.

    Chicken Manure has 15% carbon, and 2.5% N
    Chopped Straw has 48% Carbon and .5% N
    Wood Shavings and sawdust averages 40% Carbon and .1%Carbon.

    For 3 months of chicken manure with just limited (60 lbs) of chopped straw, I need THREE HUNDRED POUNDS of wood shavings or sawdust. Once I get to 3 months, I will need to add one hundred pounds of shavings and 20 pounds of straw EVERY SINGLE MONTH. If more nitrogen rich material gets into the litter, like alfalfa hay, or weeds for treats, etc, etc, I'll need even MORE carbon.

    Woah. That's a LOT of bedding to actively compost in the chicken coop.

    :th

    Good think I have it in bulk for the horse stalls I suppose.

    Some notes:
    It seems I have the space to get enough carbon materials in the coop, but it's easy to see how if they were in here 24/7 without poop decks, there would be no way to manage deep litter without a LOT of carbon, and I bet that's where a lot of people get hung up. I AM planning on using poop decks underneath the roost bars, but I also am curious if I may end up putting the manure into the litter since I've made my calculations based on a 24 hour poop load for each chicken...

    When people start smelling ammonia, they typically rush to ventilation as the answer, from what I've read here. While ventilation is super important for the chickens, and getting the ammonia out through vents helps the chicken health, it does nothing for the litter. Ive read in composting terms Ammonia simply means there is an excess of Nitrogen in the litter. (Hyrdogen+Nitrogen = Ammonia) Even adding ventilation, you're doing nothing without adding carbon.

    Im still actively concerned with flies and just general grossness if I went for just a bedding plan and tried to clean the manure out of the coop from roost boards and whatever else I could get. I feel like too much would be left behind and with our humidity, it just would get awful. If I can get the manure to start composting... Win!

    Ive read that there should be no problem doing this on concrete OR wood, and theres much less risk of using straw on concrete or wood, as well. The resulting compost, however, should still be aged after coming out of the coop when it is not on soil in the coop. Im curious about this, and may try experimenting with adding "starter" from my own compost to the mix, although it really could mess with my ratios I've worked so hard on.
     
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  8. jolenesdad

    jolenesdad Crowing

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    Step 1 done! Threw in a bunch of things from around the ranch until we get integrating done.

    Injured Buff is in the pen and having supervised visits with the 7.5 wk old littles. All is well, she is able to assert her dominance and they are all fine with that. Soon she can go with them and then I’ll put the three adult survivors in the pen so they can get used to everyone and go from there. Going to add lots of temporary DIY entertainment and obstacles, and then Once we get going with everyone content together we can work a little on the space inside.

    Thanks everyone for all of your help.

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  9. DoeAndGander

    DoeAndGander Songster

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    I just ran across this thread for the first time. So sorry for losses. How’s this working for you? Update please!
     
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  10. jolenesdad

    jolenesdad Crowing

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    Thanks for the condolences! It has worked out wonderfully! Here are some photos from this morning. All chickens are fully integrated and living it up! I kept them fully enclosed for four to six weeks and now I let them out for a few hours most days while I am around. They are all totally comfortable and go right back in to the coop whenever I want them too. there’s plenty of space for them to get away from one another if they need to.

    Mostly a deep “bedding” method as their isn’t any moisture that gets into the floor. We will see how that changes as the humidity picks up this spring....

    As you can see I’ve got a bunch or pullets that should start laying ANY day.


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    I use that livestock tub to toss dirt clouds and weeds in daily for them to scratch and dust bathe in.

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