I am new, so I am sorry if this is the wrong place, but I do hope that someone can help me figure this out. We keep a flock of 14 hens in our backyard, we are in the city and so they are not allowed to free range, they have a nice sized run and coop. In preparing for this year's garden, we discovered that the place where the coop sits is actually the best spot for sun in our yard. So we plan to move the coop and till the ground in the very early spring (I wanted it done this fall, but that didn't happen :( ) So in any case, we were all happy thinking that the ground would be a super lush growing ground for our plants because of all the manure our hens have been dropping since we moved them out there in April. Well, now I am finding out that manure needs to be composted/aged and that chicken manure can be high in nitrogen, and it can burn and kill plants. I don't want to spend my time and money raising plants to have them die in the ground. We will be moving the coop this week, so they won't be dropping any more manure there. The ground will sit dormant nearly five months. I will be adding compost upon tilling. What do you think? Will the ground be safe to use, or should I find a new spot to garden this year? I don't want to kill my plants or make anyone sick from potential pathogens, but since I am new I am not sure how to go about all of this. Thanks!
I too found out the hard way that chicken manure is super hot. At first my garden just took off only to die a horrible death a short time later. Now we make a 4 x 4 areas using mason blocks. We dump lawn mower clippings and house organics from the kitchen to it. Close to being full we add only about 2 shovels fulls of the chicken yard to it. Mix it all up and wait 3 to 4 months making sure that it stary moist either from rain or just the hose. At the end of the 3 to 4 months if the mixture is dark and rich looking and has no order it should be ready to go. We have about 11 4 x 4 little plots so far. Save one of them for filling garden pots. I hope this helps.
Rake/scoop up the fresher stuff on top to compost. The older stuff underneath should break down enough by planting time - it is only January you have at least 3 months to go. If you could till or turn your garden at least two weeks before you plant (time to settle), that would help. Then rake or scrape the top 1/4 inch just before you plant ( this is to disrupt weed seeds on top without digging up new ones). And yes, IF you roto-till, fall is the best time to do it - but I didn't get it done either. And after this year, annual tilling may not be necessary - so try and do a thorough job the first time.
We use our chicken manure to side dress large plants such as bananna after soaking for a few days in a bucket of rainwater. Have yet to burn any such large fast growing plants.
Chicken manure mixed with sawdust (free from any lumberyard) makes an excellent compost.
Depends on the garden plants you grow, and the soil you have in the yard. How long was the coop in that spot? Tomatoes do not need much nitrogen, onions thrive with it. Greens like collards, spinach etc need iron and not nitrogen. My squash plants were ginormous in hot manures. If you til the area, and perhaps add in some compost, as long as the soils drain, you should be fine. By the way, my iris adore hot manures- adding water if they seem to drown keeps the nitrogen down. Also, that sawdust mixed in the garden soil is an excellant way to use the area fast...