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Chickens in the compost

Shenandoah Valley, VA(Zone 6b)

Anyone keep chickens? I'm reading that they're really useful for mixing compost...

from http://users.ncable.net.au/~urbanfoodgarden/Web/Design/GARDEN%20DESIGN/garden_design_3.htm

"Gardening books often talk about the need to turn the contents of a compost bin over two or three times during the composting process to aid the breakdown of the organic matter. However most gardeners rarely turn their compost bins, which often results in compost of an uneven quality. But if chickens are allowed access to your compost bins they will turn them over hundreds of times during the composting process as they scratch for worms and other food. By doing this they make a wonderfully fine compost as even course woody material is literally torn apart by their actions. Not only do the chickens help break down organic matter they also remove virtually all weed seeds in the material. And as they scratch they also add their chicken manure, which is an excellent fertilize."

Anyone try this? Does it work?

Beaumont, CA

Wow! I wish I'd seen this before. I always try to keep my chickens out since when they "forage" in the pile, they send stuff flying all over the place. I suppose if your pile was well contained you could let the chickens in. I always thought they'd gobble up all the good worms too. One thing I do get is big, fat, one inch grubs (japanese beetles?) and I collect them when I turn my pile and the chickens get a good feast! I cover mine with tarp to keep the chickens out...

Precipice Valley, BC(Zone 2a)

I'm not sure....if a compost pile is working properly, it won't have anything in it to attract the chickens. Certainly not worms. And chicken droppings are really 'hot'--high nitrogen--, so it would add to the length of time your pile must be composted.

Hughesville, MO(Zone 5a)

My free range chickens do lots of digging in the kitchen scraps from our kitchen and the one where I work. They and the dogs eat what they want then the rest rots into the soil to build it. No meat scraps left to worry about. But chickens will be hard on the worm population.

Precipice Valley, BC(Zone 2a)

How do you keep your chickens out of the vegetable garden? And the dogs? I'm looking at having to fence it for the first time--new dog on the block isn't a respecter of boundaries.

Hughesville, MO(Zone 5a)

I use lots of poultry netting(wire), usually the 30" tall kind. Sometimes I lay the netting down flat and let the plants grow thru it. The poultry(chickens, ducks, geese, 1 each guinea fowl and Peacock, can peck and eat the foliage but can't scratch in the dirt thru the wire.

Precipice Valley, BC(Zone 2a)

Any veggies that make it here are too hard won for me to allow the fowl to eat them! But I like that idea for keeping the cats from scratching, thanks for the suggestion.

Woodland Park, CO(Zone 4b)

I don't find chckens hard on worm populations and mine (in the past) were allowed in the compost that was kept in their enclosure, and then in the garden beds from end harvest till early spring. Little to no weed problems and great soil. Yes they do get some worms, but that's only a part of their diet. Since they give back so much, it isn't a concern-the worms seemed to thrive anyway.

Shenandoah Valley, VA(Zone 6b)

Thanks for the input; our ladies will be only too delighted to explore the new world of the compost heap!

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