Best way to compost chicken manure

Central Valley, CA(Zone 9a)

I have been hot composting chicken manure this last year. This pile smelled like ammonia for the first week and everything rapidly broke down in about 3 weeks. There was quite a bit of kitchen scraps, their seed/grain mixture and timothy hay bedding also in compost pile. Obviously, the C:N balance is too much in favor of N. This concerns me because I do not want all of the nutrients to evaporate or leach out before I apply it to my garden. If I put more browns in (probably straw) or make a smaller pile could I slow down this process to preserve the fertility of the compost.

Right now, I am putting their manure, bedding and kitchen scraps in perforated garbage cans until I can collected enough to build a big pile. Should I just leave them in their until they rot into compost? Or is it better to go ahead and build a large pile every 2 -3 months?

I usually hot compost because that is what I been told to do with manure. However, these chickens are kept in very clean conditions (free range, clean out poop everyday, bedding once a week). I doubt that they have any serious bacteria or pathogeon that would affect the produce in the garden. Would it be still healthy to allow the pile to only reach about 90-120 degrees for a few months instead of 150-175 for 2-3 weeks?

This message was edited Aug 30, 2010 11:53 AM

North Ridgeville, OH(Zone 5b)

I guess it depends on where you're going to use the composted manure.

If it's going onto beds where you grow food, I suppose you'd want to keep the composting temps high enough to kill pathogens. I seem to recall hearing that 130+ degrees will do it, but I'm not 100% sure.

If the manure's going on ornamental beds or on a lawn, it probably doesn't matter if it composts at 90-120 degrees. Everything in your perforated cans will rot eventually to the point where it won't "burn" greenery.

If you don't want to lose all the nitrogen and you don't want to fuss with calculating C:N ratios, try just burying the manure/scraps/bedding in trenches. Pretty simple approach.

This message was edited Feb 24, 2010 10:07 AM

Central Valley, CA(Zone 9a)

Thanks PuddlePirate.

Well, I dug in some composted chicken manure that I thought was finished. Just took the soil temp and it was about 5-10 degrees above the other beds. A lot of used coffee grounds were also dug in at the same time. The composting process must have not been fully completed. There must still be a good deal of nitrogen still in the compost.

I am planning on planting seeds in it in about 3-4 weeks. Is this too short of a time? My garden is somewhat small, so I don't want to lose this bed. Is there anything I can do to mitigate any potential problems? There are volunteers coming up from bird seed chicken seed/grain mixture accidentally scaddered in the garden are popping up in the amended rows. They are really taking off like weeds. Some of the wheat and oats have sprouted and grown about an inch in little over a week. Sign of still too much nitrogen? Or that the manure compost is decomposed enough to not burn plants or inhibit growth?

North Ridgeville, OH(Zone 5b)

I've never used chicken manure in my garden, so I'm just guessing here. It sounds like the (mostly) composted manure's not burning any seedlings, and all that nitrogen sure seems to be in use.

As for pathogens, I dunno. Since some people use chickens to "weed" their gardens by letting them peck at the weed seeds and seedlings among the crops, it's probably no big deal. After all, chickens poop continuously.

But hey, if you keel over from Chicken Ebola, please be sure to have your next-of-kin let us know! :)

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