Aging Chicken Manure Question

New Orleans, LA(Zone 9a)

Please help me figure this out. I have 8 RIRs so I get quite a bit of chicken poop. Everything I've read says chicken manure needs to "age" anywhere from 2 to 6 months. Is this aging different from regular composting, that is, adding browns & greens, turning every so often, and waiting.

Is it possible to age chicken manure all by itself & have it usable? If I just put the manure in a pile or composter, & add nothing else to it, will it be usable after its aged? Living in the city, I have to go around & collect bagged leaves for composting. I always seem to run out of browns before the year is out.

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

Aging of straight manure would allow some of the nitrogen to escape and some to convert to a gentle form so it would not burn plant roots. It can age by itself.

Many of us compost nuts would love to take advantage of the extra nitrogen and capture it by adding a brown, though.

New Orleans, LA(Zone 9a)

I do have some browns - at least some remaining from my curbside leaf-gathering last fall. I think I have 2 or 3 large trash bags full of oak leaves.

Plus, I learned yesterday that if you go to the horse racetrack here when they're cleaning the stables, you can get all the horse manure & straw you want. Only it's not aged - only fresh. Since I just made some new, big compost bins, I have the room to let it sit for a while.

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

Fantastic! I'm jealous! I have a source for ' fresh horse' but not a lot of room to age it in.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

If you can collect from businesses, shredded paper is a good "brown".
Or used hand-drying paper towels, or newspapers.
Or corrugated cardboard - soak it to make it easier to peel tape off of, and tear into chunks.

These are labor and time intensive!

I wonder if it is possible to spread fresh chicken poop around SO thinly that it doesn't burn?

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

I wonder if it is possible to spread fresh chicken poop around SO thinly that it doesn't burn?

Sure it is, in theory. Dilution is the solution etc. Practically, it may be a pain in the rear to accomplish. I have never tried..

New Orleans, LA(Zone 9a)

I guess when I run out of leaves I collected last fall, I'll switch to shredded newspaper.

Thanks to everyone for all their helpful suggestions!

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

>> Dilution is the solution

I like that! "The dose makes the poison."

Wake Forest, NC(Zone 7b)

Jomoncon, I believe that horse (or cow) manure is easier to compost because they eat all that grass and grain. Chicken manure (as I recall) doesn't have much but nitrogen in it. Since they are your chickens, they might eat better stuff. I was a kid when we used to dig in the chicken poop pile to get red worms for fishing There were always lots of them. Maybe you could try adding some red worms, they might speed the process for you.

Sounds like you have the chicken manure (alll the time) and have to get rid of it anyhow so I'd say you could use it with your leaves and also buy a bale of wheat straw from Home Depot to mix in - it was $3 or $4 a bale last time I got it.

Get red worms from a country store type place if you can - about $3 for all you'd ever need. not night crawlers.

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

Time for a reference:
Poultry manure is higher in N and P.
Don't buy worms. They will come when they see what they like. If you have room to leave a pile of manure and bedding alone for some time, (no new additions) when you see worms inhabiting, it will be safe for the garden too.

New Orleans, LA(Zone 9a)

sallg, thanks for the link - it was one of the most informative I've read about manure. Not being a scientific person, I could even understand most of it.

Most of my garden is full of earthworms. However, I just purchased the empty lot next door to me to expand my garden. Of course, the "fill" used on the lot was river sand, totally devoid of nutrients, so I'm really starting from scratch there. Ironically, the soil under the 6" of fill is pretty good. I plan on several raised beds that I will fill with "good" soil. I also plan on getting several loads of chipped tree trimmings to cover the entire area.

I just want to be able to use my chicken manure in the most beneficial way to improve the soil.

Thanks everyone for your input.


Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

>> the "fill" used on the lot was river sand, totally devoid of nutrients, so I'm really starting from scratch there. Ironically, the soil under the 6" of fill is pretty good.

Oh, wow! I wish I had 2-3" of sand to improve my drainage!

Have you considerd some turning to bring the good soil to the surface? It sounds like double-digging (say, 18" deep) would give you really well-draining sandy loam. That ought to be usable as it is, especially you sit a rasied bed on top of the sandy loam, and fill that RB with another 8-12" sandy loam on top, with some compost added.

My suggestion for chicken manure would be to use it VERY sparingly raw, and instead:

- Mix the wood chips and chicken manure in 3 to 5 foot tall heaps for 4-12 months, keep it damp and turn occsionally. Make some great compost!

- Over the whole yard, mix 2-4" of that compost into the top 4-6" of your double-turned sandy loam, and you would have really great, organic soil.

- Add even more compost to the raised beds, say 4-6" of compost turned under 12-18" the first year.

After the first year, maybe don't do any more deep turning, just keep feeding compost onto the top of the RB and the soil in general. They say that worms will turn the compost under for you.

Land O' Lakes, FL(Zone 9b)

I've got 8 hens as well, so I know what it's like to have way more chicken poo than you know what to do with ;)

I'm not sure if you're familiar with the "deep litter" method, but it's essentially composting the chicken manure (using the bedding material as the 'browns') within the coop.

It just involves adding in some food-grade DE (diatomaceous earth) every once and a while to dry things out a bit and mixing the litter every day or so... and then occasionally topping off things with a bit more clean litter on top.

Every day when I collect eggs from one side, I also scrape off the roost and mix up the litter underneath on the other side. Takes very little effort. It's become a habit for me, so I barely notice it.

Every 6-9 months (less often with less chickens), I collect the litter from the poo-side and toss it into a compost bin along with some extra greens.... The litter from the coop's egg-side gets pushed over to the now empty poo-side and then the egg-side gets new litter.

Though new poo is collecting under the roost daily, the DE really does wonders at keeping down smells and such (and supposedly balances out the pH a bit, too) and as long as you're essentially burying the fresh stuff on a daily basis, you've got plenty of bacteria (and bugs) in there more than happy to help break things down for you.

By the time it makes it to the compost with this method, the chicken manure seems fairly mellow.

New Orleans, LA(Zone 9a)

Kevin. I've been using the deep litter method in the coop, in fact, I just did the first deep cleaning this past weekend. The litter had been down for about a year. So all of that went into a separate compost bin. However, about twice a week, I scrape off the "poop board" under the roosting area & add this to my compost bin. I;ll probably add some more greens & browns to this, keep it moist & let it sit for 6 months or so. In the New Orleans heat, it should be ready by fall to use.

RickCorey, At 61 years old, but I'm not about to double gig an entire area that's 20x100. I may get the area of the raised beds double dug & them fill it with a good soil/compost mix. The soil around here generally has good drainage. not too sandy or clay-ey. I'm mostly concerned about the total lack of nutrients in the fill that was used.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

>> I'm not about to double gig an entire area that's 20x100

Undertsood! I have very small RBs and dig for a while, then sit for a while.

I wonder if deep plowing could turn that sand under enoguh to mix it with the underlying soil? It might be too expensive in practice, but I wonder what the practical depth limit is, for plowing, when the soil is soft enough.

Bardstown, KY(Zone 6a)

Find a local farmer with a tractor and subsoiler. Probably would charge very litttle to turn that small of an area. The subsoiler can dig down quite a bit deeper than a regular plow and bring that good soil to the surface and improve drainage.


Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

>> subsoiler


Now I know what to look up.

I've also seen these terms used:
mole plough
Chisel plough
5-shank ripper
middle buster

I see that one has to decide whether to just break up deeply compacted soil while leaving it deep in the ground (ripping), or to lift that subsoil and mix it with the top layers.

(In different yards, I've often wanted to bring up some coarse sandy subsoil and mix it with fine clay topsoil to improve aeration and drainage in the top layers. Since I didn't usually have much organic content in the top layers anyway, little would have been lost by mixing some of the clay down deeper. But I didn 't own those yards, so the wisdom of investing money was moot.)

There are even some fancy devices to keep the A horizon topsoil on top, while breaking up and mixing the Bnt and C horizons! Neat.

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