I don’t keep chickens but I know there’re a lot of people who do. The manure that chickens produce has a nutrient value which shouldn’t be wasted especially if you’ve been feeding them with expensive chicken-feed but what most people want to know is, how soon can the manure be used.
So, how long does it take for chicken manure to compost? It will turn into compost as quickly as any other organic material. It’s possible to turn chicken manure into compost in as little as 4 months but don’t be in too much of a hurry. With chicken manure the long way is best.
Chicken manure has a very high nitrate level, higher than that of general kitchen waste. For it to break down quickly into compost it will need to be balanced with adequate quantities of carbon based material. If you keep chickens then you will need to provide them with adequate bedding. This can be sawdust, shredded paper or straw which is a by-product of crop harvesting.
All of these will provide much-needed carbon that will help convert chicken manure into compost. When you clean the chicken’s living area, bedding litter will become mixed in but you may find that more carbon ‘brown’ material may be needed to balance the initial excess of nitrates in the raw chicken manure.
We need to be aware that we are looking at material that is essentially excrement. We, therefore, need to proceed with all the cautions that this requires. The potential for contracting infections is always going to be there, so hygiene has to be the first consideration. Out of choice, I would go for the long way round and allow for patience to be rewarded.
If you try to hurry the process you run the risk of being exposed to material in the mix that hasn’t been quite ‘done’. You may become infected in some way from an avian-type disease. There is no hurry to convert chicken manure into compost. Any organic material will turn to compost, given time, and chicken manure is no exception.
How do I compost chicken manure?
If you have a garden and you have access to chicken manure then you are lucky to have such a bonanza. Chicken manure will probably be one of the richest, natural sources of nitrates that you will ever get hold of. To the make the best of it you need to add other ingredients to make it turn into a quality, high-value compost.
Begin by adding a carbon-based material. Use shredded paper, cardboard or straw. The aim has to be a ratio mix of 30 carbon units to every 1 nitrate unit. Ensure that the carbon input is reduced to small enough particles for a successful even compost mix.
Remember to add white-lime. This will neutralize any acidity that’s likely to occur as the composting process progresses. As a rough guide, sprinkle enough white-lime over the heap of assembled ingredients to turn the surface of the heap mainly white.
There will be an exact measure of hydrated white-lime that could be calculated to match the exact weight of material that you are working with to neutralize the exact degree of acidity that would be generated. Who wants to be fussed with that? I find that a generous dusting of white-lime over a heap, in the early stages, is enough to produce what we want.
Then give it a good mixing. We can then do this in one of two ways. We could dig over the heap every couple of weeks or, even better, place the ingredients in a compost tumbler and give it a roll. This will move things along much more quickly.
If you don’t want to be fussed with moving it over regularly then you need to settle for the long way round. This isn’t a problem. If you make a heap and mix it enough from the beginning, you can just leave it to do its own thing. This will produce a good quality compost but you may have to wait twelve months, or more, before you can expect to have anything that you can use.
If you’re really lucky and have such a large heap that you don’t relish the idea of turning it over, just sprinkle a generous amount of white lime over the heap and let nature do the rest. This will take longer to work. The rain will gradually wash the white-lime down into the heap and, eventually, give you what you want.
How long do you have to wait to use chicken poop in your garden?
It’s not a good idea to use fresh chicken poop in the garden straight away. If you do, make sure that you spread it very thinly. Chicken manure is very high in nitrates. If you apply high concentrations of it in one place, then you run the risk of killing the plants that you want to thrive.
You may notice that if you put fresh chicken manure on a lawn, for example, that brown patches will appear. This is because the grass at these points have received more nitrates than it can process and the grass will appear to die. Depending on how much excess nitrates are involved, the grass may not have been completely killed.
Grass is very resilient. It will survive most things including a sudden influx of surplus nitrates. The grass above ground will appear scorched but there is a good chance that the root system is still functioning enough for it to recover as time goes by.
All of this can be avoided if you allow time to convert chicken manure into compost. When you do this you will have a medium which can be applied to any plants in the garden without fear of doing any damage.
How long does it take for chicken manure to break down?
Left alone without adding anything to it, chicken manure will break down but expect this to take at least twelve months. Bacteria will work on the material and, over time, convert it into a usable compost. This will be a slow process as the nitrate level will need to reduce for decomposition to take place.
Because no carbon-browns have been added to balance the excesses of nitrates, we have to wait for the nitrate level to reduce to a level that’s acceptable for decomposition to take place. The actions of the bacteria that will be present in the material will release much of the nitrates as nitrogen gas into the atmosphere. This will do no harm; the natural atmosphere is made up of about 80% nitrogen.
A heap of chicken manure will also lose surplus nitrates into the ground beneath the heap. This will happen if the heap is uncovered and open to rain water soaking into the heap. Soluble nitrates become rinsed out and will drain away. This will happen over a long period of time and, unless we are considering a very large heap, it shouldn’t cause any pollution risk.
How do I use chicken manure as fertilizer?
If you have a significant amount of chicken manure available to you and you want to use it in the garden as fertilizer, you need to know from the outset that it must be spread very sparsely. This is a high nitrate commodity. Spread it too thick and you will do some damage. It won’t necessarily be permanent damage but you need to avoid damaging plants that can’t cope with too much nitrate feed in one go.
You will see the results within 3 or 4 days if you overfeed with chicken manure as a fertilizer. The plants that have been affected by too much nitrates will look as though they have been sprayed with a strong weed killer. It may well be that these plants have been killed as a result of the overfeed or there may be enough life in them to be able to survive the incident and begin to make a full recovery.
There is a more organised way of using chicken manure as a fertilizer. You can buy chicken manure pellets that have been especially prepared for use as a fertilizer. It’s much easier to spread pellets to get an even coverage without risking concentrated hot-spots. Pellets can be spread through a push-along ground-driven fertilizer spreader for spreading on a lawn. This will almost guarantee that you won’t see any burnt, scorched, brown patches on the lawn.
Chicken manure pellets are available in either buckets, with tight fitting lids, or bags. This can be stored for many months provided it’s kept dry. It’s advisable that you wear rubber gloves when handling chicken manure whether it’s your own, home-produced material or pellets. Washing of hands after handling is a basic requirement.
Can I add chicken manure to my compost?
Chicken manure can be added to compost that is being made from other organic wastes. An ideal arrangement would be to add it to lawn clippings or other shredded garden waste. The garden waste will be high in carbon-browns and will go a long way to balance the excesses of nitrates found in the chicken manure. This mixture will tend to heat up as part of the composting process, particularly in the early stages. The heat will do much to destroy most of the, potentially, harmful pathogens that may be lurking in fresh chicken manure.
If you have a compost bin or tumbler that receives mainly kitchen waste, then be aware that kitchen waste consists of, mostly, food-waste. This will be high-nitrate material to which more nitrates will be added from the chicken waste. It will be essential to add enough carbon-browns for this to work. For this I would suggest using plenty of shredded paper or cardboard. You will know if you haven’t used enough if the mixture starts to smell and, or, you see lots of flies emerging from the compost.
Is chicken manure better than cow manure?
Given the choice of chicken manure or cow manure, any gardener would want to accommodate both. Cow manure is better because it will provide a balanced compost without the need to add anything. Both have their uses and neither should ever be turned down. There are some subtle differences between them which require varied management.
The chicken manure has the high nitrate issue which can be managed for best effect by adding carbon-browns in the form of shredded paper, cardboard or straw. Cow manure is much easier to manage. My experience of this is that you don’t need to add anything to cow manure. It’s balanced enough within itself to convert into compost. It may help if you add some white-lime as this will help to accelerate the process but it isn’t essential.
Cow manure is very ‘forgiving’. If you’ve been lucky enough to land a decent quantity you can just make a heap of it somewhere and leave it. Over time it will only go one way and rot down into some of the best organic fertilizer that you will ever find. It will take about twelve months to rot down fully and will help if you turn the heap over once or twice during this time.
Is Chicken Poop good for soil?
Any organic material is good for soil. Chicken manure will be effective on all types of soil without exception. Chicken manure won’t do much to improve soil structure but it won’t do any harm either. The thing about chicken manure is that it won’t stay in the soil for very long. If you spread fresh chicken manure on soil it will break down quite quickly. The available nitrates will be be released into the soil and then absorbed by the surrounding vegetation be it grass or anything else.
The remaining solids will continue to break down into the soil and after a while there will be no traces of anything to show that any chicken manure has been used at all. You can think of chicken manure as being a high-nitrate, short-term, organic fertilizer which, when used efficiently, will provide a nutrient boost to grass or whatever plants you want to grow.
Is Chicken Poop toxic?
‘Toxic’ is a strong word and shouldn’t be used lightly. If something is truly toxic then that something usually has the ability to kill life-forms, including us. Can chicken manure be described as toxic? No. If anyone was crazy enough to eat it then they can expect to contract a viral or bacterial complication in the digestive system but this can easily be avoided.
Manures in general are safe to handle. It won’t hurt you if you do get it on your hands. Just be sure that if you have been working with it at all then wash your hands thoroughly before handling food or eating.