Looking for organic nutrient boosts to add to your soil? How about chicken manure?
It is a cheaper alternative to other fertilizers that can nourish your garden’s soil.
While raising a chicken may look like a troublesome way to get the manure as a soil amendment, you can easily purchase the manure from a garden center.
This article details how you can improve your soil using it.
Keep reading below to know why you should be considering chicken manure to use as a soil amendment for your garden.
Chicken Manure: What is It?
Poultry manure is a nutrient boost for your soil as it contains a high amount of nitrogen and phosphorus content.
In fact, the nitrogen and phosphorus content in this manure is twice as high as that of cow manure.
However, the NPK ratio in the manure can vary.
This is because the composition of the manure does not only contain fecal matter.
It consists of the litter in the bedding of the chicken coop such as the wood shaving, hay, pine and cedar shavings, recycled paper, grass clippings, shredded leaves and straw.
Moreover, it has animal debris such as feathers, urine and undigested food.
You will also find feed supplements such as the calcium-rich oyster shell and other things found in the coop such as broken eggs and shells.
Besides that, the age of the chicken and the way they are raised in a good environment affects the nutrient ratio in the manure.
All of these are crucial in making a good soil amendment for your garden.
The whole set of these organic materials combines as an organic matter and a nutrient source for the soil.
It helps in aerating the soil, improving its ability to manage drainage and moisture retention as well as improving soil tilth while increasing the microbial activity in the soil by providing a beneficial microbial environment.
More on that later.
First, let’s find out how the manure reaches its potential.
That is thanks due to composting.
Aging and Composting of Poultry Litter
This involves piling and turning fresh manure so that it ages and breakdown for use.
It is the fastest method of preparing the manure for use that is also safe to apply on your farm or garden.
Here you have a pile of manure that is heated up internally and cooked.
Then you also have to turn it up periodically, usually every week so that all of the parts of the manure get an equal amount of heat.
Here, you also need to add water so that it maintains the microbial activity in the compost.
This helps to destroy the armful pathogens that do not reproduce when temperatures reach 140 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
During this time, you have to shield it from rain and snow while introducing oxygen.
This fast method of composting will prepare the manure in only five to six weeks.
This method is easier however lengthy.
You do not have to be hands-on and it is low maintenance without requiring any turning or mixing.
Hence, you basically let it sit for six months.
There is no need to tend to it but given more time, it will stabilize better.
So, letting it sit for 9 to 12 months will make it an even lower risk for plants when it comes to burning and pathogens.
Whether composting is hot or cold, it reduces the ammonia content in the manure which poses a risk of burning to plants.
Besides that, the strong odor of the manure will dissipate after composting and well-maintained manure will have an earthy smell instead.
Besides that, it also kills pathogens, harmful bacteria and seed-weed activity.
As you add aged manure to the soil, the nutrients will slowly seep into the soil.
It continually feeds the garden for long time.
Benefits of Chicken Manure
Rich in Nutrients
Poultry manure has tonnes of nutrients namely nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and calcium.
Thus it contains not only macronutrients but also micronutrients like calcium that is important for healthy plant growth.
In fact, it is also rich in organic matter compared to other animal manures.
This brings us to…
It Makes for a good Soil Amendment
It is not only an organic fertilizer but also works as a soil amendment.
Thanks to the organic matter, the soil improves in several ways, such as:
- its ability to hold moisture i.e. water holding capacity
- the drainage capability
- improves its aeration
- betters the soil structure
- reduces the leaching of fertilizer
- reduces soil erosion
- provides a food source to the soil microbes
Besides improving the soil in many ways, the manure also becomes a food source for the soil microbes.
The soil microbes break down the organic nutrients in the manure so that the plants can use them.
As they break down the nutrients faster, increasing the soil’s biodiversity, it is more readily available to the plants.
All of these factors contribute to plant health and growth.
Therefore, when you are using composted manure, it reduces your need of applying additional fertilizers to the soil.
Keeping this in mind, apply manure to your garden or farm, when it needs it.
You will have two options whether to apply processed manure or bagged one available for commercial use.
While you are applying any kind of manure, it is important to keep yourself safe because there are several microbes in it.
Let’s find out about the application and the safety measures to ensure good plant health.
Application of Chicken Manure
While you can make your own fresh manure, it is also available for commercial use in bagged form.
The bagged manure from your local garden center will be pelletized, dried and pulverized.
These bags will have dried manure that is sterilized and odor-free.
Moreover, it does not contain as much water content so it is concentrated.
On the other hand, there is fresh manure with 76 percent water content.
You should never apply it directly to your soil before it is composted.
It will have a strong smell, pathogens, harmful bacteria and high ammonia content that can burn your plants.
Therefore when it comes to application, you can apply the dried, bagged manure anytime.
However, fresh manure should be aged and composted beforehand.
Using bagged manure, you can fertilize flower beds and vegetables in spring but also regularly in the growing season.
Add the manure to the soil for trees and shrubs in spring as well.
Thus, it gives you the liberty to open the bag anytime and add compost to your soil when it needs it.
The same is not the case with fresh manure which has a time constraint as it first needs to be composted.
The crops that have contact with soil, such as root and leafy vegetables need manure application at least 120 days prior to harvest.
On the other hand, staked crops need application at least 90 days before harvest.
This includes the likes of tomatoes and beans that do not have direct contact with the soil.
Usually, it is early spring or late winter application.
You should apply around 45 pounds of composted manure to every 100 square feet.
Though, for both types of manure, ensure that it is evenly worked into the soil.
Also stay mindful of safety needs.
Storage and Safety Tips
Safety While Applying
There are tonnes of pathogens in the fecal residues and overall manure such as E.coli and Salmonella.
This can cause problems for both humans and animals if you don;t handle it properly.
Keep it out of the reach of children and use it only with gloves.
Stockpiled should be stored away from the reach of children and pets.
Heat composting reaches temperatures up to 140 F to 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
These high temperatures are usually enough to kill off the pathogens.
On the other hand aging the manure will not completely kill off them but will reduce their population.
The unfavorable growing conditions such as a lack of moisture and nutrient availability will hinder their reproduction.
This eventually declines their population.
While you are handling the manure even after it is composted, wear gloves.
Besides that, there the manure is composted or dried, wash the produce i.e. the vegetables and fruits thoroughly before eating.
Moreover, people that show susceptibility to food-borne illnesses should avoid eating any uncooked produce from the manure-amended garden.
The size of the storage area is dependent on the litter produced.
Nonetheless, it should be an area isolated from the reach of children and pets as well as conditions such as rain and snow.
No liquid runoff should stand or pool there plus it should drain well so that there are no diseases or unpleasant odor in the room.
Though the runoff should not contaminate the garden, children’s play area and the edible plants.
Hence, it should be a distant place at best.
Chicken manure is a beneficial fertilizer for your garden.
Use it wisely after composting and aging.
However, never apply it directly and only handle it with care.
That keeps you and the plants healthy.