Why Chicken Poop?
As most good composters know, manure can be one of the best ingredients in making “black gold.” Manures provide the nitrogen (N) component of the composting process commonly thought of in terms of the “green/brown” or nitrogen/carbon combination.
Living organisms all contain nitrogen. Fresh, undiluted manures are considered “hot.” Hot means the level of Nitrogen in the form of ammonium available to be released into the atmosphere. As manures age, the rate of nitrogen release decreases. The caveat of using fresh, undiluted manure as fertilizer is the potential for burning plants. Chicken and sheep manure in particular is considered the hottest. That’s why putting fresh manure on plants can burn the leaves and kill the plant.
On its own manures provide the nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) that make up fertilizer. Chemical fertilizer such as “Miracle Grow,” a synthetic fertilizer, releases ammonium and nitrates quickly into the soil and also leach heavily and quickly out of the soil. It adds very little to the long term health of the soil. Composted manures work slowly to release nitrogen, which contributes to healthy vegetative growth, phosphorus which contributes to healthy roots and potassium contributing to the formation of cholorphyll. The soil-binding properties of compost come from the humus content. Humus is a stable residue resulting from a high degree of organic matter decomposition.
So back to the QUESTION…Why chicken poop?
If you have chickens you have fabulous friends, conversationalists and breakfast makers. Chickens produce manure rich in nitrogen and is easily composted with other material to produce a fabulous humus. Chicken manure is the richest in the NPK structure. Chicken manure with bedding provides 2.8% nitrogen, 2.3% phosphorus and 1.7% potassium while horse manure is 0.7%, 0.2% and 0.7 respectively. The amount of unwanted seeds etc. is also less of a threat in chicken manure. In the first year only about 30-50% of the organic nitrogen is available and gradually decreases to 25% the second year. The benefit of the chicken manure is its high release of nitrogen into the soil the first year and higher levels of phosphorus and potassium in the first year as well.
Most chicken flock owners use some form of bedding for their coops and nesting boxes. This bedding, straw, wood shavings or saw dust, adds a certain amount of carbon to the nitrogen of the pure manure. It also is the beginning of what can be quick and hot composting of other materials. With the addition of other material in the compost and the hotness of the chicken manure, the process can help to kill weed seeds and decrease the risk of unsavory pathogens contaminating food plants.
Chickens fed a balanced and nutritious diet will produce healthy and tasty eggs as well as a healthy and tasty (to microorganisms) manure, about a cubic per chicken per year. Composted and added to the garden or made into compost tea, it makes the world a better place.