If you own any type of animals or birds, you’re going to have poop. Fortunately, if you have backyard chickens, their manure isn’t just another wasted material. Chicken manure is one of the most sought-after natural fertilizers, high in nitrogen. But you don’t want to apply it directly to your garden.
Cleaning the manure from your chicken coop should be part of your daily ritual, just like providing fresh feed and water. Chicken manure, although high in nitrogen also carries bacteria, and if left in the coop too long, can make both your chickens and you sick.
The best way to keep your coop free of manure is to clean it daily with a shovel or a pitchfork. Add it to a waste bucket or compost bucket to add to your compost pile. Composting is the best way to get the most efficient use of the nutrients in your chicken’s manure onto your vegetable or flower gardens. If you don’t have space for a compost pile, you can simply compost in a bucket or plastic tote or box.
Another reason it is important to clean your coop daily is because chicken manure hardens over time and becomes very hard to get removed from the surface. The longer you let it set, the more elbow grease and scrubbing you will have to put into getting hardened manure out of your coop. Even though daily cleaning is recommended, we advise cleaning out and providing fresh bedding each week and providing a thorough scrubbing of the coop at least twice a year.
Once you have removed the manure from the coop, you can either compost in your plastic bucket/tote or in a pile. Because chicken poop is so high in nitrogen, it is considered a “hot” manure and required time to age before it is applied as a fertilizer. Otherwise, it will “burn” the plants it is applied. Compost is a simply a term to describe organic materials mixed together that is kept wet to break down over time to get the most benefit from its nutrients.
Other materials you might want to add to your compost pile/tub include grass clippings and leaves, eggshells, coffee grounds and coffee filters and fruit and vegetable peels. It is important to keep your compost pile/tub wet and to mix it around occasionally to help break up the nutrients.
As a compost alternative, one thing experienced gardeners do to break down manure and fertilize their gardens is to make “super water.” The super water is the manure from chickens or other farm animals put into five-gallon buckets with water to soak for several weeks. The water breaks down the nitrogen, so the vegetation won’t burn, but definitely provides the added nutrients needed for healthier, higher-performing plants.
Compost takes at least two to three months to break down the nitrogen in the manure, so it won’t harm your plants. For best results spread the compost over your garden area each fall so those nutrients can work into the soil over the winter into the spring. Then, add a small amount of compost to each planting hole in the spring at planting time.
The manure in the super water takes about 10 days to two weeks to break down before you should use it. For the super water use it all summer long to water plants right around the base of the plant. You will likely experience some the best crops, including the heartiest peppers and tomatoes you have ever seen!
The chicken, the egg, the manure. We might not ever know which came first between the chicken and egg, but we do know that the manure comes out last and can make a lasting impression as high-quality fertilizer on your garden! Don’t overlook the waste your backyard birds create. Keep their coop clean and utilize their manure to get the maximum benefit from your chickens.