Chicken manure contains more nitrogen than almost any other type which aids in strong leaf and stem growth. Gardeners call it black gold. However, adding fresh chicken manure to gardens can burn the leaves and the roots of plants. Composted chicken manure mellows out the nitrogen and will not harm your plants. Each chicken produces approximately one cubic foot of manure every six months.
Decide where on your property you will locate your chicken manure composting area. Once composting begins, the pile will not emit odors, but fresh chicken manure will have a smell that nearby neighbors may not appreciate so keep this in mind when finding a spot. You can compost in an open pile or in an enclosed area. A garbage bin can be used if necessary, but because of the volume of used chicken bedding you are likely to acquire, a larger space will be more useful.
Collect manure and bedding. Chicken owners normally use bedding such as untreated pine shavings, sawdust, dry leaves, or straw to provide a dry cushion for chickens and to control odor and pests. The coop bedding can be collected with the manure and dumped into a composting bin. Some owners prefer to pick manure and soiled bedding out of the coop on a daily basis; others will add new bedding over droppings and collect on a less frequent basis. I personally clean about three times during the week. Chicken poop (green which is the nitrogen) mixed with bedding (brown which is the carbon), air and moisture. You can also add coffee grounds and vegetation that breaks down such as old lettuce and grass clippings. Don’t add citrus rind. It will never break down and can be harmful to some plants. If you are wanting to throw in eggshells, they need to be crushed into a powder to be useful.
Understanding carbon to nitrogen balance:
A combination of 30 parts Carbon to 1 part Nitrogen creates the ideal environment for microbes to break down organic material to produce compost. Since the different beddings have their own carbon nitrogen ratio, the proportion of bedding to manure will vary depending on the type of bedding used. To keep things simple most composters follow the general rule of 1 part brown to 2 parts green. However, because chicken manure is so high in Nitrogen you may be more successful using a 1:1 or even a 2:1 mixture.
Combine the correct ratio of bedding and manure at one time to form a pile, approximately one cubic yard. Then spray the pile down with water(material should be about as wet as a well wrung sponge). It is recommend that the compost pile gets up to 130-150 degrees F and maintain that temperature for 3 days. Heating is necessary to destroy pathogens but temperatures above 160 degrees F can kill beneficial microorganisms and slow the process. To help you achieve appropriate temperature you can purchase a compost temperature gauge from a local nursery.
Repeat the heating process. Once the center of your compost pile has reached 130-150 degrees for three days it will start to cool. After it cools, pull the center apart and move the core material to the edges and bring the edge material into the center to heat. For 1 cubic yard of material repeat the process of bringing edges into the core at least 3 times.
Let it cure. Monitor the pile and once you are satisfied that the entire contents of your bin has been heated, loosely cover and let cure for 45-60 days before using. Your composted chicken manure is ready when most of the material has become a dark brown loam. Don't worry if there is still some of the bedding visible. This will provide air pockets in your soil which is beneficial to plants. You can either dig in the compost to empty beds or encircle plants with it and allow the nutrients to be carried into the soil by rain.
If you have larger empty beds that you will not be using for two or more months, simply spread the uncomposted chicken bedding over it and allow it to compost right where it is. Then till it in when ready to plant. Chicken manure makes a fantastic soil amendment for both vegetables and flowers, even better than expensive fertilizers available at garden stores. With just a little work, you can have the best soil on your block in no time.
Manure Safety Tips. Fresh chicken manure may contain disease organisms that could contaminate root crops (carrots, radishes, beets) and leaves (lettuce, spinach), so DO NOT spread uncomposted manure on the soil in your vegetable garden.