Chicken manure is an excellent fertilizer for gardens big and small. It’s rich in nutrients that improve the health of your plants. In fact, it is often referred to as “black gold” by gardeners because of its ability to give plants a significant boost.
However, selecting the correct type of chicken manure is essential, as is applying it correctly. We’ll look at the different kinds of poultry manure and how to age it for better results. We’ll also look at how and when to apply it to your garden.
Let’s jump right into it!
Chicken or Poultry Manure
Chicken manure is an organic fertilizer derived from chickens. It’s typically rich in nitrogen and other nutrients, making it an effective fertilizer for gardens, yards, and crops. One estimate puts the level of nitrogen and phosphorus in chicken manure at twice that of other farm manures.
Indeed, it’s become a popular fertilizer for both home gardens and commercial farms as it can improve plant growth and yields.
Poultry manure is also relatively easy to obtain, given the ubiquity of chickens in most places. However, chicken manure may also contain harmful bacteria, and you should use it cautiously.
While it has a wide range of uses, manure from chickens poses environmental concerns if not properly managed.
It releases methane when decomposing, a potent greenhouse gas. As a result, chicken farmers must prevent methane emissions from their farms. One way to do this is to collect the manure in anaerobic digesters, which break down the manure without emitting methane into the atmosphere.
When properly used, chicken manure is guaranteed to improve your plants’ health.
Types of Chicken Manure
There are two main types of poultry manure: fresh and aged. Fresh chicken manure is high in nitrogen and ammonia and may burn plants if not used properly. Aged chicken manure is lower in nitrogen but still contains other vital nutrients.
When using chicken manure as fertilizer, selecting the right type for your plants is critical.
If you plan on using fresh chicken manure, compost, or age it first. This reduces the amount of ammonia and makes it safer for your plants. You can apply aged chicken manure directly to your garden if you plan on using aged chicken manure.
It is also critical to know how much chicken manure to use. Too much can damage your plants. Use a small amount and then increase it gradually as your plants become accustomed.
Bagged Poultry Manure
Chicken manure typically comes in bags that you can buy at the store. This commercially-processed variety has been dried and pulverized or pelleted. Dry manure is more concentrated than fresh chicken manure, which is more than 75 percent water.
Dried poultry manure is usually sterilized and odor free, unlike fresh manure, that’s stinky and may contain harmful pathogens such as Salmonella and E.Coli.
Before applying it to your garden, you should first age or compost fresh manure from hens.
How to Age Poultry Manure
Aging poultry manure destroys harmful pathogens and reduces the ammonia content making it safer for you and your garden.
There are two ways to do this.
First, you can simply leave the manure in a pile and let it decompose over time. However, this process takes several months; you may want to plan ahead.
The second easier way is to compost the manure in a pile. The process is faster and yields higher quality and safer fertilizer.
How? Most pathogens stop reproducing at 140-160 degrees Fahrenheit (60-70 degrees Celsius). That temperature is easily reached inside a compost pile.
Mix chicken manure with other organic materials such as leaves or grass clippings to compost chicken manure. The ratio of manure to other materials should be about one-third chicken manure to two-thirds others.
Turn the compost pile regularly to introduce oxygen and speed up decomposition. By the fifth or sixth week, your chicken manure should be drier, lighter, and compact. When applied to your garden, the nutrients will have stabilized enough to ensure a slow release.
Keep the compost pile far away from your garden and other high-traffic areas to prevent odors and contamination from the run-off. You should also consider shielding your pile from the elements as they could introduce more moisture into the pile.
Applying Chicken Manure: How and When
Chicken manure can be applied in two ways: as a side dressing or as a compost tea.
Side dressing is when the manure is applied directly to the soil around the base of plants. This method is best for established plants that are already growing well. For young plants or seedlings, try a compost tea.
Compost tea is made by soaking chicken manure in water, which then leaches out the nutrients. The tea is then watered onto the soil, providing a gentle dose of nutrients that will not harm young plants.
Bagged vs. Composted Chicken Manure
The type of chicken manure determines its application.
You can apply bagged manure at any time. Trees, shrubs, and other evergreens are usually fertilized in spring. Flowers and vegetables are also fertilized in spring and often during the growing season. Read the manure label for specific amounts.
In contrast, you should only apply composted manure at least 90-120 days before harvest for plants with no ground contact (tomatoes, beans) and plants with ground contact (strawberries, root veggies), respectively.
That works out to late winter or early spring for most locations. Forty-five pounds of aged composted manure is enough for at least 100 square feet. Always wear gloves when handling chicken manure and mix it evenly in the ground.
Pros and Cons of Chicken Manure
Poultry litter is an excellent source of nutrients for plants. It is high in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, essential for plant growth.
Poultry manure also contains a variety of other minerals that improve soil health. The high organic content of chicken manure helps to improve soil aeration and drainage, while the low level of salts prevents the soil from becoming waterlogged.
It’s relatively easy to obtain and can be used fresh or composted. It breaks down quickly in the soil, releasing its nutrients within a few weeks.
That said, hen litter can also be stinky and contain high ammonia levels and harmful pathogens. Compost it properly before using it in your garden; otherwise, you run the risk of overwhelming your plants with too much ammonia.
Using chicken manure as fertilizer is an excellent way to give your plants the nutrients they need to thrive. Just make sure you compost it properly first!
What are your experiences using poultry manure as fertilizer in your garden? Please share in the comments section below.