Fertilizers are nothing new to gardeners. In fact, most organic gardeners are intimately familiar with the benefits and uses for various types of manure as both fertilizer and compost material. Many gardeners are now turning to backyard chicken keeping and finding that the manure (or litter) left behind by their chickens makes for great plant fertilizer and a strong compost boost.
Benefits of Chicken Poop
A recent study by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) showed that chicken litter (the chicken poop and bedding – usually sawdust or straw) has huge benefits over other common materials for fertilizing agricultural crops. The recent weed control and other problems associated with genetically modified cotton crops in the south, for instance, has pushed many growers towards chicken litter as a choice to replace synthetic fertilizers that are benefitting weeds.
The ARS research found that poultry litter on cotton fields increased yields by about 12% and that its use resulted in better soil conditions overall and fewer problems from pests and disease in the cotton. For just about every other type of crop, whether it be your prized tomatoes or your favorite flowers, chicken poop can do the same.
Chicken litter is rich in nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium and many other trace nutrients as well. Adding crushed eggshells will also boost some mineral values.
How To Get Chicken Poop
Getting the poop, if you don’t keep your own chickens, is not hard. It’s about the same as accessing quality cow or horse manure, but will not likely stink as much. In addition, it can usually be purchased in smaller quantities, so you won’t have to split truck loads with friends or pile up excess manure for later. Most smaller-scale poultry farmers, which you’re likely to find near you, no matter where you live, will be glad to part with just bucket-fulls at a time.
You can also purchase chicken poop from many garden stores in bags of 10-40 pounds. If you can’t locally source your own, this might be a good alternative. Expect to pay relatively dearly for the bags, compared to steer manure. When purchasing direct, you may be able to get the manure for free if the farmer is just looking to get rid of it.
How To Use Chicken Poop as Fertilizer
You can use your chicken poop in the same way you’d use cow manure, but won’t need to spread it as thickly. Putting chicken litter directly onto the soil or down rows beneath plants, as you would normal manure, is one way of utilizing it immediately. Spread it about half as thickly as you would cow manure.
Adding chicken litter or poop to your compost pile is another great way to use it. This speeds up the composting process, adding valuable nitrogen. The heat of the compost will also help kill any bugs or bacteria that might be festering in the manure, so this is a good way to use the manure if you aren’t sure of its source.
Another method is to use composting chicken manure to make “tea” for directly fertilizing plants. This is popular amongst potted plant and raised bed gardeners. This process is similar to compost tea and creates a thin “juice” that can be poured directly onto the soil around plants to give an instant “energy drink”-like boost.
However you use it, you’ll find that chicken litter is a great addition to your gardening that will create miracles of growth and vibrancy without any synthetic chemicals.
You can learn all about using chicken droppings as a fertilizer on these websites:
Maximizing Poultry Manure Use through Nutrient Management Planning from University of Georgia Cooperative Extension
Chicken litter has advantages over conventional fertilizers from Science Daily