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Hen house litter/garden questions

Kris Hoffman

Joined: Mar 22, 2012
Posts: 9
Location: North Central WI
Bad chicken owner-BAD! too many animals. I am cleaning out the hen house after a wisconsin winter. 2ft thick bedding pack of pine shavings and ammonia! as i break into underlayers. *Live and learn from my mistakes this winter* Some composting and heating occurred this winter but for a the majority of winter it was frozen. Now i have this wonderful organic matter for the garden, but do I need to let it mellow until next spring? Could i incorporate this into the garden now, in a typical year May 15th is our 'frost-free' date here nearly in zone 3, and plant something like corn (off the ground).

Bottom line--can i use fairly 'hot' chicken litter in a garden to be planted in (maybe) 6 weeks or should I save it for 2013?

thanks - I am pretty new to both gardening and livestock husbandry!
Ken Peavey

Joined: Dec 21, 2009
Posts: 2523
Location: FL
Welcome to Permies!

All is not lost. You can use this stuff to build a new compost heap before you lose much of the N. Sounds like all you need to do is add some dry brown material. You'll have a good head start on a fine heap.
If you wish to incorporate it into the soil, 6 weeks is plenty of time for the stuff to decompose further without burning up plant roots. Much of that stuff has been decomposing for months already. If you want the best of both worlds, compost the top half, use the bottom half in your soil.

Seed the Mind, Harvest Ideas.
Leila Rich

Joined: May 24, 2010
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
Welcome to permies Kris As long as your animals are happy, healthy and not cramped, you're a GOOD chicken owner and all that bedding is your prize!
I wouldn't use the bedding this season, it might well be too 'hot' for the plants. I'd dump it in a pile, water it generously and cover it if there's much rain. Add more water if it gets dry. It will be great by next season and you'll have a continous cycle of fertility. Yay!
Tyler Ludens

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5729
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
I put chicken bedding directly in the garden, in a thin layer, and put a layer of soil on top into which I plant seeds. Not sure what problems I should be looking for with "hot" manure but I haven't seen any noticeable problems. You might try an experiment with using some of it immediately and some of it composted, and see which does best for you.

Idle dreamer

Kris Hoffman

Joined: Mar 22, 2012
Posts: 9
Location: North Central WI
Thanks for all the quick replies! I think i will compost 1/2 and put the other 1/2 on the garden.

Terri Matthews

Joined: Nov 21, 2010
Posts: 418
Location: Eastern Kansas
When I put chicken manure directly on the garden, I THROW it on so that it scatters! Doing it that way I have never scorched a plant. I also use it on blackberries, and anything else that could use a boost in the spring.

Just remember to scatter it thinly.

Also, the fertility from the chicken poo seems to be used up by mid-summer. That might not happen if you compost it first and apply it heavily, but I put the fresh stuff on lightly.

You have a wonderful stash of fertility there! I would envy you if I did not hate to clean the henhouse! My own bedding this spring was only 4 inches deep, to my relief! Chickens ENJOY deep bedding, but I do not!
Nancy Dobrinski

Joined: Apr 02, 2012
Posts: 5
Kris, where are you located? I'm in north central Wis. too! (Minocqua area) Would be fun to get together with a fellow chicken keeper and gardener to trade advice! I have had such a hard time composting my litter/poo. The piles would NOT heat up. I do not have enough grass clippings and was afraid of getting them elsewhere as most folks use "weed & feed" or other similar products on their lawns. Well, this winter my hens flung a bunch of their expensive organic mash out of their feeders into the litter. I was SO MAD! I modified the feeders to stop the waste, but when I shoveled out the coop this spring I could feel the extra weight of feed in the litter. I fumed for days until . . . magically, the pile heated up like I had TORCHED it and it's been smoking hot for about 2 weeks now, composting so quickly I can't believe it. My brother-in-law (soil scientist) says the grain accelerated the composting process. He said even a bag of flour or other stale grain would work. Not that I'm recommending wasting grain or people food, but if you could get your hands on something similar (maybe something stale from the pantry?) it could help start things heating up so you could get finished compost sooner. I had 2 more giant COLD piles of litter, and worked in a little of the hot stuff, and now have 3 smoking hot piles. SO EXCITED cuz I've been afraid of the pathogens in "uncooked" manure hitting my raised bed veggie gardens.
Kris Hoffman

Joined: Mar 22, 2012
Posts: 9
Location: North Central WI
Nancy! I am between Wausau and Merrill. I would love to meet up some time. kris_hoffatyahoodotcom. Just now getting back to my permies reading!
subject: Hen house litter/garden questions