Chickens give us a host of useful services and it’s clear the more we care for our chickens, the more services they happily provide!
One of their endless gifts is chicken manure. A single chook produces about 1kg of manure each week. We can make very good use of that!
Keeping backyard chickens and growing a bountiful, beautiful garden go hand in hand. We all know that to grow fruit and vegetables you need lovely healthy soil. Good soil doesn’t just happen. A great soil is the result of years of compost, amendments and a watchful eye.
If you are fortunate enough to have a few backyard chooks and a bit of space to grow food here are some ways to make good use of your chook poo and coop litter in your garden.
Like all birds, chickens don’t wee. Therefore all of the nitrogen which other animals excrete through their urine is concentrated in a chooks’ poop. Chicken manure has one of the highest nitrogen levels of any manure. Nitrogen in chook poo is more available to plants than the nitrogen in non-bird manures, which is what makes it ‘hot’, so it’s important that it’s aged or composted before using. This will lower the nitrogen level moderately as well as eliminate unwanted pathogens.
If you are starting a new patch or need to refresh your soil, then well composted chicken manure makes a wonderful soil amendment.
Chook poo is a nutrient dense powerhouse booster but it must be composted for at least three months before use. A great way to do this is to make a watery slurry of chook poo and tip it over your compost heap, water in well.
If you used a ‘deep litter method’ in your coop over winter now is the time to spread this onto your garden.
‘Chook Poo Tea’ – Liquid Gold
Spring is the perfect time to be growing seedlings and ‘Chook poo tea’ is just the ticket for giving young plants a boost especially when transplanting out. A poo tea also helps with transplant shock to give your garden the best possible start.
To make Chook Poo Tea:
3-4kg of aged chook poop
1 cotton pillowcase
40-50ltr. plastic tub/garbage bin
20-30ltr. warm water
A strong heavy stick
2 meters cord/bailing twine
Optional extras for boost!
1 cup of molasses to feed microbes
½ cup seaweed liquid or a few handfuls of seaweed for additional trace elements
Pop the poop (and extras) into the pillowcase and tie at the top. Submerge in water then lift with cord and poke down with stick to thoroughly wet. Place in a warm sunny position that you pass by often throughout the day. You need to lift the bag out of the water and then poke it down to aerate the mixture as much as you can, at least three times each day for 2-3 weeks. Incantations and mumblings help!
This aeration helps to steep the tea, maintain an aerobic state and reduce pathogens.
Do not cover with a lid, wash hands well after mixing and keep away from children. If you like, you could even use a fish tank aerator to push the process along.
Remove the bag of poop, spread it onto your compost (pillow slip as well) and water in well.
Dilute the Chook Poo Tea that you now have 1:4 with water and apply to young nitrogen loving plants.
Don’t apply to carrots, beetroot, radishes. Root crops prefer nutrients that are matured from the previous season in the soil.
Chook poo tea is good for tomatoes, cucumbers, watermelons, pumpkins, beans, peas, sweet corn and any vegetables with fruit away from the root zone.
Note: Too much nitrogen with too little calcium encourages blossom end rot in tomatoes and it prevents effective flower growth. Add sulphate of potash in small quantities to promote flower growth.
The Business End
Watching chickens release poo is the least romantic past-time one can imagine, yet harness its goodness and our gardens will certainly feel the love!!