Chickens provide 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 1 kg 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. And 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 chook 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 and all.
Or if you used our deep litter method in your coop over winter, now is the time to spread it on your garden.
Spring is the perfect time to grow 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.
Here’s what you need:
- 3 to 4 kg of aged chook poo
- 1 cotton pillowcase
- a 40 to 50 litres plastic tub/garbage bin
- 20 to 30 litres warm water
- A strong heavy stick
- 2 meters cord/bailing twine.
- 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 the cord and poke it down with the stick to thoroughly wet the mix. Place the container in a warm sunny position that you’ll 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 to 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 your hands well after mixing and keep children away. 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.
When applying to your garden, dilute the tea 1:4 with water and apply to young nitrogen-loving plants.
Chook-poo tea is good for tomatoes, cucumbers, watermelons, pumpkins, beans, peas, sweet corn and vegetables with fruit away from the root zone.
A word of warning: don’t apply to carrots, beetroot or radishes. Root crops prefer nutrients that are matured from the previous season in the soil.
Also, too much nitrogen with too little calcium encourages blossom end rot in tomatoes and prevents effective flower growth. Add sulphate of potash in small quantities to promote flower growth.
Harness your the goodness of your chicken’s poo and our gardens will certainly feel the love!
Cheryl Nelson is the brains and heart behind Natural Chicken Health.
This article first appeared on About Regional.