Every homesteader has some type of garden.
They may vary in size and variety but one thing all gardens have in common is that they need fertilizer. Fertilizer can get very expensive if you purchase it.
The more organic, the more expensive.
The great news is that if you own chickens you can have all of the free fertilizer you could ever use. If you don’t own chickens, after this post, you will.
So the common question is how you use chickens manure into fertilizer?
The answer: In just a few simple steps!
1. Locate your wood chips
You begin by locating wood chips.
Depending on the size of your chicken coop and chicken yard (if you keep them in one location), you might be able to use wood chips by the dump truck load. Even if you don’t think you need a whole dump truck load of wood chips, they are usually free so take them!
Wood chips come in handy for many things on the homestead, such as these ideas.
Locate a tree trimming service in your area. Since they have to pay to dispose of wood chips, tree trimming businesses are usually very happy to drop them off at your place for free. You don’t have to let them compost.
As soon as they are delivered, start spreading them out in your chickens’ area.
If by some chance you don’t have a tree trimming service in your area, you can always buy mulch by the bags at any local garden center. A lot of times garden centers will deliver mulch by the dump truck load for a small fee as well.
If you have recently cut down some trees and have a wood chipper you could actually make your own mulch as well.
2. Lay the mulch
When spreading the wood chips, be sure to cover everything. They will provide a lot of scratching material for your chickens.
A lot of times there are bugs in them, so it provides food for your chickens as well. It also helps cut down on any chicken odor. Needless to say, your chickens will be ecstatic when you lay wood chips in their area.
You will soon realize that by laying wood chips, you will have more fertilizer than you can use in a season. However, it is best to lay the wood chips in the fall or winter to give the chickens ample time to work them over.
If you ever feel like you might run low on fertilizer then just add more wood chips to an area and let the chickens work on that area while you are still harvesting fertilizer from another area.
3. Let the chickens do their thing
After laying a thick layer of wood chips in your chickens’ area, let them do their thing with it for a couple of months. By doing their “thing”, I am referring to scratching the dickens’ out of the ground. The chickens will poop while they scratch and this process will form your compost.
You will see when the wood chips are starting to vanish. Your ground will begin to look like really rich dirt and less like a mulched area.
When that happens, it will be time to start fertilizing.
Chicken manure is naturally high in nitrogen. By allowing the chickens to scratch it into compost, it neutralizes it. This is great news for your plants!
4. Sift the compost
You can make a sifter very easily. All it takes is building a square frame from a few pieces of wood and placing some screen material over it.
You can see more about that in this video:
After you have your sifter built, it is time to start sifting.
Use a shovel and scoop up piles of the dirt your chickens have been working over for you. By sifting through it, you stop any big pieces of mulch or manure that have not been fully broken down from making it into your compost pile.
Shake the sifter back and forth.
I recommend wearing gloves and a mask if possible to help with the sifting process. This will keep any particles from flying in your face.
Gloves make it a little easier to get your hands in there and make the sifting process go a little faster. You will get a very fine, rich looking compost at the end of this process.
5. Use it!
Take the compost you sifted out of your chicken area and place it around all of your plants.
It works fantastic for them!
You can also plant in the compost as well. You can use this method of fertilizing as frequently as you would the store-bought fertilizer. You will be amazed at how well your plants will grow from it!
A Second Method: Spreading Fertilizer in Bulk
1. Gather chicken manure
With this method, you have the option of skipping the wood chips.
However, if you are like me and just like the look and the composting benefits of wood chips then you can still use them.
If you use wood chips, it is not necessary to use the sifting process. With this method, the chicken manure will not be placed directly on or around the plants. Therefore, if you have some larger chunks of wood chips or manure, you don’t have to worry about them burning your plants.
If you choose not to use wood chips, then you will just gather the chicken manure. I would recommend saving it when you are cleaning the coop out but also be sure to scrape the ground of any remaining manure that could be of use.
Basically, all you will do is get a wheelbarrow and a shovel.
Scoop as far down as the dirt is rich and black. Once you reach dirt that doesn’t look as good, you’ll know to stop. Scoop up the rich dirt and pitch it in the wheel barrel to be distributed.
With this method, if you are using wood chips, I would recommend placing them out in your chicken yard in early spring. This will give the chickens the whole growing season to scratch them into a compost for you.
I like to do this because the more composted they are, the less work the ground has to do over the winter to break everything down.
2. Spread it
With this method, you will spread the manure in bulk. When your last garden is finished for the year, you will take all of the chicken manure you have and spread it over the garden.
If you till your garden, you would go ahead and turn it under after spreading. If you use the no-till method of gardening, then you would add the chicken manure and then place the other composting materials on top of it.
This would allow it to break down and compost over the winter months.
We actually combine both methods of fertilizing in our garden. We do no-till gardening so every year before we place our composting materials in the garden, we always place a layer of chicken litter under it. Then we use chicken manure that has composted to fertilize our plants when they are placed in the garden the following year.
We fertilize about one time per month. I also plant in this compost as well.