The Straight Poop on Using Chicken Manure as Fertilizer

Chicken manure is chock full of nutrients that will benefit your garden.
spangled hamburg hen

Spangled Hamburg Hen

Spangled Hamburg Hen

This spangled hamburg is one of eight birds in my backyard flock. As a typical laying chicken, she lays between 250 and 300 eggs a year. Over that same period of time, this typical chicken — tiny though she seems — will produce roughly 90 pounds of manure. Multiply that by 8 birds and that’s a lot of poop. For some that doesn’t mean much more than the chore of mucking out the coop a few times a year. For the home gardener, however, that manure is worth its weight in…fertilizer. Chicken manure must be used carefully, but is among the most desirable organic fertilizers and will give your garden soil a spectacular boost without spending a dime.

Build an Eco-Frendly Chicken Coop

Chicken manure is chock full of nutrients that will benefit your gardening plot. Topping the list is a healthy dose of nitrogen. While this is great news for a gardener dealing with nitrogen deficient soil, this also makes this manure very “hot.” Plants, especially young plants, that come into contact with fresh chicken manure will be “burned” by the nitrogen content and will quickly wither. Fortunately, there are several good methods for appropriately aging chicken manure for use as a fantastic natural fertilizer.

Composting

Chicken manure is a superstar for composting. It can be added to an existing compost bin, but does just fine combined with carbon-based matter such as fallen leaves or dry grass clipping and left in a pile or corralled in chicken wire bins. Left unattended, the compost will be ready for use as fertilizer in 6-12 months. Turned occasionally, waiting time is reduced to just 4-6 months.

Manure “Tea”

Fill a burlap sack with manure and weigh it down with a couple of bricks or a large rock. Place the sack in a large plastic trash can and fill the can with water. This can be a little messy, but reduces your wait time to just 3-4 weeks and yields a nutrient-packed brine than can be used to treat garden soil or water individual plants.

Off-Season Tilling

If your garden plot will be left dormant in cooler months, fresh manure can be spread over the soil at a ratio of approximately 50 pounds per 100 square feet once the fall harvest is complete. Till the plot to turn the manure into the soil. The soil will be ready to be tilled again in the spring, already packed with nutrients provided by your own backyard flock. Allow 3-4 months for the soil to temper before planting.

Next Up

What Do Chickens Eat?

Chickens eat a surprising array of foods. Find out how to keep them happy and healthy.

Homesteading: What Is It and Why Is It Trending?

Looking to become more self-sufficient? Starting a homestead may be right up your alley.

What Do the Numbers on a Fertilizer Bag Mean?

What are N-P-K and the three numbers on a fertilizer label? They indicate the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in the fertilizer. Read on to find out why those nutrients and their numbers are important for growing a lush lawn or healthy garden.

The Different Ways to Make Compost

Composting can be more than just throwing food scraps on a pile. Learn a few new methods for making natural fertilizers.

Hip Home Tour: Kate Richards of Drinking With Chickens

See how this Drinking With Chickens blogger and Los Angeles artist beautifully feathers her nest with a passel of pets and great personal style.

13 Tips for Fertilizing Your Lawn

Keep your grass healthy and beautiful. Find tips from the experts on everything from when to fertilize and how to choose the right spreader.

How to Fertilize Your Lawn in Fall

Should you add lawn fertilizing to your fall to-do list? It depends. Learn what you need to know about fall lawn feeding.

How to Choose the Best Garden Watering System

What is the best watering system for your yard? Use this helpful guide to save water, money and time.

The Best Self-Watering Planters for Your Home, Deck or Patio

Take the work and worry out of watering flowers, veggies and herbs when you use a planter that gives plant roots the right amount of moisture.

The Best Kits + Tools to Get Kids Hooked on Gardening

Foster an interest in both indoor and outdoor gardening with these educational hands-on kits and kid-sized tools.

Go Shopping

Get product recommendations from HGTV editors, plus can’t-miss sales and deals.

On TV

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.