Composting with Chickens

by Daisy

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My compost pile is located inside the chicken yard– part coincidence, part deliberate decision, and it’s been a good combo.

The compost pile has always been beside the outbuilding which is now the chicken house. When I enclosed a space connected to the chicken house, I included the compost pile area and it’s naturally the all-time favorite place for the chickens.

They scratch and kick up mulched leaves and grass clippings, devour kitchen scraps, strip garden tear-outs of it’s leaves and bugs, and generally set up chicken shop right there on the pile. They stir the compost for me, deposit more lovely garden gold, and just generally lurv it.

They’re messy, and they seem to want to convert their entire yard to compost pile, but it really doesn’t hurt that they’ve slung leaves everywhere. It’s their pad and who am I to second guess their re-decorating tastes?


And who can argue with a face like this?

Any favorite chicken tips from our chicken-owning readers out there?

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{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Melanie October 9, 2009 at 8:57 am

I want some chickens sooo bad!!! Sorry, no tips, just chicken envy.

ranch101 October 9, 2009 at 9:54 am

What do you want to know? I’m a fount of information, but without direction, I find myself just saying, “Uh…” I kept chickens for something like a decade, starting with 4 hens and maxing out at around 250. So much personality!

tanya walton October 9, 2009 at 11:25 am

I don’t have my own chickens…i love my free range eggs but I just don’t have space in the garden for them and wouldn’t want to keep them on my allotment in case I couldn’t get up their for a few days…..maybe one day!!

Sarah Hopkins October 9, 2009 at 11:48 am

Your chickens are lovely!

I’m wondering if you’ll need to keep them out of the compost at some point–that “gold” will be very green and will burn plants if applied too fresh. I do love the idea of the chickens churning up the pile, though. When do you think you’d have to chase them off the pile so the compost can mellow enough? We use goat manure on our garden (doesn’t burn), never chicken, so I don’t know how long it would have to sit…

We own chickens, but I’ve ventured out to include guineas now for organic insect control. They are going to be employed in the garden and compost pile next summer, just have to figure out how to keep ’em there. Supposedly, they won’t dig up plants, only scratch around them.

Sarah Hopkins October 9, 2009 at 11:53 am

I meant to ask: does that irresistible face belong to an Araucana? I’m sorry, I can’t remember if you’ve posted what breeds your chickens are (I enjoy guessing). 🙂

From the first picture: Australorps, Buff Orpington, and Araucanas?

Lindsay October 9, 2009 at 12:12 pm

I love that face! I have 4 of those and they are just so funny looking. I think my uncle (who raised chicks 2000 at a time) called the ‘poof’ a muff. Whatever it is, they are just great, aren’t they?

Vickey October 9, 2009 at 4:54 pm

That looks like a bearded Easter Egger to me. I have several right now, along with barred rocks, RIR’s and silver laced Wyandottes. And my loverly ladies have been giving me breakfast now for a week. Yummy, yummy eggs…. Oh, I almost forgot my funny little silkies. I got them for their looks, not their eggs….

darlene October 9, 2009 at 7:26 pm

I have always thought that putting the compost in the chicken pen was an awesome idea, and was going to implement it as one of my neighbors here in town who as chickens does just this very thing. However, on a wild day out of the chicken run, one of my girls got into the compost bin (which is located in another part of the back yard) and ate something that gave her botulisim. It was a near thing, but she lived through the horrid ordeal.
I am thinking/wondering. . . do the chickens take care of any of the foods far in quick time, therefore preventing the botulisim from growing in the first place?
what do you think?

Tomato Lady October 10, 2009 at 8:34 am

darlene–So far no problems. I guess there is always something that can go wrong. The kitchen trimmings they get are all fresh vegetable and fruit skins and seeds, tops, and the like and they go right to work on it as soon as we put it out.
So sorry about your chicken, and very glad she made it through.

Tomato Lady October 10, 2009 at 8:39 am

Vickey–Absolutely right! You know your hens! You’re making me hungry!

Tomato Lady October 10, 2009 at 9:51 am

Lindsay–I will call it a muff, too. I hadn’t known what to call it. I love ’em, too.

Tomato Lady October 10, 2009 at 9:53 am

Sarah Hopkins–Yes, you’re right! Good job. Australorps, Orpingtons, and Easter Eggers–some call them Araucanas.

Tomato Lady October 10, 2009 at 9:57 am

Sarah Hopkins–Well, the bin has two sections, so I should probably close off one half when I want to let that one sit and start on the other half. I’ve heard that about chicken manure, too. Jealous of your goat manure.
I’ve heard that about guineas, too. Should be great for the garden.

Tomato Lady October 10, 2009 at 9:59 am

tanya walton–I hope you can get them someday, too. I think I like them for the manure almost as much as for the eggs.

Tomato Lady October 10, 2009 at 10:00 am

ranch101–I had an email asking about how to keep their water from freezing. Any thoughts about that?

Tomato Lady October 10, 2009 at 10:00 am

Melanie–Maybe someday? Hoping for you!

Erin October 10, 2009 at 1:35 pm

I still don’t have chickens, but I’m getting closer (husband is wavering these days – yay! – he’s outside building the greenhouse now and kicking himself for not getting it done before the killer freeze hit last night). Anyway, we do have a koi pond and a small trough heater keeps it warm enough to keep the top from completely freezing over so the koi get oxygen throughout the winter (they almost go dormant, but the water needs to have a certain amount of oxygen). Something like that would work for your chickens, too.

Tomato Lady October 10, 2009 at 6:59 pm

Erin–It does sound like there’s hope! And a greenhouse, nice. Will check out trough heaters, thanks!

Don October 11, 2009 at 10:31 pm

Running a heater for 3 months sounds hard (money wise). Here’s what I do, go to my hot water heater in the morning and grab two bricks and a pitcher of water off the top of it. Take it out to the run, and put the two warm bricks down set the water dish down on it and fill it with the warm water. Then I take the two cold bricks from the day before back in and put them and the pitcher back on the water heater; repeat — but I only have 5 birds. The water stays liquid for most of the day – even in michigan winters.

The best chook tip I have is for the summer. Take a netted (onion/orange) bag and put animal skins/meat scraps in it, then hang it in the run. Within two days you will have a steady drip of maggots falling for the chooks to eat. They LOVE them. Gross, but free food and efficient.

Christy October 12, 2009 at 6:47 am

I’ll take your chicks if you take my HOA!

Jen M. October 12, 2009 at 9:51 am

That’s a really cool idea!

We don’t have the space for chickens, and it’s not allowed in our neighborhood anyway. So glad to have yours to enjoy vicariously! They are so cute!

Danielle Michelle October 12, 2009 at 11:52 am

Running a heater full time does cost a lot – I use one with a ‘heat cube’. A thermostatically controlled plug that turns on at 35 degrees F and off at 45 degrees F. I keep it toward the top of the inside of the coop (cause hot air rises) and plug in a heat lamp…then put the water just inside the door. Sometimes the water may freeze a little, but only really a skim across the top. I used to have a heated waterer, but that drained a LOT of energy! It gets pretty cold here at 8,000 feet and it’s working well!!! I also partitioned off a part of the coop for a “house’ for the two dwarf goats. They also generate quite a bit of body heat in there!

Tomato Lady October 13, 2009 at 7:19 am

Christy–Ha! I have the feeling your HOA wouldn’t like me very much!

Tomato Lady October 13, 2009 at 7:22 am

Don–I like your hot brick solution. I don’t think I have the stomach for the other tip but I see the wisdom in it.

Tomato Lady October 13, 2009 at 7:25 am

Jen M.–Thank you! They are fun to watch. Will keep posting updates!

Handful October 13, 2009 at 2:27 pm

We had chickens while Igrowing up. I remember Uncle Lee coming from the city (a 3 hr. drive) to visit and taking home …

yes you guessed it…

chicken poo for his garden! Bags and bags and bags in the trunk! His neighbors were envious of his garden though!

Tomato Lady October 13, 2009 at 6:02 pm

Handful–Definitely worth the drive. Chickens and gardens just go together.

Marcia Schmitt October 14, 2009 at 9:38 am

We free range our chickens, but we don’t let them out of their coop until 2 p.m. This insures that the eggs are laid in the nesting boxes and not in the yard, and minimizes the droppings on our back porch. Free range chickens are happy chickens.

Shebstoo January 28, 2010 at 7:00 pm

I have 6 chickens, in the city, and they have a coop and an enclosed run. My neighbor friends give me their bags of leaves and grass clippings when they do their yard work and I keep them bagged untill my lovely ladys need them. I go in the coop and upend the bag dumping them out and what a wonderful time they have, digging and searching for bugs while leaves and grass fly all over. It’s lots of fun to watch them, they all want that first bug so it’s quite a frenzy. I used to have a large compost heap but now my gals do most of the compost work for me in the coop. I still have a compost for some things like coffee grounds and egg shells (don’t want to get them started with eating shells/eggs), but most all veggie trimmings from the house go in the coop now. I’m all for letting them do most of the work!! I shovel it out let it set and put new dirt back in and we start all over. It makes the best garden! Oh yes, did I tell you, I pay those neighbor friends back in eggs, and veggies from the garden? Sure do, we are all happy doing it this way.

Rose Ann Herriman August 1, 2012 at 1:30 pm

We have 14 chicken in large fenced in area which works real good.
Our grandchildren love gathering the eggs, Deal Amberlink are laying
real good. And making a good compost for us.

Melissa August 30, 2012 at 1:35 pm

I’ve read that chickens shouldn’t have avocados and onions and I know that there are other things that might be bad for them. Do you just not compost those things?

Daisy August 30, 2012 at 7:15 pm

Melissa–You could put the verboten veg in a separate, no chickens pile. I usually have a compost pile outside the chicken run in addition to what I put in with the chickens, not specifically for this reason, but just because I have another pile for hedge clippings and the like.

Zonoma January 20, 2013 at 9:49 pm

No tips, sounds like you discovered the important part: Chickens and compost are a match made in heaven.

sylvia cochran February 2, 2013 at 1:16 pm

hey, getting ready to keep a few chickens starting this spring…is it wise to have a run under shade…we have a small shed that will become the coop and I want to attach the run to that…any suggestions for me about how to build the run….we have red fox and raccoons (naturally). Is there a place in Collierville, tn to purchase chicks?

Daisy February 2, 2013 at 1:36 pm

sylvia cochran–My run is mostly shaded, and every summer I am glad it is. I think chickens always should have a shaded spot where they can retreat in hot weather. Mine seem to prefer the shade. Make the run as big and sturdy as you can and cover it with more fencing if you can, as well. Not absolutely necessary usually, but it is nice to have. You can buy chicks from Russell’s off the square and from Hall’s down on the highway. Call first to see if they are in and what they have. Hall’s has a website now, too.

sylvia cochran February 2, 2013 at 1:54 pm

thank you….sounds great…and I will wire roof as well, we do have hawkes,,families of them……and thanks for the info on where to get the chicks…loved your Idee saga, neat!

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