Turning chicken manure into compost

Chicken manure compostJust
outside Abingdon, Virginia, the smell of chicken waste wafts from huge
fans lining the walls of an industrial chicken facility.  I’m sure
the neighbors don’t think so, but this is the scent of sun-ripened
tomatoes, brilliant bell peppers, and outstanding okra — or at least
it will be in a few weeks after the resulting compost mellows in my
garden soil.

Spike meets us in a
warehouse-type building next door.  Inside, mounds of chicken
horse bedding from a nearby college’s stables, and grass clippings from
Spike runs the compost facility in Abingdonneighbor’s lawn meld into
award-winning compost.  Spike explains
that he usually mixes two parts hardwood horse bedding (mostly sawdust
with some manure — the carbon source) with one part chicken manure
(the nitrogen source.)  The grass clippings and other bonuses are
irregularly added as they materialize.  I could tell that Spike
was a guy after my own heart — he knew that no organic matter is

Warehouse where poultry compost is mixedWe’ve
been sampling all of the local compost producers, and Spike is by far
our favorite.  Although his compost is a bit too dry for my
tastes, it is extremely high in both nutrients and organic matter, with
an N-P-K ratio of 3-4-4.  For the record, Steve Solomon’s pricey
organic fertilizer

is 5-5-1.

Except for needing to
wet the compost well before using it, the only flaw with Spike’s
compost is shared by all other producers of poultry compost — high
phosphorus content.  Many organic gardeners apply a poultry
manure every second or third year, alternating
a more nitrogen rich manure that contains less phosphorus (from horses,
cows, rabbits, or just about anything other than poultry.)  We get
horse manure from a nearby farm to round out our compost needs, keeping
the phosphorus from building up to toxic
A truckload of compostlevels in our soil.

We’d be willing to pay
more for such high quality compost, but Spike keeps the prices
reasonable — $25 per cubic yard.  His cubic yards seem to be on
the large side too, with this overflowing truckload costing only
$50.  After several truckloads this year, our soil is already
starting to take on the dark color of good loam.  To pick up your
own load of compost, give Spike a call at (276) 356-9357.

Treat your flock to a homemade chicken
that never
spills or fills with poop.

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