Guess what I’m all excited about this weekend? No? Compost! Yep…humble old compost…or rather, that amazing thing without which you may as well forget about growing organic, sustainable gardens. My composting chicken coop has been active for about 8 months now, and is finally producing high-nutrient, perfect, wonderful, soft, odorless compost. Yes, this has taken time, dedication, and a lot of biomass – but in the end it’s completely worth it. With sufficient biomass added to the system, this can be a relatively large-scale compost operation, yielding up to 1 cubic yard of finished compost per month. We’re not quite *there* yet, but it’s really exciting to have the first usable amount, and plenty more to dig out when I need it.
This system takes care of all the household scraps, paper waste, pond waste, garden clippings, trimmings, and rakings, along with absorbing all the nutrient-rich chicken manure. As well as the beautiful compost, it yields a plethora of protein-rich bugs for the chickens to hunt down and consume, providing everyday entertainment and fulfillment for them. Ideally enough organic matter is added so as to maintain 1-2 feet of depth in the coop at all times – I tend to be on the lower side of that, as I’m just one person trying to gather enough material. To harvest the finished compost I merely fork off the top layer – recent addings – into a corner, then shovel small portions of the bottom layer into a 1/4″ mesh cement sieve resting on the wheelbarrow. By sieving the mix I can minimize the number of still-viable saman seeds and large chunks of still-decomposing vegetation that end up in my garden beds, and return any such matter to continue the composting process. I’m left with fine, earthy, ready-to-use compost.S The hens do a great job turning the top layer of compost, and on bug control. In sieving the finished product (with my bare hands in the mix) I found nothing but a few microscopic beetles and a couple of small ants. No roaches, centipedes, spiders, or any other scaries!
Despite the heat and drought, my densely-planted beds of arugula, kale, and mixed greens are mostly flourishing, topped with tomatillo, ground cherry, peppers, onions, and more, and edged with marigolds (a colourful and edible flower which also serves to keep certain pests away). The water hyacinths are terrifying, and my mint is finally growing into something! The potatoes are hanging in there but are not as happy as I’d like them to be – more experimentation needed – maybe they want compost too.
Hope you enjoyed the images, and perhaps are inspired to start your own chicken composting system for a healthy, happy flock, delicious eggs, and perfect compost. Feel free to comment with any questions, comments, or suggestions, as always!
Best new potatoes I ever tasted were found growing in an long abandoned chicken coup.