Making your own compost using Chickens is the most amazing recycle process I have ever seen, and you can easily start doing this with four to eight backyard chickens, and a composting chicken coop!
I got the inspiration for this composting chicken coop from Geoff Lawton’s videos, Chicken Tractor, and Raising Chickens Without Grains. The videos themselves are very interesting, and worth a watch.
My interest in raising chickens started when I became convinced from the videos above that I could employ chickens to become my soil manufacturing plant, and have the wonderful byproduct of fresh eggs. In Genesis 1:26, God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth." The word dominion means sovereign or supreme authority; the power of governing and controlling; power to direct, or control. This was a very eye opening verse for me. The same way Israeli farmers were able to use bees to pollinate their greenhouses, I knew that if the “right” system was built, that chickens could be made to work and produce for me rich compost for my soil.
Being my first time raising chickens, I went through a series of chickens coops, over the span of three years, finally pleased with a custom design I built from wood. And even my custom coop design went through a series of design modifications until I finally achieved what I considered was an efficient and low maintenance system. I call it the Composting Chicken Coop.
Let me share with you a few important points I learned from my experiments and observing chickens. First thing, is that chickens love to scratch and work. I at one point became enamored with what I thought was a really good chicken coop design.
(Product Photo from Omlet Website)
But I came to realize through using it, and observing the chickens, that it was really just an expensive prison. Let me show you what the life of happy chickens looks like.
In the Bible, it says that work is a gift from God. It says, “There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour.” If you right now were bed ridden, and unable to do any work, you would be miserable. The same goes for chickens. They are most happy when they can work. And this is what happy chickens can produce when they can work, and also, when they can eat a well balanced diet.
My family went through a long period of time - almost a year - where we didn’t have to buy eggs, because our eight chickens produced all the eggs we needed. We actually always had a surplus and were able to give eggs, or quiches away. But the eggs are just the byproduct. What the chickens really created for me was compost.
So now, let me show you how I make my compost. I first start by raking my yard, and collecting all leaves and grass. I will also look for weeds, and pull them. I will throw it all in the Composting Chicken Coop. With a system like this, pulling weeds and raking the yard has never been so much fun. I know that my chickens will love it, I will get compost, and my kids can pick the eggs. It is a win, win, win.
I even prune my plants and tree branches, put it through my chipper, and add that to the compost box.
When you have the right proportions of "greens" (Nitrogen rich materials like kitchen scraps, weeds, and manure) and "browns" (Carbon rich materials like dead grass clippings, fallen leaves, or even pine shavings), your compost pile can get hot. This is good thing and helps speed up the composting process. You can see in the picture below, even though it is freezing outside, the compost pile is a little over 120 degrees. The highest I have recorded one of my compost piles was at 150 degrees. And when I turn my pile, your can see white fungal and bacterial activity.
Now look at the difference between these two boxes:
The leaf pile in the first picture is four months old. The leaf pile in the picture below it, in the Composting Chicken Coop, is one month old. In the compost box, I can typically get usable compost in about a month. To help speed up the process, and to let the chickens have some fun, I will move the pile to one side of the compost box, wet it down, throw some food in there, and let the chickens tear it down. You can see in one of the pictures below that there are even seeds sprouting inside the pile after turning it. Those sprouts, along with the vegetable scraps from the kitchen, are great nutrition for my chickens.
Here is a short video of the chickens having fun tearing down and scratching through the pile.
After a few more weeks, and a few more turns, the compost pile will be further broken down, and I will be able to harvest the compost, and use it. You could go through the extra effort of sifting it, and creating a high grade compost product. Either way, once you have your finished compost, you can dress the top of a garden bed, or you could even dig out the dirt in a garden bed, and mix in your compost to help give your growing bed a jump start for the season.
Making your own compost with chickens can be a lot of fun. I would suggest you give it a try.