Is there a way to determine if my chicken manure is cool enough to put on my garden? I have burned

I’m a newbie to this. Looking for some input on using chicken manure on my garden. Can I test it to know if it is composted enough? A ph test…?

Best Answer

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,390 admin
    Answer ✓

    Perhaps I shouldn't have suggested a soil thermometer. It is best used when you can monitor the temperature right from the start. Get a starting temperature and then check regularly to see that it is heating up properly and wait for the temperature to drop back down to below 70F. It should be around 130-150F in the centre of the pile, but chicken manure might get hotter than that.

    There are other things in chicken manure besides actual heat that can "burn" your plants. It may be "hot" from the nitrogen or the ammonia. What has been used for bedding? Straw, sawdust, grain hulls? Or is this straight manure?

    In general, most sites recommend 3-6 months for chicken manure to compost but in my experience it can take much longer, 12-18 months for it to be completely composted. It depends on moisture content, what other ingredients are in the mix, how often the pile is turned and ambient air temperature.

    You could speed up the process by putting the manure in one of the composting units available but I've never used a composting bin before so I have no idea how well it would work. I still think it requires a longer time period for chicken manure to completely break down.

    When it is finished and safe to use, it should smell earthy (with no smell of poop) and crumble like good garden soil.


  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,390 admin

    Welcome to TGN's forum @carriegalovich.

    How long has your manure been composting? If its just in a pile on its own it may take longer than if it is in a composting system. The type of bedding mixed in with the manure can affect the decomposition time, too.

    You can test the internal temperature of your pile with a soil thermometer and that will give you some kind of indication if it is still actively composting or not.

  • vickeym
    vickeym Posts: 1,937 ✭✭✭✭✭

    It also depends on the temperatures where you are. In my area it can take a couple years for chicken manure to cool down enough to use.

  • Michelle D
    Michelle D Posts: 1,355 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I have had my chickens for just over a year now and the compost that I have with their manure in it is not even close to ready to use in the garden. I'm guessing I will have to wait until the next spring to use it.

  • water2world
    water2world Posts: 1,046 ✭✭✭✭

    WOW, I did not realize the time factor involved! What temperature is ok for a pile of compost with chicken manure?

  • carriegalovich
    carriegalovich Posts: 2 ✭✭✭

    Other than guessing by length of time, is there a reliable way to know if it is ready for the garden? Temperature has been mentioned. What temperature should it be?

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,815 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited May 1

    I don't know of a reliable way to tell when it's ready, but I would feel pretty safe using 2-year-old chicken manure.

    The best approach is probably to mix chicken manure into your regular compost pile, treating the manure as a primary source of nitrogen and balancing it with plenty of well-chopped high-carbon materials, such as wood chips or brown leaves. That should compost much faster than pure chicken manure. You are probably still looking at a year or so unless the carbon/nitrogen balance is perfect and all materials are ground up small.

  • nicksamanda11
    nicksamanda11 Posts: 713 ✭✭✭✭

    If you laid a pipe (not PVC- but a black flexible plastic pipe) with lots of little holes poked in it right in the middle of the pile horizontally so that it gets air into the pile everytime there is a breeze then it should break down significantly faster.

  • vickeym
    vickeym Posts: 1,937 ✭✭✭✭✭

    We are in Alaska so composting takes longer here most of the time. But we never use ours until at least a year and usually 2 years or more have past.