Last post, we talked a bit about our chickens and showed a photo of some of their eggs. But beyond the simple pleasures of keeping chickens, and the joy of fresh eggs, they also benefit us in another way. Not to be too delicate about it - we love their poop!
This is Olive, our Polish Buff Lace, in the chicken house - with the straw. She's definitely the prima donna of the flock!
But about the poop: once a week we clean the straw, with the chicken droppings, from their house, and compost it, turning it once a month or so. The droppings are so "hot" (nitrogen-filled), they help the straw compost within a couple months. It comes out as beautiful, clean-smelling humus. Below, the well composted straw is in the back, the new straw in front. Here, the "open-air" approach to composting - covered in rodent-proof screen (foreground), but otherwise open to the elements - also aids the composting process.
To ensure that the chicken manure is fully composted - if manure is too hot, it burns the small roots of the plants - and that the benefit of the droppings go further, we then layer the composted straw into our kitchen waste composters. The effect is to heat up the kitchen compost, too - and where it often would just lie there stinking for months, now it is really composting! In the end, we get a beautiful, crumbly, dirt-smelling humus, ready for the garden.
Finally, we also keep the floor of the chicken run covered with the leaves we raked in the fall, and stored for this purpose. The chickens just love scratching in the leaves, and in the process (and by virtue of their precious poop, too), they are composting the leaves for us. By the spring, we'll have gone through 25 or 30 bags of leaves - now nicely composted for mulching the gardens.
All of this is meant to help keep as many of our organic resources here on our property as we can - rather than shipping the nutrients off the land. Our trees are great storehouses of nutrients and minerals, and we want to make sure these resources return to the soil they grew from!