Using Your Chickens’ Manure as Vegetable Garden Fertilizer

Poop. It’s a word that makes little kids giggle mischievously.

And it’s something that your chickens produce a lot of.

Instead of viewing it as undesirable side effect of your backyard chicken hobby, change your paradigm and recognize chicken manure for what it is: A literally transformational, nutrient-rich substance that can work wonders in your garden and add a magical boost to your landscape.

And best of all, it’s free!

Why Use Chicken Manure as a Garden Fertilizer?

The University of Florida says the following about chicken manure as fertilizer:

Poultry manure has long been recognized as perhaps the most desirable of…natural fertilizers because of its high nitrogen content. In addition, manures supply other essential nutrients and serve as a soil amendment by adding organic matter. Organic matter in soil improves water and nutrient retention. The use of manure is an integral part of sustainable agriculture.

Just like commercially prepared synthetic fertilizers, chicken manure is very high in nutrients. The combined average percentages (per total weight) of aged chicken manure and litter — yes, you can use old litter from your chicken coop as a fertilizer! — is approximately 1.8 nitrogen, 1.5 phosphate, and 0.8 for potash.

Using Chicken Manure as Fertilizer: How Much Should You Use in Your Garden?

An annual application of 45 pounds of chicken manure and chicken litter, or more, per year for every 100 square feet will be just right to work wonders in your vegetable garden and increase the fertility of your soil. 45 pounds is the approximate amount that one hen will produce every year. Thus, the average small-scale chicken flock of 5-10 chickens should be enough to take care of your entire vegetable garden and yard!

Here are a few general pointers and tips for using chicken manure as a fertilizer:

1) Never feed fresh chicken manure to young, tender plants! Fresh chicken manure is “hot,” meaning it is very high in nitrogen and will “burn” the growing plants. This will kill your plants! Also, too much nitrogen can produce negative plant growth. This is why you need to age your chicken manure!

2) Poultry manure makes a great addition to compost! I recently received an “Earth Machine” composting bin as part of my local county government’s initiative to reduce green waste in Hawaii’s landfills. Although you do not need a “real” composter to compost, it can save you time. Whether or not you use an actual composter, any sort of composting converts nitrogen into a form that a plant can use without being burned. Composting also destroys the coccidia bacteria (a chicken disease), bacteria, worm eggs, and viruses, and stabilizes potash and nitrogen levels. Any composter will do, from the fancy type you see in Organic Gardening magazine, to simple homemade bins made of 2x4s and chicken wire.

Important note: Manure that is composted without carbon-based material (such as dry grass clippings) will overheat.

3) Give chicken manure time to age by spreading fresh poultry manure over your soil and turning the dirt at the end of the growing season to allow it time to decompose over the winter. However, you’ll be required to keep your poultry birds out of the area for at least a year, preferably more.

You can also try making “tea”. Chicken manure fertilizer tea; sounds delicious, eh? To make fertilizer tea, scoop the chicken manure into a burlap bag. Then, throw a rock into the bag to weigh it down and place the whole thing into a 35-gallon garbage can. Fill the garbage can with water and let it sit for about three weeks. Once the three weeks are over, you will have nutrient-rich chicken manure fertilizer tea as the water becomes infused with the nutrients from the chicken manure. You can use this fertilizer tea to water your plants to give them a vitamin boost.

Your plants will love you for it. Here’s to bigger tomatoes!

Additional offline reading:

1. Chicken Coops: 45 Building Plans for Housing Your Flock
2. Feeding Poultry: The Classic Guide to Poultry Nutrition for Chickens, Turkeys, Ducks, Geese, Gamebirds, and Pigeons
3. Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens

About poultryOne 36 Articles is the ultimate guide to raising backyard chickens.

13 Comments Posted

  1. I obtained a mixture of chicken manure and straw and placed it in a large black plastic can and covered it with a lid. This mixture has been in that can for about 3 months with an outside day temperature of about 90 F degrees. Is there any problem with placing that mixture on my garden?

  2. I was just wondering if your really need to bother with the burlap bag if you strain the tea? And is it safe to use on vegies?

  3. In making “chicken tea,” do I really need the burlap bag? Could I put only chicken manure in water and let that set for three weeks? It seems that the manure would dissolve regardless of the bag.

  4. My husband put 3 or 4 inches of old *chicken litter on our vegetable garden several years ago. Since then our soil test comes back as too much phosphorus, not nitrogen. Does chicken manure add nitrogen or phosphorus to the soil?

    What else might cause the soil to have an extremely high phosphorus content?

    *The chicken house where he got the manure had wheat hulls on the ground. Therefore, wheat hulls were mixed in with the chicken manure.

    Any suggestions as how to lower the phosphorus content will be appreciated.

    • Factory farm chickens are fed a very high phosphorus diet as their bodies are huge compared to their weak bones. This strengthens their bones. Some commercial growers add arsenic as a growth promoter…not great to put on your garden.

  5. You my friend i cptolemely agree with, why the hell should i become a Vegan when this video only show’s a part of the world. not everything, for everyone ONE of those farms, there a 100 good ones, who actually treat their animals right. and kill them properly without bloodshed in a splattering sense. Besides, i love eating Meat, especially chicken and burgers, there is nothing like a juicy half pound burger, with all the fixens. So all these bleeding heart knobs can suck it. if you wanna peaceful no killing world die yourself, problem fixed. your now no longer part of this massacre called reality.

  6. Can I spread chicken manure and litter on my raised beds in the fall so that it can compost over the Winter and be ready to plant in the Spring? I live in Missouri to it does get cold here over Winter, -10 degrees is not unusual…

    Thank you.

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