Backyard chickens manure management

A single hen can produce nearly 70-pounds of manure per year. Multiply that by a few more chickens in the backyard and you really have to be on top of knowing how to handle it.

David Frame is an extension poultry specialist at the University of Utah. He says properly composting the coop litter which includes the bedding and the manure is a very efficient way to manage it.

"You don’t ever want to just take litter out of a coop and then just pile it in the corner of your lot somewhere because then it becomes a fly hazard and things like that. The proper composting to be able to put on the garden is the real key here," says Frame. "It does give a great compost to the garden, there’s no doubt about it, and there’s various ways you can do that."

For example, put the poultry litter in an open-ended box so you can turn it with a pitchfork as it’s composting. There are four main components that must be in the mixture. If they aren’t there, you’ll just have a rotting pile. They are carbon, which is the bedding, nitrogen which comes from the feces, and you also need adequate moisture and aeration.

"You contain it in a place like that, you add water, if it looks like a mudball in your hand it’s too much water. Then the other point is you’ve got to aerate it. You take your pitchfork and you turn that thing every few days," he says. "The way you’ll know when you’ve done it right is that it’ll heat up. You want that heat to occur because it kills any kind of bacteria that might be in the litter, and also, if you get it up high enough, it’ll kill the weed seeds."

Another option is to house chickens in a movable coop or chicken run. Just move them to another area when the manure starts to build up. Chickens get a fresh place to graze and you get free fertilizer for the yard.