As a gardener I take advantage of my chickens' droppings whenever I can. First, I get all dressed in my chicken cleaning uniform, gloves and boots, then trudge out to the coops with shovel in hand. When I clean the coops I make sure nothing is wasted and it all gets moved right to my compost pile. This helps cut down on waste sent to the dump, helps my garden thrive and makes the coop cleaning process multipurpose (they get a clean coop & I get fertilizer).
The important thing to remember is chicken waste is considered "hot" when fresh, this means it's high nitrogen can damage the root system of the plants. Letting your newly found fertilizer age is the best solution. You can do this in one of 2 ways:
- Load your chicken manure onto your compost pile to turn and age over time before adding to your garden.
- Add the manure to the garden at the end of the season, such as fall, when nothing is growing. Turn the soil then, and allow to age directly in the soil for spring planting.
If your manure is mixed in with a heavy amount of pine shavings, its a good idea to choose the "add to compost pile" option. The pine shavings need a lot more time to break down due thickness and also have a high acidity level. Straw breaks down fairly quickly and you can choose to add that to your garden in the fall if its your choice of bedding in the coop.
I prefer pine shavings over straw or hay, as it's more absorbent (chicken poo is wet!). When straw gets damp it can become moldy quickly, though both straw and hay break down much more quickly in the compost bin. I'll happily put either one into my compost pile!