There are lots of benefits to keeping chickens. One of my favorites is that, if you garden, you can use your composted chicken manure as fertilizer. But what you might not know is just how many chicken manure benefits there are. Composted manure is composted manure, right? Wrong! There are chicken manure benefits you may not be aware of.
Let's take a look at some important chicken manure benefits (when compared with the benefits animal manure in general):
1. Calcium is an important nutrient plants need, and chicken manure helps provide that, moreso than other animal manures.
Hens need a lot of calcium to produce eggs--their feed therefore contains a lot of calcium, and since chickens don't metabolize it all, a lot is excreted in their droppings. With tomatoes, for example, having enough accessible calcium means blossom end rot can be reduced.
2. Studies show that plants are more easily able to absorb calcium from manure than from lime, and that calcium available in chicken manure raises soil pH as effectively as does lime.
This is great news if you live in an area of acid soils, where you may otherwise need to adjust soil pH upward with lime, for example. But if you live on chalky, basic soils, you'll need to be sure to pay attention to your pH over the years, because you may need to use acidifying amendments such as sulphur to maintain a proper soil pH in your garden. (Maintaining an appropriate soil pH means that other nutrients become more easily available to your plants; if the soil pH gets too acidic or too basic, either one, it can be difficult to grow healthy plants.)
3. Poultry manure can help reduce aluminum toxicity in your soil.
Aluminum toxicity is a special problem in humid temperate regions like West Virginia and other Mid-Atlantic states, as well as in humid subtropical areas like the South, where soils are chiefly ultisols. Aluminum toxicity in Appalachia can be exacerbated where the Big Coal Lobby has "for years been urging DEP to relax its aluminum limits," and where existing coal mining pollution is now "being cited as an excuse to allowing high levels of aluminum" in the future. Other industrial areas can suffer from the similar pollution issues. Aluminum is more soluble in soils that are acidic, and too much aluminum stunts root growth and can cause other problems.
Isn't it fabulous that your composted poultry manure can help mitigate these issues?
Final thoughts about Chicken Manure benefits:
In most cases using composted chicken manure in your garden is a wonderful way to take advantage even of the "crappy" part of keeping chickens. 😉
If you're not sure what your soil pH is, it's best to get your soil tested. (Although there are maps that show general soil pH distributions, the soil in your yard can vary considerably from the average in your area, so it's best to have your soil tested before making making amendments--professional testing can give you a good understanding of how to improve your garden soil.) Even so, adding composted chicken manure to your garden is generally a relatively slow way of amending your pH and adding nutrients; you're unlikely to see some immediate acute problem by using well composted poultry manure in your garden, even if your soil is a little on the basic side.Plus, poultry manure adds all those other wonderful plant nutrients, too: nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. (Fresh compost has too much nitrogen and can "burn" your plants, so be sure to compost your manure before adding it to the garden.) Composted chicken manure even improves the tilth of your soil. But... it's so easy to test for soil pH at home, why not be safe?
Do you use chicken manure in your garden? Do you get your soil tested, or do you use home tests? Please share in the comments. Also for you gardeners: be sure to check out our Eggshell Tomato Fertilizer recipe (using egg shells), as well as her eggshell seedling planters.