Broken H Farm

Eat Foods your Grandparents knew!

Basic Composting with Chickens

On a properly run homestead there should be minimal waste. Little should be sent to the local landfill. Each item brought onto or produced by the homestead should serve a purpose from beginning to end. The old mantra "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without" needs to be the slogan every person desiring a greater degree of self-sufficiency follows faithfully.
Waste food products can be fed to the chickens and hogs, paper products used as fire starters for the wood stove, old clothing turned into cleaning rags and metal, plastic and glass recycled. There are many ways to reuse "waste" but one of the greatest of these is Composting.
I will not bore you with the particulars of how to build your compost pile, there are literally books dedicated to the topic, but I will speak on the basic composting that every gardener and small homesteader should be doing.
The basic compost pile consists of browns (paper, woodchips/twigs, hay/straw, leaves) and greens (food waste, grass and weed clippings, coffee grounds, manure). These layers should be alternated, dampened and turned regularly, with ample air flow. It is estimated by the EPA that roughly 30% of what ends up in landfills could be composted. Think of the good that could be done if every gardener composted! A good compost pile should be at least 3 feet wide and a couple feet deep to promote heat and decomposition. In time, waste product will turn into an excellent additive for your garden beds and containers, full of nutrients.
Chickens love to scratch and dig through piles for tasty tidbits, so why not allow them to do the work for you? You can create a simple compost container in their run and allow them access. Not only will they turn the pile for you, mixing in their own droppings in the process, they will also feed themselves (and with feed prices, that’s a big win!) as the pile breaks down on the bugs and earth worms that will populate the decomposing pile. I have 2 compost piles currently in process. One is a repurposed moveable duck pen, that is filled mainly with waste hay and manure from the barn with some food scraps mixed in. The other is a simple structure built with repurposed landscaping timbers in the chicken yard. Here I dump stall cleanings that are mixed with plenty of saw dust, grass clippings, cardboard and newspaper, food and garden scraps, along with a daily handful of cracked corn. They happily dig away. By late fall this should be ready to shovel into the raised beds to further breakdown over the winter in preparation for next spring. Another compost pile will be started for winter processing.
Homesteading is hard work. There is never enough time, so why not utilize animal power to assist? Composting with chickens is easy with minimal labor required.
Stay safe, stay focused, keep moving towards your goal!