Starting out composting can sometimes seem overwhelming. It means that, like recycling, a certain level of consciousness must occur when sorting out kitchen scraps. However, with small changes, you can make a difference for the planet and for your gardens. Naturally, composting makes sense for chicken owners. This post will serve as an introduction to composting. It is not a complicated science and can bring wonderful benefits to your home.
Composting starts by combining a mixture of green and brown materials with water. Over time, beneficial bugs, worms and microbes take up residence and beautiful compost is formed over the course of weeks to months.
Green Material (Protein for Microbes):
Fresh green leaves
Kitchen Scraps~vegetables, melon rinds, egg shells, fruit
Coffee grounds with filter and tea bags
Fresh green grass clippings
Fine clippings of hair
Brown Material (Carbon Energy):
Dry yellow and brown leaves
Woody plant stalks
Small amounts of wood ash
When combining green and brown materials you will want to strive to achieve the ratio of 30 parts brown to 1 part green. But, try not to become obsessed with this number. It should only serve as a guideline and remind you to consciously always add more brown than green to your composting pile. This is very easy to do, when cleaning out the chickens. The pine shavings easily add to the amount of brown! An easy way to think of this is add 6″ of brown then 3″ of green alternating layers of green and brown.
Add some water to your pile to moisten but not create a soggy mess. Then naturally allow the microbes to move in and get to work. Depending on certain variations, such as whether you keep the compost in the sun vs. shade, in a container vs. open, will play a role in how fast your compost is created. The warmer the compost pile, the faster the breakdown of your green and brown materials.
Composting on a small scale for me with my flock of eight chickens is easy. I find that I compost two ways. The first, is that I get help from the chickens. Sometimes, when the run is muddy after the rain when I am cleaning the coop, I just toss all of the dirty shavings in the run and replenish the coop with fresh ones. This not only keeps the chickens entertained for hours, but also allows them to compost the shavings and their waste products together. As time passes, matter that is composted the majority of the way will accumulate in the run. About every 3 months, I rake out this excess material and set it aside in a pile. I turn it now and then and let it cure. This partially created compost sits for 3 months and then once cured is safe to spread amongst the garden plants. Other times, instead tossing all of the soiled shavings in the run, I add them to the compost bin as needed. This allows me to still compost items that the chickens cannot eat, such as garlic and citrus other items not beneficial to the chickens as well as left over melon rinds from the girls.
There are many other variables that I did not discuss but should be researched before you get started including location of the composter, open or closed system, covering the compost pile and turning your pile based upon your selected method of composting.
Composters are easy to create/build yourself and are also available to prepurchase. Here are some resources for those of you interested in getting started in composting.
Keep your compost bin closer to the house with easy accessiblity. This makes it less of a chore.
Pick a compost bin that is asthetically pleasing to you.
Do not compost meat. It will attract predators.
Secure hardware cloth to the bottom of your compost bin to deter mice and rats.
Keeping two seperate containers on the counter while cooking makes sorting items for the chickens, the composter and the trash easier.
Have your children get involved. This is a terrific experiment and learning experience for them.
How to Make and Use Compost~ Nicky Scott
Composting for Dummies~ Cathy Cromell
How to Compost
Build your own Beehive Composter as featured on Tilly’s Nest.
Photo Credits: The Trusty Gardener, Tilly’s Nest