It’s fall. There isn’t much for free ranging chickens to eat now. Egg production is down too, so if you are paying for chicken feed, you’re putting money out without getting much back. So, you might be feeling the pinch.
If you want to cut your chicken feed bill to $0 with composting, read on!
Benefits of Composting With Chicken
Before we get into how, let’s talk about why.
- Saves you money. One huge reason is obvious. If you aren’t paying for feed, you’re saving money. Depending upon how many chickens you have, this could add up to a ton of savings. You will probably want to buy a few things to get the compost started, but expenses are few and limited.
- It’s all natural. Most people have chickens because they want cleaner, fresher food. Feeding with compost doesn’t get more natural.
- It’s good for the environment. Having a compost pile attracts worms, bugs, and all kinds of critters that are great for the soil and the environment. Everything feeds everything else naturally. So you can say bye bye to chemical fertilizers and expensive soil conditioners. Just let Nature do the work.
- It’s healthier for the chickens. Most organic chickens in the store are labeled “vegetarian fed.” I’m not sure what that means because chickens are omnivores. They eat bugs, seeds, berries, vegetables, worms, and small reptiles and rodents. So compost fed chickens are actually getting a better, healthier diet than their grain fed counterparts. This means their eggs and the chicken itself is healthier for you too.
- You’ll avoid toxic additives. Bagged feed contains soy, grains, antibiotics, growth hormones and other artificial ingredients. If you’re not buying it, your chickens aren’t eating it, you’re not eating it, and nobody is pooping it out into the soil and water table. If we don’t buy toxins, manufacturers will stop making them.
- It saves you time. Feeding chickens isn’t very time consuming, but it takes zero time to do it naturally with compost!
- It gives the chickens something to do. Free ranging chickens scratch. If you give them a place to do it, they are more likely to do it where you want them to rather than where you don’t want them to. It makes them happy, too.
Composting the Lazy Way
If you just want the compost for your garden or to enhance your own soil, you might want to try composting the lazy way.
Gather up your organic wastes. These are things like manure, hay beds, fresh kitchen waste, grass clippings, weeds, flowers, cardboard, and dead plants. Avoid avocados, citrus peels and fruits, long-cut grasses, garlic and onion, bones and meat scraps as these may negatively impact egg taste and production. When you’re first starting a pile, you may wish to add lime to help with the decomposition. It’s good for hard shells too.
During the growing season, you can go by grocery stores or farm stalls and ask for their throw aways. These are the scraps that didn’t sell, are going bad, and would be thrown away anyway. Most people are happy to have this waste go to some use, but be careful what you accept! If you put heavily sprayed foods or wood shavings in your pile, you will no longer have a natural, healthy food source for the chickens.
Place it in a pile. You can do one big pile or do four smaller ones. If you do four smaller ones, you will “feed” one pile for a week, then move on to the second, then continue rotating. All that is left to do now is to wait. At first there won’t be enough living critters inside to tempt the chickens. Give them time. Once it starts teeming with life, they will start to scratch and eat.
Add more material to the top of the pile and let them eat it or mix it in. That’s it! When you’re ready for compost, just scoop it out and use it wherever you like.
Word of warning. This is going to make a mess! Chickens spread this everywhere. If you want to keep it more contained, you can fence it in to confine it to one area. If you want to sell your compost, it makes more sense to fence it so that it stays in one place as well. For land that is on a hill, you could use fallen logs or wood to create terraces so that the rain doesn’t wash it all away.
Each setup will have its own variations. Some will need a sunshade. Some will need to water the compost pile periodically. If you have crows and no dogs, you may need to cover it to keep the crows away.
Making it complicated. Now, you can make it complicated by measuring the ratio of green to brown, turning it yourself, and adding things to the pile. It makes it neater, faster, more efficient, and easier to sell. The chickens will love it whether you do it the lazy way or the neater, more efficient way.
In the USA, thirty to forty percent of food is wasted. By taking up composting, we return food back to the ecosystem where it can be used for energy by many other creatures. It’s a way of living naturally and in harmony with the world. Composting can make you and your chickens feel better about how you move in the world.