How to Make Chicken Poop Into Fertilizer for Your Garden

Note from Naturally Loriel: Today’s resourceful post comes from Claire over at Bloom. I’ve had the opportunity to work with Claire over the past few months as a Scratch Mommy Contributor (I edit all the content that goes out on Scratch Mommy) and I LOVE her knowledge in gardening and chickens. I love this post especially since I have mounds of chicken poop I want to use in my garden… why not, right?

If you haven’t checked her out, you MUST check out this cherry tomato vinaigrette and this hilarious and relatable post called, “Chickens Should Come With Warning Labels.” I’m so excited to have you here Claire — thanks for joining us!

When I began gardening I did a lot of research. One thing that I kept reading over and over again is that one the best compliments to a successful backyard garden is a flock of backyard chickens. Chickens aid in pest control by eating Lyme Disease carrying ticks and other bugs that might be interested in eating your garden’s veggies. And, with all this munching, hens create not just super fresh eggs, but also lots of manure.

Both of these are very good things.

So good that many longtime gardeners have even dubbed composted chicken manure, “Black Gold.”

Composted chicken manure not only helps to build the health of the soil by adding organic matter and increasing water holding capacity (good for the health of your water bill as well),  but it also acts as a fantastic fertilizer adding vital nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium to plants.

So, as I tilled my first garden beds, I also became a proud, first time chicken Momma to five hens and have made use of their manure in my compost since day one.

Good compost is made up of combination just a few elements: Nitrogen, carbon, water and air. Ideal compost is 30 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen.

Sometimes the nitrogen elements are called “green” and carbon is called “brown.” Green elements are things like egg shells, grass clippings, coffee grounds, and fruit and vegetable scraps. Brown, or carbon, elements are items like dried leaves, twigs, and newspaper.

Chicken manure is a green element and the coops bedding (straw, sawdust, shavings) is a brown element and can be added right to your compost bin.

So, when cleaning the coop, I simply gather the bedding and droppings and place into a section of my three bin compost bin with other brown and green elements. Be sure to remember that whenever cleaning a chicken’s coop be sure to wear gloves and even mask as ammonia levels in the air can be high.

Time is compost’s best friend and is essential when using chicken manure. Raw, chicken manure is too high in nitrogen and is too “hot” to use in a garden. It will damage and even kill plants.

Each section of my compost bin is made up of similar elements but some have just aged longer than others.

Ideally, compost made up of both green and brown elements should age at least sixty days. Throughout those sixty days it is important to turn the compost regularly and add moisture. When complete, it should look dark, feel crumbly, and smell like soil. If the coop bedding has not broken down all the way, it is still okay to use in your garden.

Prior to planting, gently work or till the compost into your garden beds at a ratio of three parts soil to one part compost so that they become well combined.

Even without chicken manure, compost is an excellent way support your garden and to reduce trash going to landfills. On a personal level, I absolutely love composting. It makes me feel so much better about my own foot print. Food isn’t wasted anymore. Instead, it becomes something to help me make more food!

But, thanks to my helpful hens, I know that my compost has elevated my garden’s soil creating huge, beautiful plants and incredibly successful harvests.

Claire is a City Girl Transplant that now lives on eighty panoramic acres in the country and writes for Bloom. Bloom is a local food and backyard gardening blog full of recipes and humous realities of what life is like when you own chickens… and designer shoes. Through the sarcasm and the dirt, there is an underlyng theme of growth in every sense. Claire is a longtime foodie with a career in the food industry and a passion for wholesome, home cooked meals.

Similar Posts


  1. What does it mean when you say “Adding moisture” Water?? I feel like this is a dumb question but I have never composted before so this is a whole new experience for me. My flock is a new addition added in March of 2015. I have a trench that my husband dug which is where I dump the chicken poo and bedding daily after cleaning the coop & duck house which consists of straw,shavings,sand & poo 🙂 I don’t do anything after dumping it in the trench because I didn’t think I needed to & at the moment can’t due to the snow. What do I need to do to it & can I use it in my garden in the spring? Thank you

    1. Hi Wendy, Not a dumb question at all! Compost is a living thing so needs water and air. Turning the matter will help to add air and adding water will prevent it from getting too dry and will allow the organisms to remain active. Be aware that it is a bit of a science and you don’t want the compost to become too wet. Good compost looks like dark soil and feels like a moist, wrung out sponge. Not too dry, but not something you couldn’t make mud balls out of. I live where there is lots of snow this time of year as well and there isn’t anything to do. The organisms will become active again when they warm back up this spring. Then, you can begin to till the trench every couple weeks, keep adding carbon and nitrogen, and keep an eye on the moisture. (And, if it’s a really wet spring, there may not be much moisture needed!) Let me know if this helps or if you would like more information. I am happy to help! Claire

  2. Hi Claire! I enjoyed reading your output on how to utilize chicken waste. I have chickens and you could use chicken manure in different ways to fertilize soil. I make an old fashion compost, just the way you suggest. Also very beneficial is “fermented” chicken manure and you don’t have to wait 6 months for it to break down. I use 5 gallon bucket to make the stuff. Fill 1/3 of the bucket with chicken waste and the rest is water. Close bucket with a lid, leaving smallest gap possible,then place it in the sunny location for a few days to brew. The smell and bubbling will let you know it is ready (10-20 days). Dilute before use: 1 cup of the mix to 1 gallon of water and use in your garden like you would a miricle grow. Beware of wonderful and strong plant growth!

  3. Hi Claire, I have been using chicken manure for my cashew plants for three years now and the results are amazing. I have been thinking whether one can use earthworms while making chicken manure compost. Please do let me know.

  4. Mask doesn’t help with ammonia fumes. Mask is for keeping dust out of your lungs, and roundworm eggs off your lips… If you have high ammonia levels in your coop, you’re overcrowded and have too much moisture in your coop. Try a sand substrate. For protection against ammonia fumes, or any other fumes, you need a respirator with the cannisters to absorb the compound.

    1. Roundworm eggs off your lips???? Omg, what are you talking about..I am panicking now. Do they fly invisibly in the air??

      1. Dust flies, and roundworm eggs are in the dust. Just like human pinworm: 20% of all the children on any playground have pinworms (notice children scratching at their butts?) Pinworm eggs are so light they float on air currents, and can be on picture frames on your wall! Don’t get paranoid; aside from a pain in the butt (pun intended) washing and drying all clothing, bedding, towels, etc. on HOT, over & over, and treating with a vermifuge (worm-killer medication) nothing awful will happen if your kids get them; just another delight like the fall & winter spread of head lice… Roundworms, frequently ingested by children playing around woodpiles, are more serious. Also easily treated, UNtreated they can encyst in the brain. No picnics by the woodpile, kids.

        1. If it makes you feel better; black pepper will kill pinworms, so in the event that you are worried you could get an infection just make sure to put a few dashes of ot on your food.
          Ive killed full blown pinworm infections in my farm cats by putting a pinch into some soft catfood for them.

  5. Don’t forget letting your chickens scratch around in the compost. They’ll do most of the turning for you! And they’ll get some delicious worms and bugs.
    We’re into our second year of gardening and having chickens already our heavy clay soil is easier to work and grow. I suspect in a few years we’ll have glorious soil!

  6. I’ve gardened with chickens for years & learned a few things along the way. Tried to keep about 10 layers & a rooster. I had to enclose their ‘run’ (8’x16′) to keep coons etc out. I put almost ALL scraps in it (not meat though) & leaves. they scratched thru it all day & I let them out when I got home in the evening. the ‘scratch’ that fell thru the fencing was black gold & used as needed & where appropriate. The coop itself had at least 1 foot of chainsaw sawdust (quite thicker than woodworking dust). I replaced it every spring. the chickens loved it for the ‘dust’ (read ‘No parasites’). It was VERY easy to maintain. Every 2 years I moved the whole coop-run to the next section of my garden. Whatever I planted in that bed was on steroids. I did keep them out of the garden cuz they are destructive in their own way.

    1. Could you clarify the “‘scratch’ that fell thru the fencing”. Do you mean the side fencing? or is the run raised with a slat floor?

      1. Chickens scratch in your compost & fling it everywhere. It will fall through the holes in fence.
        I don’t have a fence so I rake it back up in pile almost every day,

    2. Great fertilizer, but do remember that dust of any sort is very bad for lungs. Yours, your childrens, your chickens, your dog…and any dust containing silicates can lead to the need for a lung transplant. Don’t be hysterical about it, but do be prudent.

  7. I love all your information and the way you bring it forth. I am 72 and never get tired of learning. I have 2 white leg horns and 1 polish. When I was much younger and my husband was alive we had as many as 50. Keep up the wonderful job you are doing.

  8. Love this post. We are about to embark on the world of back yard chickens. We would love to replicate your compost bins. Do you know the dimensions of the bins?

  9. Excellent article. It is better to make natural fertilizer rather than to any chemical that can harm the food and would also be bad for the health.

  10. Hi! I live in western Oregon. We usually get a lot of rain. I was wondering if your style of compost bins would work where it rains like this. Would I need to cover them and add occasional water myself? I’ve never composted before. One year, I tried to use horse poop that had wintered. The broccoli I planted grew about 6 ft tall and was thin and spindly. Everything else did well. The funny part was, we brought over small tractor wagon full of the house poop and dumped it in the garden area. I looked at it and was thinking it was going to be a lot of work talking it all out. Then went to get another load of poop. When I came back, our 8 chickens (free range) had been hard at work scratching in the pile and had it almost all raked out. We dumped 2 more loads and left it till the next day. The girls had happily spread it all over the garden area so all that we had to do was till it.

    1. Coop sawdust is great fertilizer, but do remember that dust of any sort is very bad for lungs. Yours, your childrens, your chickens, your dog…and any dust containing silicates can lead to the need for a lung transplant. Don’t be hysterical about it, but do be prudent.
      “Wintered” horse poop is not the same thing as composted. Composting requires heat, generated by the breakdown of the products. Your broccoli grew so high and spindly because of the high nitrogen content, and low phosphorus and potash, of the non-composted horse manure.
      Oregon: you might need to cover the tops of your bins in the wet season. Compost should be moist, but not wet/soggy.

  11. I have a love/ hate relationship with auto correct and hate it when something goes out with errors. “House poop” I hope you figured out was supposed to be “horse poop”. “Talking it all out” was meant to be “raking it all out”. Sorry.

    1. Agree with you on that. It isn’t often that it corrects to the word you’re looking for. But, I think we can all figure out what we are all trying to say

  12. Great tips!! A couple months ago, a hen adopted us. Not sure where she came from. Neighbors all have Rhode Island Reds. Anyways, we have been planning to start up with a dozen hens come spring. I’ve worked up the plans for my coop and will start building it in a couple weeks. Henrietta our adopted hen has become a pet. She literally follows me and talks as she goes. At night she literally yells at me to bring her in. I spoiled her one night when the temps dropped to the teens. Normally, she would high tail it to my neighbors gigantic tree and stay there all night. Her new home is my laundry room. I bring her in around dusk . I made a make shift roosting pole and lay down paper. Her bedtime treat is canned corn and peas. She rapidly eats part of it and pieces of flour tortillas. SPOILED ROTTEN!!! Come spring, I’m sure she’ll hate me when the coop will be her new home. Lol??!! Funny, she looks just like this chicken icon, not sure how old she is, she payed a large egg one evening that splattered on the floor of the laundry room. It had a nice dark yellow yolk and was equivalent to an x-large egg.

    I’ve gone on and on. Just wanted to share and love ALL comments. I’ve gotten some great ideas for my soon to be flock. Have a GREAT day ladies!!!

    1. Omg Thank you for the laughs this morning. I am new to the site. And a daydreamer of homesteading. My squirrels have started a pecan tree for me. I have lettuce green onion and potatoes growing in my kitchen and I think a pumpkin seed might be sprouting….LoL have an amazing day.

    2. I knew someone who would bring in new or sick or injured chickens; she had a lovely home, and she let them roost on the firewood destined for burning in the fireplace. The chickens felt (and were) safe, and the couple enjoyed “coffee with friends” in the mornings!

  13. I have chickens and for the science fair this am doing an esposé on witch bedding works best to dilute the nitrogen in chicken manure, so that it can be used directly in your garden. Any tips?

  14. Hello,and thanks for the interesting article. I have a two-sided tumbler compost bin and this is our first summer with chickens. I was so excited to use the chicken manure/bedding in my composter. Since I started, however, I have read a lot about nitrogen starvation caused my the wood shavings. I have stopped adding the bedding to one side of my tumbler and am only adding “greens” at this point to try to even it out. Do you have an ideal ratio of bedding to greens that you would recommend? Thank you!

  15. I read an article that said not to use chicken manure as compost because of possible salmonella being spread to vegetables. How is that risk alleviated?

  16. I picked up some chicken poop at our local farm. It was filled with what I think are round worms. Definitely not earth worms. I am very reluctant to put in garden. I read theses worms will eat the plants. And I am afraid of the eggs from the worms and I will be infested for life! Thanks for any advice you can give

    1. More likely to be maggots. Roundworms are about 1-1/2″ long, about the color thickness of cooked angel hair pasta (very thin spaghetti noodles) and pointed on both ends. They twist and writhe outside of the hosts body, and dry out fairly quickly. Usually an animal passes only one or a few at a time unless they had a heavy infestation and just got wormed.

  17. None. Don’t use it directly. This doesn’t mean your project is a bust; part of science is DiSproving a hypothesis.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *