chicken manure from commercial farm

henshaw21(7)January 27, 2012

Hi. I have access to chicken manure from a local farmer who raises chickens commercially (ie a large chicken house, thousands of chickens in a single house; not to be confused with a farmer who has a few chickens in a coup simply to get eggs). My question is, is it safe to use this chicken manure in my compost? Almost certainly these chickens are fed non-organic feed (I've heard there's antibiotics, etc in the feed). I'm guessing bagged manure sold at a garden/hardware store would come from a similar commercial operation, so wondering if it's ok to use in my compost? Thanks!

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Like many composting questions, the answer may be 'it depends'.

Mostly it depends on your composting system, patience, and knowledge. And what percentage of your compost total your chicken manure is.

No doubt you will receive replies from a number of forum posters, perhaps with differing opinions. If you want short articles on the subject, do a browser search (outside Gardenweb), 'chicken manure safe'.

And of course, use the 'Search' feature here, 'chicken' or 'manure' in this forum. If you do not find enough info (not a problem in this case), select the same Search but for all the forums.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2012 at 12:56PM
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Thanks. I've searched around the internet with mixed results. Most information doesn't differentiate between commercial fed/organic fed chicken manure. Regarding my compost would be a sizeable pile, easily large enough to heat up. It would be an open pile sitting directly on the ground (no bin or cage - right out in the open). The manure would be mixed with shredded leaves. The ratio would be 2 parts leaves to 1 part manure (if that's not the best ratio I'm all ears). The one downside is I would not be able to tend to the pile as much as I'd like for turning etc. And lastly, I would be able to let this pile sit quite a while (however long it takes until its fully cured).

    Bookmark   January 27, 2012 at 5:12PM
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The only way to be sure is to test a sample or make all your on compost.
I would use the CM & test the finished compost.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2012 at 6:59PM
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I'm interested in the answers as I am about to ask a similar question. Realizing that all commercial feeds for livestock are gmo grains based, I wonder if that would carry through the digestive process and composting process to affect the soil/ microbes/etc in any bad way.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2012 at 8:11PM
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Chickens raised in factories, where they are kept in cages too small to move around, are fed foods loaded with antibiotics to help prevent diseases from spreading. The manure they produce has these antibiotics in it. At the very least these antibiotics can allow disease pathogens to develop resistance which will mean (already does) that we have nothing to fight off these disease pathogens if we are exposed.
Whether the Genetically Engineered organisms will cause any problem is simply not known since no research has been done to determine that.
A farm bill that was working its way through the Michigan legislature last year required that chickens must be given a minimum of 76 square inches of space. An 8-1/2 x 11 sheet of paper is 96 square inches.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2012 at 6:53AM
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The chicken houses in VA I'm referring to do not keep chickens in small cages. Although crowded, they are free to roam around multi-thousand sq ft chicken houses. Agreed they are fed antibiotic filled feed (and who knows what else). My original question is centered more around the resulting cured compost from this chicken manure. In other words, will the composting process 'resolve' any issues that may be caused from using chicken manure from chickens feeding on non-organic feed? Could the cured compost be tested as jojl mentioned? If so, how? Thanks!

    Bookmark   January 28, 2012 at 9:26AM
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Why would anyone care if, for instance, the genes from a natural bacterium and natural chemicals that infects grubs is in digested grain remains when the dead grub itself would be a carefree addition to the compost pile? We happily compost materials with a vast amount of naturally occuring plant chemicals associated with resisting diseases and pests, and incidentally include a vast number of pest and decomposer invertebrates, not all of whom are feeling all that well.

The arsenic that was or maybe still is in poultry feed and routine medicines is of a bigger and more-real concern,

    Bookmark   January 28, 2012 at 9:54AM
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ralleia(z5 Omaha, NE)

You might ask the farmer what feed and supplements that he uses for his chickens. Then research the composition of that feed to rule out anything that you don't want in your compost.

You might also want to consider posting your question to the BackYard Chickens forum, an EXTREMELY active board of chicken enthusiasts with quite a few people who know a LOT about chickens, to include chicken poop and chicken feed.

I'd post the question to the "Feeding & Watering Your Flock," since it seems most directly related to the feed.

Personally, I would tend to go ahead and use it, at least for ornamentals.

Another important thing to note is whether the farmer raises the chickens for meat birds or egg production--that will affect the type of feed used. From the sounds of it, it sounds like meat birds.

Here is a link that might be useful: BackYard chickens

    Bookmark   January 28, 2012 at 10:15AM
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If I were you I would look for another chicken farm that feed their chicken with organic foods, in this way you can be sure that the manure is safe to use. Chicken that are raised from factories are fed with several medication.

Here is a link that might be useful: Chicken Farm

    Bookmark   February 8, 2012 at 3:00PM
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There are factory farms that allow their chickens to range on an enclosed pen that is still very crowded and no grass or "weeds" growing there. This resulting manure will still be loaded with antibiotics (not just used to supress diseases).
There are a few chicken farms that raise their birds on pasture and the birds live in relatively small coops that can be moved around, called chicken tractors. That is the kind of chicken manure I would be looking for.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 7:54AM
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The chicken-tractor model is designed to provide limited free ranging over multiple areas, the chickens are still confined but they are constantly moved. A part of the reasoning behind this is to reduce the concentration of manure deposits - it is deposited in the areas where the chickens are ranging. There is no appreciable manure to be collected from chicken-tractor operations.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 11:13AM
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toxcrusadr(Zone 6a - MO)

Personally I would be more concerned about pathogens in the manure itself (e coli, salmonella etc.) than about the residual antibiotics creating superbugs in my garden. Just my opinion. So I would want to have a good hot pile and plenty of curing time. If you can achieve that you should be OK.

I do think the antibiotics are an important issue that needs to be dealt with on a larger scale.

kimmsr used the phrase 'genetically engineered' to describe resistant pathogens, but this is actually a selection process (albeit an unnatural one) rather than the act of directly monkeying with genes. I only mention this because gonebananas followed up on it. We have enough to discuss with the original question without bringing in other controversies to further muddy (manure) the waters. :-]

jolj suggested using the manure and then testing it. For what? would be my question. Nutritional value? OK, but if it's a good mix of ingredients and a well managed pile it will be very nutritious. Antibiotics? Pathogens? Big $$$$ for questionable gain.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 12:53PM
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toxcrusadr(Zone 6a - MO)

Arsenic, being a metal that doesn't break down, concerns me more than antibiotics, which will (sooner or later).

I was frankly shocked to read just now about arsenic-containing drugs used in chicken feed to combat a particular pathogen. However, I also read that elevated arsenic found in chicken parts (such as the liver, which I feed to my sweet kitty!) as well as the manure issue and the fact that chicken waste is fed to COWS...all this apparently led to the discontinuing of that practice in 2011. So the chicken poo should be free of arsenic, but you can always ask the chicken farmer to be sure.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 1:02PM
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"large chicken house, thousands of chickens in a single house; not to be confused with a farmer who has a few chickens in a coup simply to get eggs"

Do not use it just based on this.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 1:40PM
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There have been some studies that show that the composting process can have some mitigating effects on non-organic residual matter in manures, but certain chemicals, arsenic and some medicines among them, have proven to be surprisingly persistent. Other studies have shown some benefit from fungal or plant growth in further reducing these residues. I would use this material only after a fairly rigorous composting regime, carefully managing heat levels at first to kill off possible pathogenic organisms, then doing a long slow composting second stage that incorporates wood chips or sawdust to encourage fungal activity and balance the high levels of nitrogen. I would not use this compost earlier than 6 months after commencement of this second stage, and think waiting even longer would be prudent.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 1:42PM
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Aaack. I've just started learning about the arsenic in chicken manure and it has me a little worried. I've used chicken manure in my garden for the last few years... I'm wondering now if I've poisoned my soil with arsenic.

Should we all be racing out and getting soil tests to test for arsenic? Or is it more a matter of quantity?


    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 8:55PM
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In your case, a blood test might be a better option. Some studies show that arsenic uptake in plants is reduced in soils with a high content of organic matter.

Here is a link that might be useful: Aaak! Arsenic!

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 9:47PM
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ralleia(z5 Omaha, NE)

Hey, I'm a Kristina, too!

Where did you get your chicken manure from?

From what I have read, the arsenic-containing compound is an ingredient called "Roxarsone." It was used in medicated feeds fed to broiler birds (chickens raised for rapid growth to be slaughtered for meat very young). It wasn't fed to laying hens (unless there was a mix-up).

Broiler feed is more expensive than layer feed, being higher protein, so there would be no financial incentive to feed laying hens the higher-priced broiler rations.

Can you tell us a bit more about the source of your manure?

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 9:50PM
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tox, you misread what I wrote, again. The Genetically Engineered organisms I refered to are not the disease pathogens but the genes that are artificially inserted into a plants DNA that makes them resistant to, say, one companies herbicide.
I use Genetically Engineered organisms in preference to Genetically Modified because an F1 hybrid is Genetically Modified.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2012 at 7:28AM
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I believe that most, if not all of the antibiotics,pathogens,GEO's,will be inert in the finished compost.
The reason for testing is to know for sure.
As for the arsenic or any of the others, if you are losing sleep, test the fruit of your Vine.
I have always composted my manures, then tilled them in the soil of the beds 8 weeks before planting.
A very few times I have added fresh(not composted) manures to new beds.
I always wait 120 days to plant.
I make the bed in Fall & plant in the Spring, sometimes it is more then 120 days.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2012 at 12:39PM
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