How Do You Tell When Chicken Manure is Fully Composted?
I'm asking this question for a friend of mine. She owns chickens -- about 25 right now. She's had this batch for about 3 months. The chickens are not given antibiotics or anything like that. They are fed regular chicken feed. They do get outside, but are not "free range" in the sense that I'd be concerned about them eating a lot of weed seeds that they'd pass along in the manure. Right now she has a pretty good sized pile of henhouse "material" - basically it's straw mixed with chicken droppings. She wanted to put it straight on her vegetable garden, but I said NO, wait. It was VERY ripe, very strong smelling, so I knew it wasn't composted. We raised chickens when I was a child so I knew enough from that experience to know that the only time we spread fresh manure was when the garden was dormant in the fall. Otherwise it would burn the plants. But how do you tell when the manure is ready? I told her it would be ready when you could no longer smell it. Is that enough? Or does the straw also need to break down more? She has it in a wire bin in sunlight, and she does turn it. Wouldn't you think it would be safe to put on her garden after her harvest is complete, even if it isn't completely broken down, or isn't there any benefit to that? After all, that would be late fall, and there wouldn't be much more "decomposition" over the winter. There is no concern about running out of space for composting as they have two empty bins, and room to build more if needs be. Any suggestions would be much appreciated. MacThayer