Why everyone doesn’t have chickens, I don’t know. Chickens are some of the easiest animal to keep and they are incredibly useful. Besides supplying eggs, they eat a ton of bugs, provide valuable fertilizer for your garden, make great pets and are fun to have around. You can also always eat them if you are so inclined.
I recently put our chickens to work for us in another way. We do a lot of composting around here, the old plants and leaves that come out of the garden typically go straight to the compost pile. We have old hay and straw from the horses, grass and weeds from mowing, chicken and horse manure and all our kitchen scraps. Normally a good compost pile requires a lot of turning and time to make sure temperatures get hot enough and everything breaks down evenly. Not long ago I decided to build a simple cage from 1/4″ hardware cloth inside our chicken pen with some steps for them to get in and out easily and began filling it, in hopes that the chickens could save me some work. My base layer came from cleaning the chicken coop itself. Old hay and chicken manure is some of the best composting material you can get your hands on. Plus it gave me a great excuse to give the coop an extra thorough cleaning. I then added leaves and plant scraps from the garden, some oak leaves I raked up and the clippings from the lawn mower. I thoroughly wetted everything down and let the chickens go to work. They are busy creatures and scratch constantly, so they do an excellent job of turning the compost themselves. Every day I add our kitchen scraps and some greens from the garden and they quickly devour what they like and scratch the rest right into the compost. This has the added bonus of giving caged chickens something to do so they don’t get bored and some extra nutritious feed, cutting down on our feed bill. The hardware cloth contains the compost while allowing it to get enough air circulation and is easily assembled and disassembled. I put the whole thing together in about 15 minutes with materials left over from other projects. If you purchase all the material new you should be able to build this for under $50 and it will last for ever.
After two weeks things are starting to look pretty good.
I do turn the pile by hand several times, just to make sure everything is cooking and looks good, but I have found that this is a much easier and quicker way to compost than other methods I have used. Plus it is very entertaining for the chickens and helps cut down on the feed bill.
Simple DIY Chicken Compost Pile
Things you will need:
- 20 Feet of 1/4 inch hardware cloth (3 ft tall)
- (4) 3 foot T-posts
- Wire for tying ends
- 6-8 cinder blocks or something else for steps
Pound your four T-posts into the ground in a 5×5 foot square. Attach 20 feet of 1/4 inch hardware cloth to posts with wire or twine. Leave one side that is easy to open for turning compost and removal. Stack blocks or whatever you decide to use for steps. Add compost material and let your chickens go to work!