These things poop. They poop a lot. Out of their bum. Owning backyard chickens has kind of forced me into becoming a composter. I mean the poop! So much poop! And straw and pine shavings and poop. Once a month or so this outdoor run of the chickens gets entirely cleaned out and new straw put down. What to do with all the dirty straw and poop? I could either throw it at people walking by or I could compost it. For the first 6 months I went with throwing it at people which was a LOT of fun. But I got bored of that so now I compost it. Chickens There are a huge number of options for your actual composting bin. You can build one out of wood slats, or buy  one of these great tumbling composters. I got this model, which I chose from the side of the road. Which is what I do with many of the things in my life. Tables, chairs, composters, cats. All from the side of the road. Compost Bin But the truth is you don’t need to buy anything. It’s ugly, but you can just cover your compost with a dark tarp. (dark attracts the sun and makes your compost heat up more easily) Compost With Tarp   All of the nice clean straw you see here, will become the dark looking compost you see under the tarp within a couple of weeks.  IF you hot compost properly.

Hot composting (The Berkley method) is a method where a large pile of organic matter is created and brought to high temperature over and over again.

Regular composting has you adding bits and pieces over time.  This type of compost is great, but can take a year or two to completely break down.  I don’t have room for that much chicken poop and straw in my yard.  I needed a way to compost quickly.

You need to follow a few rules in terms of what you put into your compost pile and how big it is.  Your compost pile needs to be big.  BIG.  The bigger it is the easier time you’ll have getting it to heat up and become actual compost. In terms of what you add to your compost pile, to make it easy add 2 parts “green” material to 1 part “brown”.   Compost With Tarp 2   Composting is all based on the reactions between Nitrogen, Carbon, heat and moisture. Untitled 1   If you have the proper ratio of greens to browns within a couple of days of making your large compost pile you’ll notice it will get hot. This pile is at around 130°F.  The first time your pile heats up it will smell like a decrepit old rock star.  Who has incontinence issues. Compost Temperature   If you have the right amount of heat your pile will be steaming hot, but keep an old thermometer around to check the temperature so you know exactly how hot it is.  135 – 150 is ideal, but almost impossible to achieve.  Be happy if there’s steam and it’s over 130 or so.  The stink only lasts for a day or two at which point the micro-organisms start breaking down your organic material into happy smelling compost.   Steaming Compost   You can see the inside of the actual compost “bin” is steaming as well. (this pile also has shredded paper in it along with the straw and poop) In a day or two your pile will quit.  It will stop being hot.  You will get angry and consider going back to throwing it at people.  Do NOT succumb to this temptation.  Your pile NOW needs to have more oxygen and possibly water added to it. These two things are needed to get the compost moving and shaking again.  Like a decrepit old rock star after a stadium show, if you give him oxygen and water … he’ll bounce back and be ready for action in no time. In my research on the Internet I’ve found that not nearly enough emphasis is given to keeping your pile damp.  Not sopping wet, but definitely damp. So once your pile has cooled down, turn it and mix it.  This will move the compost from the outside of the pile to the inside (where it gets hotter).  It will also add much needed oxygen to the mixture. Then, if the pile seems dry, water it.   Steaming Compost 2   If you happen to have chickens you can let them do the work of turning the pile.  Just let them loose on it for a day and it’ll be all mixed up and turned ready to start heating up again.  Otherwise, that tumbling compost bin I mentioned earlier makes turning your pile WAY easier.  You just turn the handle and the bin tumbles away. Chicken On Compost   If you maintain this schedule of monitoring the temperature,  aerating and keeping the pile damp you can have compost in as little as a month. Which coincidentally is also fun to throw at people. You’ll know you have compost when it looks like soil and SMELLS like soil. As opposed to smelling like Keith Richards.
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  1. Scarlette says:

    NIGHT CREATURES?!?! RATS?!?!?! oh my lord! I didnt know i was suppose to guard it?!? all these instructions!I thought you just dug a hole in the ground and mixed greens and browns..your suppose to layer it?? What if i didn’t layer it..and just threw a bunch of green and brown and mixed together then watered it… Im from the city..been in the country about a week this is all very unfamiliar to me.. have never gardened or any of that stuff let alone made a worm orgy lounge..

  2. Katina Moser says:

    Hi Karen, What is your take on using your compost for growing food that has the chicken poop in it? I have heard various concerns that it should sit for six months, if it has chicken poop in it and you are using it for growing vegetables.

  3. Mary W says:

    I was trying to explain compost to someone over the phone 1 day ago. I will now email him your link – thanks so much. Your blog really covers everything from poop to pucker.

  4. Rosemary says:

    Hi Karen, I love your blog!! So funny and creative. I too love century homes, you might want to protect your house bricks from the compost by sticking something in between the house and the compost material.

  5. TommyK says:

    Brilliant. How do you get it to stay together in a heap?

    • Karen says:

      Well, it just does TommyK. It’s damp when I pile it up and I keep it moist with the garden hose to help it break down faster. (compost needs to have moisture to break down). So it just stays in a big heap and gradually deteriorates into a slightly smaller heap. :) ~ karen

  6. Bob says:

    Why are there only chicks weighing in here? First, I laughed my arse off on this post, secondly, my 3 chickens crap more than Keith Richards and Mick Jagger on stool softner.

    I’m building me a compost square outta 16″ concrete blocks i have on hand and tarping the top. I will let the girls, and the meaner than Satan Red Rock rooster in there once a week.

  7. jenny says:

    So. About the chickens. And it’s probably written somewhere in the blog, but I haven’t found it yet. Do you raise them to eat, or are they true pets?

  8. Whoa, Karen, if hubby sees this he’ll want to get chickens just to EXPAND our compost bins. Sick…

    Slightly off-topic (well, not completely, they have to eat to poop), what do you think of this inventor dude’s gadget?

    • Ann says:

      I’m seeing your comment to Karen a year later. Re the chick feeder from PVC: My husband makes these out of 4″ PVC, and longer, and uses as deer feeders strapped to trees in the woods. Deer found them right away and brought all their friends. He makes them pretty tall so has to use a ladder to feed from the top, but they’re very successful. My only complaint is, they’re in the woods and I don’t get to see the deer feeding until they come to eat my flower beds into the ground in the fall and winter.

  9. Lynne says:

    Bad enough that I see pictures of Keith Richards occasionally on my travels through the internets. Now I have to contemplate what he smells like?

    Thanks Karen. Oh, and I love your blog.

  10. Cathy says:

    I think I want to paint one of your chickens you posted a few days ago…ok with you?

  11. Barbie says:

    OK, I have NO reason to NOT do this now….totally a waste for me NOT to compost with all the room I have here on my property! Instead of buying expensive organic fertilizer like we did this year! OH ME!

    PS: I look for Marti’s comments every time I read your posts! LOL she totally cracks me up!

  12. For the record, turning compost (properly) is an awesome core strengthener :)

  13. Chau says:

    Uh, this is excellent information, but probably not a good idea to read it while eating lunch at your desk :-)

  14. Elle Bee says:

    Just out of curiosity, are you using fresh seaweed? Or just leftover nori?

    • Karen says:

      LOL. I’m not using any seaweed. That info is just for the benefit of people in other parts of the world. ~ karen!

  15. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    I have a composter similar to yours..except I paid $100.00 for mine..I really really want one that tumbles..How easy would that be..sigh..

  16. Julia says:

    Have just read this with my 9 year old daughter…
    “Oh mummy, she is funny isn’t she?”

    • Karen says:

      LOL. I didn’t think this was a particularly funny one, I’ll have to go back and reread it! Tell your daughter she obviously has a very keen sense of humour. ~ karen!

  17. Jeannie B. says:

    We have one of those composters and used it for a while. But, it seemed to attract the night creatures, namely mice, rats and racoons. So we started getting compost from the Waste Management Centre , each Spring. Beautiful, black mountains of steaming rich compost that you could dig into and take as much of, as you could put into containers in your vehicle,all for a donation to the local food banks. No wonder you have such a wonderful garden Karen. Composting is the way to go. Especially when you raise chickens.

  18. Audrey says:

    Hi Karen ~ Your compost looks amazing!We compost everything here and always have enough. We’re chickenless though! Back to your vinyl tile floor for a sec. This might be worth trying, say, in the bathroom.
    1 C. water
    1 C. vinegar
    1 C. rubbing alcohol
    2-3 drops of dish washing soap

    I’d heard the soap part before from a vinyl tile salesperson. Just a thought!

  19. Cindy says:

    Do you have any excess compost, if so, what do you do with it? We are trying to recycle as much as possible. We have coffee grounds and fruit and veggie peels daily and yard clippings weekly. How many composters do you recommend or can I add to the comppster during the process?


  20. Ruth says:

    Is it odd that my first thought went along the line of: Hmmm… I wonder if there’s a way to harness all that heat for baking…

    Don’t give me that look. It’s ‘green’ energy, isn’t it? ^_^

  21. Haha….you are hilarious! I like your first option of throwing it! But it sure does make great soil! Way to go Karen.

  22. Jasper says:

    You are one hot mess !! The bum ? I’m still laughing. lol

  23. Caitlin says:

    Ever tried worm composting?

  24. Diane says:

    NOTE: do not leave your pile near your house! I learned that many moons ago when I had a grass clipping pile next to a wood house. I was able to meet some really nice looking firemen and several insurance adjusters. Just a word of warning, that the pile really does get quite hot. Flaming hot. Fire hot. Bettern than Mexican food hot.

    • Susan Preston says:

      You hear of barn fires all the time in the summer. Well that’s cause farmers put fresh hay in the barn too soon! Poof! Compost can get really hot especially under a plastic tarp that doesn’t breath. The firemen in our town are cute and capable but I just like to chat with them on the street. I like compost but away from fences, houses, chicken coops or neighbors!

  25. Melissa says:

    Geesh, even your compost looks neat and organized! *~*

  26. mayr says:

    Geeze. What don’t you do? I love your good brain.
    Thanks as always for sharing.

  27. Interesting info re brown and green, I’m off now to break up some egg cartons (which of course you don’t have!) and add them. I think my compost bin has had too much green.
    I draw the line at a compost heap though…too much like farming!

  28. Cherier says:

    Lifting my lighter in your honor.

    You write like a rock star, woman.

  29. Diane says:

    Hmm. Would have thought the chicken poop would have been included under the “Browns” category.. ;)

  30. Pam'a says:

    Seriously, there are lots of crazy city people who pay good money for chicken manure, so why not?

  31. Marti says:

    Why have your neighbors not had you arrested… yet?

    Karen, you had such a well done back yard… but it appears to need relatively little compost. The front yard is a veg garden, as we all know, but that’s going only going to need so much.

    At some point, is this going to become your side industry? “KFC Compost”? (KFC=Karen, Fella, Chickens) You could give it as prizes instead of the tea towels…

    Who knows who might love your crap-in-a-bag!

  32. Kim from Milwaukee says:

    Well done Karen! We all need to return nutrients back to the earth, they don’t belong in the landfills. Your garden will be a jungle!

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