Chicken Powered Compost System

We started our new chicken powered compost system one month ago when we finished our new chicken run. The chickens will make us compost whilst producing food for the chickens. This is part of our wider Keela Yoga Farm chicken system.

The ingredients that we put into the chicken compost system is sometimes eaten by the chickens, the rest they help turn into compost. The compost pile will also be filled with organisms which the chickens will eat. This system produces food for chickens and compost for the rest of the farm.

Chicken Powered Compost
Chickens loving the compost pile in the chicken run!

How does the chicken compost system work?

  1. We make a wall of manure from the deep bedding of our pigs, sheep and chicken houses and then daily add inputs for the compost such as food scraps, weeds, wood chips, old straw, hay, charcoal, sprouted seeds, greywater system cleanouts and anything biodegradable that we come across such as kombucha scobies and leftover whey from making cheese.
  2. The wall is so that the items that the chickens don’t eat will get scratched into the pile and not down the run.
  3. After a week or so the chickens scratch the mound/wall flat and then I remake the wall again slightly downhill giving the chickens access to worms and insects.

This is as far as we have got with the new system as it is only a month old but the next steps are as follows:

  1.  I will mound the compost up into a pile which will get scratched flat and downhill again by the chickens.
  2. We will keep mounding it up until it reaches the bottom of the run as finished compost.
  3. Each time a compost pile is mounded up we will start a new wall at the top of the run with aged manure for the new inputs to the compost.
  4. I hope that the system will have four compost piles moving down the run, one accepting new ingredients, two composting down and one ready to be taken to the garden.

Grey Water

When our chickens free ranged we always noticed they were drawn to our greywater systems, so the Keela Community house for our students and guests has it’s greywater going straight into the new chicken run.

grey water system chickens
The greywater system in the chicken run

Greywater from the kitchen goes into a ditch full of wood chips. In the mornings when the chickens are let out, they will run down and eat the food scraps that come with the water from the kitchen sink. This becomes full of bacteria too which break down the wood chips. The water is somewhat filtered and the chickens and the elderberry tree drink this water.

Every couple of months all the wood chips will be removed and added to the compost system in the same chicken run to become part of our compost system. This is an easy way to clean out the greywater system and have the water flow well again.

Animal deep bedding for building the compost pile wall

We use animal deep bedding or aged manure to build the wall of the compost pile in the compost system.

Inside the chicken house
Deep bedding inside the chicken house consisting of weeds, broom and charcoal
Deep bedding in the pig house
Deep bedding in our pig house. The pigs sleep in here when they are not out on pasture.
Sheep Deep bedding
Sheep deep bedding, the sheep are out on pasture each day and sleep in this pen at night

Check back or follow us on social media for updates to the compost system and the rest of the chicken system.

Thank you to Edible Acers farm for many videos on how a good chicken compost system works.

4 thoughts on “Chicken Powered Compost System

  1. […] CHICKEN SYSTEM: When the chickens are let out they run down the to greywater pit (full of woodchips)...
  2. Steve Reply

    I guess your not worried about chickens slowing the composting process significantly by exposing the compost piles insides to sterilizing sunlight and losing heat? I looked at such a system a while back and quickly found that chickens do everything that stops making compost, including eating the green waste required for good compost. It seems that you have poor soil lacking organic matter, have you considered mulching the entire run and turning it into a chicken orchard of sorts?

    Why the deep bedding for the chickens outside nesting boxes? Have you considered using one of the excess pig houses on your yard for the sheep? the shelter should help them retain energy and thus weight/feed conversion.

    Seems like its fairly labor intensive at this stage for a small part of your farm, which Ive found seems to be one many weaknesses of the permaculture movement in aus – which is why I suspect all of them require subsidies from training and donations. I don’t mean to antagonize, just playing devils advocate.

    1. Laurence Manchee Reply

      Hi steve thanks for your comment. Actually the chickens really help the composting process by both scratching the compost to find things to eat. they break down lumps of ingredients into finer powder which make it easier for the bacteria to break down. they also deposit nitrogen straight into it which keeps the compost fired up. we have been making compost by many methods and this one gives one of the best results so if it was more work it is worth it. however, we find it is less labour-intensive than our other composting methods and I enjoy managing it more so it gets looked after better. You should see how much the chickens love the worms and bugs in the compost.

      as this system expands we hope it will reduce our chicken feed costs further as they get to eat so much life in the compost. to maximise this i just need to improve the irrigation to the compost and shade (which is coming later from the growing trees in the run: 2 mulberry, olive, neem, apricot, pawpaw, lowquot, elderberry and fig).

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