Homesteading and Livestock

Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.

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Coffee Chaff Chicken Coop Litter

1/4/2010 11:54:04 AM

Tags: Lyanda Haupt, urban homesteading, chickens

My friend David Ruggiero is working on a new project called “Upcycling Northwest.”  Upcycling, of course, is the in-word for smarter/better recycling, making use of the energy in the initial production of something, rather than using more energy to break it down into raw materials–or, as David puts it, finding “the highest and best re-use for the material rather than the easiest or most obvious.”  David is sure that there is more to upcycling than making arty handbags out of gum wrappers. With Upcycling Northwest, he’s trying to hook folks up with useful industrial castoffs.  And in Seattle, what better place to start than with the coffee industry?

A few weeks ago, David sent an email around to his many intrepid gardener friends, inviting us to try out coffee bean chaff–the light, airy husks blown off the beans during roasting–as mulch and compost.  I said “sure,” and it wasn’t long before David darkened my doorstep with a big bag of the fluffy stuff.

Coffee Chaff Litter

I admit I wasn’t feeling super-hopeful about the mulch idea–the chaff is so soft and light, and the winter garden is so wet and mucky–I thought I might wait until spring.  But David mentioned he’d been using it in place of wood chips in the chicken coop, and that captured my imagination.  Next time I cleaned out the coop, I replaced the white wood shavings with a few inches of coffee chaff.

Coffee Chaff Chicken

The chickens were hilarious.  Like cats, they can be unnerved by novelty, and I wasn’t sure what they would think of their new chaffy home.  But they all immediately ran into the coop, and started “playing” in the chaff, tossing it up with their bills.  SO funny.  There are pros and cons to coffee chaff in the chicken coop, but on balance, I’ve decided to keep using it.  Here’s my report:

Cons: So light that it flies around, gets in the chicken water.  Turns slimy when wet.

Pros: Free!  Upcycled!  No link to the timber industry.  Smells like coffee.  Light–easy to handle.  Clumps with chicken poop a bit  like scoopable kitty litter–easy to remove from coop.  Swiftly composts.

Most coffee roasters will be happy to pass their chaff along to you. Just ask. Usually it is just tossed into the compost bin or, more often, the landfill.  Spent coffee grounds and over-roasted beans are often available as well (check out this little article by Seattle garden doyenne Ann Lovejoy about the many uses for coffee industry by-products–for mulch, compost, garden paths…).  Coffee chaff is rich in nitrogen and other nutrients, and I look forward to mixing it with my vegetable garden mulch.  Tomatoes are reputed to love the stuff.  David is also looking into the use of those great burlap bags in which coffee is imported as a replacement for that plastic weed-blocking material (see his website for info on obtaining and using post-coffee burlap).   More to come on all of this…

Meanwhile, if you are a latte-sipping urban chicken farmer, I hope you’ll give coffee bean chaff a try in your coop, and let us know how it works for you!


Photos by Tom Furtwangler


Lyanda Haupt is a Seattle-based author, naturalist, and backyard  homesteader/chicken keeper.  Her latest book is Crow Planet: Essential Wisdom from the Urban Wilderness and she blogs at The Tangled Nest.



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Post a comment below.

 

Mishi Robinson
1/24/2013 10:08:45 PM
I am completely enamored with the idea of using coffee chaff in the garden and chicken coops. I just learned about it yesterday and have already found a local roasting company that is willing to work out a way for me to obtain their chaff. Sooooo excited to try it out! Thank you for the great idea. :-)

Chris Rosenquest
5/10/2012 12:47:13 AM
SeattleBurlap.com still has chaff for both coop and garden use. This is a fantastic article which explains both the pros and cons for its use. And using a reclaimed product like chaff or reclaimed burlap is a great way to contribute positively to the environment.

Jesso Espresso
6/28/2011 5:00:53 PM
How cool, after reading this, I found a local coffee roasting company in Salt Lake City about 20 minutes away from home, and they are willing to give me their coffee chaff for my coop! I plan on composting it too and using it in the garden. I'm new to chicken keeping. How often should a coop be cleaned out then? I have 5 chicks.

FirkinGood
6/14/2011 9:00:54 AM
We've been using chaff and burlap bags on our property for years now. I work for a coffee roaster and can get plenty for our place. We use the burlap sacks paired with cardboard for sheet mulching. Works wonderfully. Putting the bags down between the rows after everything is growing helps with walkway weeds getting into your beds as well.

Terry Golson
6/14/2011 7:48:27 AM
I feed my hens kitchen scraps, which include my daily coffee grounds. I haven't noticed any strange behavior! However, it's a small percentage of what they eat. BTW, I tried cocoa mulch in my garden, but had to stop as the dogs ate it. Chocolate is lethal to dogs - so do be careful. Caffeine is not good for many animals - but chickens seem to be immune!

George_41
6/14/2011 12:56:52 AM
Ok; I've got to ask this question: Does the coffee chaff contain any caffeine, and does this make it into the chickens? I'm picturing a couple hundred hyped-up birds pacing back and forth across the ground, and even scaring off the foxes. :-)

Terry Golson
6/13/2011 7:11:15 PM
As long as bedding is absorbent and the chickens don't eat it, it's fine. I imagine the coffee chaff smells wonderful. I do want to put my 2¢ in about keeping coops clean. It is good for chickens to have access to dirt and a compost pile. They'll get plenty of beneficial organisms there. However, it is essential for suburban and urban chicken keepers to keep their coops fastidiously clean. It'll keep down the flies, the vermin and the smell. Your eggs will be clean. It will make you a good neighbor. I have poultry books from the 1800's and they also say to keep the "village hennery" clean. There are people who use the deep litter method - but that is as carefully done as having a truly "hot" compost. It's not just a matter of not cleaning frequently. Deep litter needs to be the right moisture and it needs turning and it is not practical in small urban coops. It's quite easy to keep a coop clean. You can see mine at HenCam.com.

Suzie_2
4/9/2010 10:04:34 PM
Sorry - I had just changed my email - Wanted to know if coffee chaff had to be organic or if traditional coffee chaff was okay?

Michele' Preston
3/26/2010 8:10:18 PM
I love this idea, problem though is where to I got it?...hunted the web & found places in the Northwest but none for the Northeast. I live in Massachusetts & would love to be able to do this with my chicken coop. Can someone help me find it please.

Jessika
3/25/2010 5:15:39 PM
I just started using coffee chaff in my coop. It is so much fun. Previously, I used straw, but that can be very harsh on my hands (and chicken feet). Plus, it is not nearly as fun to play in, as my chicken will attest. It is a much better cover than straw, and it does not smell as bad as pine shavings (probably better on respiratory systems too). I plan on keeping it around. I keep a pretty clean coop (but not TOO clean), and my chickens seem to like it just fine.

Ann_35
1/20/2010 10:17:21 PM
THIS COMMENT IS FOR LYDIA,It is best that you not keep your coop fatidiously clean. Old chicken farmers will tell you that there is much benefit from bacteria that grows on the chicken poop. Your chickens will be the healthier for it. Clean is not always good. An old farmer, Ann in Arizona

Lydia_6
1/20/2010 3:36:29 PM
This article was amazing! We have pet hens and try to be fastidious about their sleeping room which means we are constantly buying wood shavings and eating hay for their bedding. While we do not live in Seattle there are a couple of coffee roasters in our area, one of whom I called today. He was super about the idea and will be bringing some by soon. In return he gets fresh eggs. Not a bad barter... We also have a garden so we do put the shavings in the soil and are looking forward to adding the coffee chaff as well in the future. Now if we could just find enough coffee chaff for the kitty boxes!!!










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