Besides giving us four fresh, deeply flavorful, free-range eggs every day and providing us with endless amusement, our hens are prodigiously productive fertilizer factories.

We have four laying hens. Each of them lays one beautiful brown egg every 24 hours. By the end of each week, we’ve put 28 eggs inBohyEggsInBowl the fridge. In a single year, that’s 1,456, or 121 dozen eggs. Allowing for inevitable breakage and an occasional off day for each hen, it’s still more than enough to feed Vicki and me, and share the largess with friends and neighbors.

But when it comes to pooping, the numbers dwarf the egg arithmetic.

First, we have to add Larry the rogue rooster into the mix, for a total of five chickens. At this point, it gets a little tricky to figure out their raw fertilizer production in a year. I’ve found various estimates that come pretty close to 45 pounds per chicken per year, for a total 225 pounds. In itself, that’s a pretty impressive statistic. But my back tells me we’re talking about a much bigger number.

Chickens, of course, produce other waste – the urine that combines with their poop to soak the bedding in their coop. (How funkily poetic.) We use well-dried straw, and I’ve found that even with spreading a fresh layer over the soiled, it’s still necessary to clean it all out and replace it about once a week. Until yesterday, that went into a pile inside a rustic dog kennel that was left on the property when we bought it. Left to it’s own devices, the pile would eventually decompose into rich, loamy and valuable compost. But it’s an inefficient way to produce finished fertilizer.

BohyComposterCornerDetailDuring a recent trip to town to visit our local farm co-op for the fun of picking out vegetable and flower seed for this season’s gardens, I noticed that the boys were busy on the loading dock out back, shuttling around wood pallets stacked high with new merchandise.

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