Chicken Manure in the Garden: Build a Bigger Coop to Take Advantage of the Poop

Get free, top-quality chicken manure fertilizer by expanding the size of your chicken coop with this advice from Gene Logsdon’s book “Holy Shit: Managing Manure to Save Mankind.”

| January 4, 2011

Holy Shit

Our society throws away animal and human manure worth billions of dollars in fertilizer value, all while the supply of mined or chemically synthesized fertilizers dwindles and their cost skyrockets. In “Holy Shit: Managing Manure to Save Mankind,” renowned farmer Gene Logsdon explains how we can put this natural resource to work for us as valuable fertilizer and humus.


The following is an excerpt from Holy Shit: Managing Manure to Save Mankind by Gene Logsdon (Chelsea Green, 2010). In his humorous, anecdotal manifesto, Logsdon imparts how to transform farm, pet and human manure into fertilizer and humus, describes the crucial role manure plays in keeping food production in line with our increasing population, and explains how we can conquer our societal fear of feces. This excerpt is from Chapter 7, “No More Poop Coops.” 

The chicken is the easiest and most productive animal for the small garden farm, especially in terms of handling manure. Humans have known this forever, which is why in almost all so-called Third World countries — and now even in First World countries (indicating that we First-Worlders are advancing, too) — chickens are usually a part of the local scene. New regulations are now allowing hens (but not roosters) in American suburbs. I love it when I am listening to a radio news report from someplace like Afghanistan, Liberia or Somalia, and suddenly I hear a hen clucking in the background or a rooster crowing. I know that this is the real news. If only a reporter could interview the chickens, I bet we’d get a much truer picture of what’s going on in the world.

Reporter: “How do you feel about being occupied by U.N. peacekeepers, Mrs. Hen?”

Mrs. Hen, ruffling her feathers: “We are occupied enough just staying alive. I wish the foreigners would get the cluck out of here.”

Reporter: “Do you agree with that, Mr. Rooster?”

Mr. Rooster, nervously wagging his head from side to side: “Well, cock-a-doodle-doo, I hardly think so. Those of us who cooper­ated with the foreigners would get our bloody heads chopped off.”

5/12/2013 11:04:55 AM

Community Chickens suggests sand for litter in the coop and in the run as well. Any thoughts?  Could I also compost with that? It was builders sand not play sand.  I want to keep four to six hens in a very small yard in town where they would have to be penned in some way at all times.  Maybe the neighbors would complain less.

mhollfi1949:  If you are expecting apologies or mea culpas you have come to the wrong site.  We are in the same damn mess as you.  Big Ag wants to control everything in America, also.  The seeds, the plants, the animals.  Some are fighting at a government level by taking the llikes of Monsanto and Cargill to court. Bless them.  Some are fighting quietly by only raising heirloom plants and animals. Some go to the elders to learn what they remember of the old ways and put those ways into practice.    

You don't say where you are from but my advice to you is to find others who think as you do and band together.  If your electoral process works, start at the local level and vote in like minded people. Begin small, go to the older farmers, even if they no longer farm the old way, they probably remember some very useful things.  Order heirloom seeds off the internet.  If you live in town and can only grow tomatoes in a planter, do it.  Never register your farm animals with the government.  Do not accept tax breaks for owning a farm or they will own you.  These are all traps we have fallen into. Remember the biggest lie is "We're from the Government and we are here to help." 

Oh and learn to barter because if you can't sell your goods out right because of unjust laws, you can trade for what you need and do what most of us in this country have to do who want to farm sustainably, get a day job. HTH

4/29/2013 10:30:16 AM

Until 50 years ago, in your country, the fertilizer were human waste, fish, animal waste. American came over and educated us not use those things, instead purchase chemical fertilizer.

Now, there are very few farmers left in our country and they are mostly old people. We are importing 90% food.

American destried our countries farm industry.

Congraturations for your great success!

4/28/2013 2:56:20 PM

I have been using the deep litter method for a little over a year.  We have an 'egg mobile'-an old camper converted to a coop- for our free rangers that we pull around the pastures with a Polaris Ranger.  I use (free) sawdust from an Amish sawmill in the roost area.  Most of the time it has a bit of cedar in it, but the ventilation is good, so I'm not too worried about it.  Sometimes I do get a slight ammonia smell, and I figure that is because I'm not putting enough sawdust down?  When I do smell ammonia, I usually throw another layer of sawdust down and that seems to work.  Any tips and/or advice from anyone would be greatly appreciated. BTW, I have this book and it is great!  It maybe time to re-read it!

4/28/2013 2:08:33 PM

Ya know there was a day when this would be considered offensive, I long for those days.

4/28/2013 9:22:12 AM

I have 9 hens and 1 very happy rooster! My coop is an old barn built from straw bales that I sectioned off an area about 15' by 30'.  They seem to like to poop ontop of there nesting boxes, so I take a scrapper and scrap it into a bag and put it in my garden and around my plants.  If it seems to smell I make sure I cover it with a little dirt and the smell is gone.  I also feed my chickens cloves of garlic, it is a great antibiotic and although its not the first thing they eat they will definately eat it.  They are very very healthy!

dale hagood
2/20/2011 11:40:33 AM

I've been recieving Mother Earth for about five years now and enjoy every artical in every issue. I read and reread each issue and have learned so much over the years and can't wait for the next issue to arrive. I have a few chickens now, that I love to work with. I get my supply of eggs and sell a few dozen to help out on feed. Now that I'm not physicaly able to farm, I still raise a garden and use the chicken manure to help keep my garden rich in nutrients and have good sucess most years. My dad and grand-dad taught me much about the value of poop when I was a boy and I have not forgotten it. Thank you Mother Earth for all the great information and hours of entertainment.

barry russo
1/10/2011 5:28:04 PM

I have 5 hens and 1 rooster in an 8 X 8 winterised coop. I have a few inches of straw on the floor covered by a couple inches of pine shavings. I am in the coop 3 times a day with an ash shovel from my woodstove picking up the chicken poop and that seems to keep the stink down, I completely empty and clean 3 times a year, I just add a little straw or shavings occasionally as needed. I haven't had any complaints yet.

ed lagniappe
1/9/2011 12:39:07 PM

I'm putting in a high tunnel next to my bird run & planned to use the poultry coop cleanings to fertilize inside the high tunnel BUT all the local farmers cringe & say it's highly ill advised because of salmonella. But I also realize that salmonella is a problem only in unhealthy, commercial production poultry. But once IN the bird house, it can certainly become a problem. HOW can I tell if my birds have / get salmonella, and, outside of horrendous amounts of antibiotics, how can I deter, get rid of salmonella? How can I insure that I'm not putting salmonella onto my garden? Will 6 mo of simple composting do the trick? Thanks for any suggestions.

1/9/2011 7:02:45 AM

I use the deep litter method also, but I do change it a more often then once a year. I would say probably about 4 times a year, I do it when it needs to be done. I spend a lot of time outside so I can usually tell when it's a tad gamey. It is great though and it does not smell, as the article stated chickens do not urinate liquid so it makes clean up easy. I use pine shavings and also throw down hay for nesting, and also insulation in winter.

jeanne scherer
1/6/2011 9:30:33 AM

I just did my first winter cleaning of our coop a week ago. I'm going to try just adding another bale of wood shavings next time, partly because I want to see if it'll really not stink, but also because trying to get the wheelbarrow through the snow to dump is a major chore! I took several wheel barrows full out to a garden and spread it around like I've seen farmers do with manure on their fields. A couple days later I had the chance to ask an organic gardening expert if I could count on the chicken bedding and manure being broken down enough to plant in without burning roots by May. His concern was actually about regulations for those who may wish to sell their organic produce. He said that here in Wisconsin, we can't plant anything that would fruit above the ground for 90 days after spreading and not for 120 days for things that fruit on the ground. I'd be interested in the feedback from others on this.

veronica vatter
1/5/2011 6:09:51 PM

I use the deep litter method, and I can say it is awesome! Everybody that goes into or by the coop can't believe that it doesn't smell bad. I use wood chips mostly, but I do add straw to the laying area. I'll empty it in early spring. something that wasn't mentioned is that DL coops are a little warmer in winter because the litter is composting. This warmth isn't noticeable in summer.

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