Chicken Poop

19 Jan

We must be doing something wrong.

Prior to getting the chickens, I consumed a wealth of information about chicken husbandry from that infallible source of truth and knowledge, the internet. Some of the information was silly (Chicken sweaters? Really?). Some reflected a different philosophy of husbandry than I have (Several people advised against feeding kitchen scraps, because it would mess up the delicate nutritional balance provided by bought feed. Yikes.) Some was really helpful. But the one thing I found nearly universal agreement on is that chickens do most of their pooping at night, and absent the exercise of Great Care, a hen house will quickly become a damp, stinky, filthy, poop-filled, disease-laden quagmire. This is a good thing, believe it or not, because I planned to exercise that Great Care while shoveling barrow loads of poop to keep our gardens and orchards well fertilized.

After nearly a year, I’ve despaired of ever getting even a single shovel full of nutrient-rich chicken poop to put around my strawberries. I’ve tried several times. I stick my shovel in the bedding under the roosts and scoop up sawdust and shavings. Maybe there’s some poop mixed in there, but hardly enough to notice. I even looked around their favorite places to congregate outdoors, but found no evidence of poop at all.

In spite of our nearly complete neglect on the poop management front, our hen house is a healthy, nice smelling, bright place for chickens to live. All we do is spread a bale or two of wood shavings every couple of months.

I speculate there are two primary factors that prevent an awful environment in our hen house. First, the coop is extremely well ventilated. The top four feet of the west wall is screened and all four walls have between 18 inches and three feet of screen at the top.  There’s no opportunity for damp or ammonia to accumulate in the coop. Second, the chickens spend 90 percent of the day outside, so their day time poop is out there, and not in the coop.

A third factor might be that the hen house is pretty big with an area of 100 square feet, but that almost doesn’t matter because the chickens are outdoors most of the time and there’s very little poop under the roost where, according to the internet, they spend the night pooping.