Question of the Week
Answer: Poultry manure is considered one of the richest animal manures and contains high levels of the macronutrients N-P-K. Fowls do not excrete excrete urine separately; therefore, the droppings need to be composted before use or they will burn the plants they come in contact with (1). The addition of a high carbon amendment such as litter makes poultry manure well-suited for composting. Poultry litter may start to decompose prior to being removed from the barn and will then decompose rapidly in a compost pile. Poultry litter has a high pH and may require the addition of amendments to lower the alkalinity. The high nitrogen content can be utilized for making fertilizer-grade compost but can also result in nitrogen loss and odor from ammonia (2).
To learn more about the rules for composting manures to be in compliance with the National Organic Program, refer to the ATTRA publication Manures for Organic Crop Production, http://www.attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/manures.html. Another useful ATTRA publication related to composting poultry litter is Arsenic in Poultry Litter: Organic Regulations, http://www.attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/arsenic_poultry_litter.html.
Another good source of information is the publication On-Farm Composting of Poultry Litter, by Forbes Walker, University of Tennessee Agriculture Extension Service. It's available online at https://utextension.tennessee.edu/publications/Documents/Info%20319.pdf.
1. Minnich, Jerry and Marjorie Hunt. 1979. The Rodale Guide to Composting. Rodale Press, Emmaus, PA.
2. Northeast Regional Agricultural Engineering Service (NRAES). 1992. On-Farm Composting Handbook. NRAES, Ithaca, NY.
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