How to spread chicken manure pellets for plant feed
There's nothing more satisfying than tending to a strong and healthy garden, and with a little careful management and the right fertilisers you can turn your own garden into something beautiful.
Chicken manure is a great resource for home gardeners, particularly if you're interested in planting vegetables, and in pellet form it's safe and easy to use.
Today we're taking a closer look at what chicken manure pellets are, what they do, and how you can use them at home.
What are chicken manure pellets?
Before we discuss why you might use chicken pellets, it's useful to first describe what it is.
To make this fertiliser, poultry manure is dried and converted into a small, pelleted or powdered form so it can be easily integrated into the soil. It's rich in nutrients and great for many plants, and vegetables in particular.
This is different from fresh domestic poultry litter - which is often used without additional processing for the compost heap. We'll explain more about this distinction later on.
Why use pelleted chicken manure?
Pelleted chicken manure is among the most popular and widely available non-chemical fertilisers on the market, making it a popular choice among amateur gardeners.
It's rich in a number of important nutrients, the main one being nitrogen, which helps promote green leafy growth in plants. It also has phosphorus and potassium; phosphorus releases slowly to promote root growth, while potassium promotes flower and helps fruits and vegetables ripen.
While fresh chicken manure is high in nitrogen, it may contain bacteria that can be harmful to humans, and is unpleasant to transport and handle. In contrast, pelleted chicken manure is sterilised when it's manufactured, making it much simpler to use for home gardeners.
How to spread chicken pellets
Chicken pellets can be used to fertilise soil from February to November, and should be applied every 4-6 weeks during the growing season all around the garden.
- For soil prep/pre-planting
Sprinkle the chicken manure pellets evenly over the soil, then mix well. After sowing seeds and planting out, water well if it's dry weather.
- During the growing season
To use during the growing season, sprinkle evenly over the soil and around any established plants. Work it into the soil gently by using a hand fork. Be careful not to disrupt any plant roots. Water thoroughly.
- For established plants
Between March and August, pellets should be applied every 4-6 weeks while plants are actively growing. Mix carefully so you don't disrupt any roots, and then water thoroughly afterwards.
- Prepping soil for new plants
When you are preparing new beds and borders, you can use chicken manure pellets 7-10 days before sowing or planting new seeds. Sprinkle over the soil and mix well.
Composting chicken manure
Because it's so high in nitrogen, chicken manure is a great natural fertiliser for plants, but if you're not careful it can be a case of too much of a good thing.
When applied directly to soil, the raw manure can burn and kill your plants rather than enrich them, which is why pellets that have been processed are, in general, better for the amateur home gardener. Always read the pack label for application instructions.
As a compost though, chicken manure can be very useful. It helps break your composted matter into soil and in the process the nitrogen will balance to a level that's safer for your garden.
If you keep chickens you can add the bedding directly to your compost bin, or source some from a nearby farm. After adding, water thoroughly and turn the compost every few weeks to get air into the pile.
The process takes at least six months to be done properly, and can often take between 9-12 months for the soil to be ready for use. When it is ready, it can be spread evenly over the garden and worked into the soil much the same way as the dried chicken pellets.