Posted by: juliegirl | December 22, 2009

from poop to peppers

I’m trying to use everything in the yard to some kind of purpose, and, inspired by permaculture principles, I’ve developed my own system of tying together the backyard waste and food production. The table scraps and kitchen waste is “recycled” by feeding it directly to the chickens. The majority of the chicken poop is composted and then used to fertilize the garden and make up the majority of the garden soil each year. Connecting the waste from my table to the final production of eggs and vegetables is pretty awesome.

Here’s the before picture. Two eggs, very good. Loads of poop in the corners and flattened fluff, not so nice. I have to admit that it took three days of poop and dirt encrusted eggs for me to finally get a chance to change the coop. Six days of rain had made things very soggy and unlivable up there. Sorry, girls.

So here’s the way I keep the girls happy and dry, make sure I’m not letting bugs settle in, and recycle all the waste I can to make my garden and my eggs even more tasty!

First, I scoop out all the fluff (cedar shavings) from upstairs in the chicken coop. This is where they roost at night and where most of their poop is.

Second, I dump the whole mess, poop and shavings all, in the barrel composter and give it a whirl around.

I used to put all my non-meat food scraps in there, but harvesting the compost is tricky in a tumbler: there’s always your last few trips from the kitchen that haven’t composted fully and you end up with lemons, whole stalks of celery, and paper scraps in your dirt. This way, the only thing that’s going in the composter is poop, cedar shavings, garlic and onion scraps, and coffee grounds. (The chickens’ eggs start to taste funny if they eat the onion and garlic.)

Then, I let the coop air out in the sun and wind. It’s important to make sure that the soggy places get a chance to air before you replace the fluff.

Finally, I cut box tops and create a shelf inside the egg boxes, then I put the cedar shavings in. This helps when scooping out the fluff since the egg boxes tend to be the most traficked (and the most pooped). It’s easier to pull out a cardboard section than scraping all the poop off of the wood. And it keeps it cleaner.

I always sprinkle some diatomaceous earth in the coop before replacing the fluff. Essentially earthworm casings, this powder disrupts the work of tiny bugs called mites that can infest the coop. (Last year, every time I picked up a chicken I’d find the tiniest little mites all over my arms. Diatomaceous earth did the trick.)

From this

to this

and then we get these

and these.

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