I enjoy looking at the brand name seed catalogs that start showing up in my mail around the beginning of each year, I peruse them, ogle over the cool toys and tools and pick out a few new varieties of seeds to try in my garden. One of the items I’ve often wondered about is all of the different variations of composters in those catalogs. For years I used little more than a couple of posts with some 2×4’s nailed together to create my pile, but what I found as time went on is that it became easier and easier to neglect my well-intentioned compost pile, allowing it to grow the most beautiful grass and weeds anywhere on my property.
My solution to this came up quite accidentally, I was contemplating where to move my compost pile and the most logical choice was right next to my chicken pen. What came next felt like one of those rare moments of eureka. The chickens would BECOME my composter. They love the leftover bits of bread and veggie scraps I toss them, they are ridiculously efficient at “composting” those materials, as is evident from the constant need to clean out their coop and pen. And since those droppings became part of my compost pile already, why not save a step at the same time?
Another chore I allow my birds to undertake is the first preparation of each of my garden plots, using my chicken tractor to complete the first phase that my actual tractor used to do. Chickens are amazing at their ability to turn grass and weeds into barren dirt in a matter of no time flat if confined to a relatively small area.
I park my chicken tractor on an area of my garden, let the chickens do the work of weeding, and move them on to the next area. Once I have one of my garden plots down to bare earth with the help of my friends I disc it.
My next step is to move my chickens back through the course of my garden plots. By now they have weeded it, dropped some fresh dropping and I have come in and disced it up. I also go ahead and throw in some piles of compost/manure around the area, not worrying too much with the spreading, as the chickens are wonderful at taking care of this aspect too. They will happily spread the manure and pick through it for any remaining grass or weed seeds that remain, helping prevent what once happened in my actual compost pile.
The results of this little routine are quite happy birds, and an equally happy gardener, their efforts at lending a wing sure help spare my back, and as an added bonus helps in the area of feed costs too. You are no doubt going to lose some of your underground helpers (earthworms) but by putting more manure out and letting the birds spread it for you, there will be plenty more. There are no doubt countless other benefits our little friends can accomplish for us. If you have any ideas, thoughts or experiences please share them.