11 February 2008

The Refill

As promised, here are some photos of the chicken composter refill.

With the leaves already bagged, the process was a snap. There was no raking involved, because the leaves had been confiscated from a neighbor who already had them bagged. Each of the bags I'm emptying here couldn't have weighed more than 30-35 pounds; and it took maybe eight of them to fill the pen back up. I'm guessing that once the leaves break down we will have over 250 pounds of compost from this one round alone. Multiply that by three batches (There are about ten more bags waiting for the next load which will hopefully be in about a month) plus the stuff we made at the end of last year and you've got yourself a shit load compost.

I can't even begin to express how easy this whole process has been. With the two of us working together, each flip took only a few hours. After everything is said and done, I'm figuring that we will probably invest only a day in labor. Hmm, over 1,000 pounds of compost for one day of work; it feels like we're cheating.


Becca said...

Oh, bravo! We are busy planning our own chicken composter. 1000 lbs of compost! Do you sell it or use it all?

Jelly Wares said...

Great work!!! How long before it's ready to use as compost??


Farmgirl_dk: said...

I can't wait to see the results this spring/summer!!

Farmgirl_dk: said...

I can't wait to see the results this spring/summer!!

vegmonkey said...

Looks good, and if you have the space...why not! One question...can i have some:)?

Patrick said...

This looks like a great way to get compost!

thepolarbear said...

That looks awesome! Would straw work as well as leaves do?

Kelly said...

Becca, We plan to use it all. The top soil where we are is very thin and littered with rocks. If I remember, I'll try to post a before and after picture of what we're dealing with.

Jodie, Thanks. I believe all we would need is a week or so of steady temperatures in 50's and all will be good. There is so much nitrogen mixed in with the leaves that even a little heat will go a long way.

Farmgirl, We're looking forward to the outcome too. I've got to admit that it is a bit intimidating as well. We've put a lot of thought into establishing a solid gardening foundation; we just hope that we can utilize it with some solid gardening.

Vegmonkey, Thanks and absolutely. Composting doesn't really require a great deal of space. All anyone needs is three 3x3 (that's feet. or 1x1 if you're playing with meters) bins and neighbors who are fine with you grabbing bags of leaves from their curb.

Oh, and we'd gladly trade some compost for a case of Boddingtons.

Patrick, So far so good. Like I said to Becca, our soil is shit so this will certainly help build it up.

Polarbear, From anyone we've ever talked to, leaves are the way to go. How exactly straw compares as compost, I really couldn't say. If I had to guess, I would say that leaves are better because straw tends to be woodier and is usually tougher to break down. If you would like a more scientific answer, I'd ask some of the bigger cats out there like Mike (Tiny Farm Blog), Rob (One Straw Revolution), Patrick (Bifurcated Carrots), and pretty much half of the other folks on our blog roll. I hope that helps.

Patrick said...

Polarbear, I compost a lot of straw. Years ago I lived near rice fields, and now I live near wheat, so it's always been easy to come by. Yes, it works fine. Straw is nearly 100% carbon (like leaves), so you need to mix it with nitrogen to get it to break down into compost quickly, which is of course where the chicken shit comes in handy.

When composting with manure, don't go overboard. A little manure goes a very long way. If you don't have chickens to help mix it all together for you, the easiest thing is to make layers, usually several inches of straw or leaves to a few millimeters of manure. You can also use other sources of nitrogen like crass cuttings, garden weeds, green leaves -- almost anything green, but then if you make layers it should be thicker.

Anonymous said...

I think that leaves have more lignin than straw so the finished leaf humus ends up being every "gluey-er"- not a bad thing! Andy Lee of Chicken Tractor fame is all about straw as a carbon source for his chicken manure compost "tractors" and Oat straw gets alot of praise from Gene Logsdon.

For me, I think the best compost material is the kind you have access to. In my suburb it is coffee grounds (or more likely the paper filters they come in) from local shops. I am able to net 5 cu yards finished annually thanks to all the caffeine freaks here abouts!

Lots more work in my system. I needs me some chickens!