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What are the Pros and Cons of Using Poultry Manure for Fertilizer?

By Bethney Foster
Updated May 16, 2024
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Using poultry manure for fertilizer has many pros and a few cons. Poultry manure has more of the three components needed in a fertilizer — nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium — than does manure from other animals. Using manure rather than commercial fertilizers may have environmental benefits and may be less expensive, especially if poultry manure is readily available for collecting. Using poultry manure is more labor intensive than buying a commercial fertilizer. There may also be some chance of contaminating vegetables with manure if the proper processes aren’t followed and if produce isn’t thoroughly washed before it is eaten.

One of the pros of using poultry manure for fertilizer is also the cause of one of the cons. Poultry manure contains large amounts of nitrogen, which plants need to grow. The level of nitrogen in poultry manure is so high, however, that the manure must go through a process before it can be applied to plants. If fresh poultry manure is applied directly to plants, the nitrogen content is so high that poultry manure can burn the plants and even kill them. This means using poultry manure as fertilizer is much more labor intensive than using a commercial fertilizer or even some other types of animal manure for fertilizer.

The nitrogen content means that poultry manure must go through a composting or aging process before it is applied to plants. This process brings nitrogen levels to a point that plants can use it without causing the plants harm. In the composting process, the poultry bedding, including the manure, is put into a composting bin for six to 12 months. It must be watered and turned periodically during this time. Once the composting process has been completed, the compost is spread over the garden, and a natural fertilizer is in place to help plants thrive.

The composted poultry manure for fertilizer will likely increase carbon in the soil, may help to reduce soil erosion, and can reduce nitrate leaching from the soil. Nitrates are necessary for plants to grow. Nitrate leaching refers to the nitrates in soil being removed from plants as water moves through the roots.

The risks of contaminating produce by using poultry manure as fertilizer are low, especially if the manure is composted. To further reduce this risk, poultry manure for fertilizer should be applied to plants at least two months before harvesting the food for consumption. It is also important that foods grown with manure fertilizer be thoroughly washed before serving.

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Discussion Comments

By anon945195 — On Apr 11, 2014


By browncoat — On Feb 11, 2012

The best thing in my mind about using chicken fertilizer is that it is actually really polluting in its natural state. That's one of the other reasons (besides cruelty) that caged hen farms are so terrible. They produce huge amounts of raw manure that simply gets dumped somewhere.

Other forms of chicken farming at least use sawdust or something similar as bedding and that means the manure can be processed into fertilizer relatively easily.

If you keep a few chickens at home you'll soon find you need to do something with the manure that will collect under the coop. Making a system for compost is better for the environment and better for your wallet since otherwise you'd have to throw the chicken manure away.

By Mor — On Feb 10, 2012

@indigomoth - I would suggest people could even take a course in composting if they are beginners. I remember when I was a kid my grandmother had a big mound of dead plants in the corner of her garden that was supposed to be the "compost heap".

I don't think she ever used it for anything, let along turned it over to let it breath, or adding things like manure.

Since I took a course in making compost, I realize that there's more to it than just throwing all the garden weeds in a pile, sticking some chicken poo on top and calling it compost.

That kind of course is popping up all over the place since more and more people are going organic. If you are interested you should have a look in your area.

By indigomoth — On Feb 09, 2012

Poultry manure is an excellent fertilizer. In fact guano, which is the name often used for seabird manure, used to be worth huge amounts of money, so much that people would search for deposits of it on islands.

And it seems like a lot of work to say that it needs to be rotted down for a few months, but if you pop it in a proper composting bin, with several stages you'll be able to have a steady supply of fresh fertilizer. You'll never regret building up your soil with this stuff.

Just make sure you balance out the compost with other components so that it works properly.

You should only use thin layers of poultry manure, matched with thick layers of plant material.

And the mixture needs to be kept to just the right amount of dampness, and just the right temperature.

There's a real art to composting. But when you get it right, the results are worth it.

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