Chicken Manure Fertilizer for the Vegetable Garden

Laying flock provides magnificent mulch with chicken manure fertilizer for the best garden ever grown by its Georgia Master Gardener owner.

  • Farm-fresh Egg
    A free-ranging hen and her newly deposited egg. Sarjeant
  • Sandi White and Her Chicken Ladies
    Sandi White, the author, feeding her Chicken Ladies
    courtesy Sandi White
  • Free-range Flock
    A flock enjoys its free-range status. Campbell
  • Garden on October Afternoon
    Sandi’s extraordinary garden fueled by mulch from her active flock.
    courtesy Sandi White

  • Farm-fresh Egg
  • Sandi White and Her Chicken Ladies
  • Free-range Flock
  • Garden on October Afternoon

 As I stood at the pasture fence last winter feeding another stale half-loaf of bread to the neighbor’s cattle, I was thinking I could be getting more use out of my leftovers than feeding the crows, opossums and Wheeler’s cows. One idea that had traveled through my mind several times stopped for another visit. “You need some chickens,” said the idea, “just two or three to clean up the overage and recycle the groceries you’re pitching over the fence.” 

In a reasonable amount of time, I had 16 hens confined to the large fenced lot under the old pecan tree in the backyard. I hand-raised six hens from day-old chicks in my dining room, and I bought five beautiful Silver Ameraucanas and five Rhode Island Red pullets. 

All were quickly attuned to the sound of the gate opening. Neck and wings outstretched, leaping up and down, crying, “Let me see! Let me see! What have you got?” in a mad gallop, they raced wildly to behold the snack of the day. 

These Chicken Ladies are elegant in appearance when standing around looking wonderful, but when you walk out with a pizza box in your hand, they are like brides-to-be descending on those yearly bridal gown extravaganzas, ruthless and willing to climb the back of their best friend to get the first black olive. They have fairly discriminating tastes, preferring scorched cinnamon rolls to dried-up brownies, pizza crusts over Ritz crackers. Spaghetti with marinara sauce trumps mac and cheese every time. 

Naturally all of this, plus the laying mash and three-grain scratch feed, has to end up somewhere besides on my boots. Wheat straw – lots and lots of wheat straw – is the answer. Straw to scratch in, to play in, to dig through, to chase through after crickets, spiders and grubs. Heaps and piles of it, pouring out of the Chicken Condo where they spend their evenings. Gathered into big piles by me, just so they can have the fun of again tearing down the stacks, grabbing and flinging straw like bargain hunters at a flea market. For them, it’s the work that matters, not the product. I like to see them happy and busy, because I’m very interested in the result – magnificent mulch. 

I am a University of Georgia-Athens Certified Master Gardener, and I’ve been gardening for more than 40 years. I feel qualified to say that I know how to plant a vegetable garden. I grow a fair-sized garden on the property where my granddaddy and his granddaddy farmed and raised their families.  

10/29/2014 9:14:04 AM

This is some great writing! Paragraphs 3 & 4 made me laugh out ladies exactly!

Andrew Maki
4/8/2014 9:58:55 PM

With all due respect I love this style of gardening and I follow the same principles and make my own organic fertilizers soil inoculants etc BUT I struggle with people thinking that it is ok to feed all these poisonous processed corporate food items to their animals. It's really not good to do for wild game or for animal husbandry. There are compounds that stay in the fecal matter and remain in the compost pile/soil and each year they concentrate. It's like a distillation process. The toxic compounds do not disappear after being processed by composting or by animals. Conventional foods and processed foods need to be eliminated from this energy recycling process. Please consider what I'm saying and look into it. It's essential to the human race that we not neglect these hard to address issues.

Renate Bromberg
5/12/2011 6:37:55 PM

Hi,I very much enjoyed the article, particularly the nice photograph. I am the president of our local farmers market We publish an announcement for a monthly brownbag program which in June is all about chickens in your garden. We would very much like to use the photograph in the announcement. It would be on the website for 1 month only. Do we have your permission? We would very much appreciate it. I am looking forward to your response.Thank you.Renate Bromberg

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