Composting with Chickens - Part 1

As some of you know, we've been composting with our chickens for many years now. In 2012, I wrote this article for a Backyardchickens.com contest & won! Composting with Chickens 


A lot has changed since then. We've moved. 
We moved 75 -80 cubic yards of finished compost for our new garden. 
(photo below - Nov 2014)



We have a lot more chickens. I've made mistakes and learned from them. 


But, I'm still composting with chickens. 


This is the 5th year we've been recycling food scraps from Cross Roads Cafe & Tuna III in Delhi. 



For a few years now, I've been looking (and continue to) for more sources of food waste, whether it be a small or large amount.  I've put a few "ads" out there on FB, craigslist, etc, but only had a few short-term contributions of food waste. 


We mostly used compostable material from our garden, mulch hay from local farms and leaves we'd scavenged from the streets of Delhi.



It was enough to produce food in our own garden, such as this "perfect" broccoli head.

Squash and Swiss chard from our garden 

The chickens during a "supervised" free range time checking out the
 leaf pile outside of the chicken yard.
But, one of my goals with my flock is based on Vermont Composting Co, and
how they don't have to purchase grain for their chickens, since they get all their food from the compost.
Here's a 3 minute video highlighting what my inspiration is:


But, that's on a big scale, so Geoff Lawton scaled this down to a smaller "homestead" size.



That method and scale is more do-able for my farm. Yet, several things I lacked - enough food waste, 
animal manure besides what my poultry produces, and land to move the "chicken tractor". 
So, one of my goals for 2018 is to expand and make this composting with chickens really work.
And part of the missing link has been food waste, as I have more chickens than 
my current compost production can support. 


Then, on November 22, 2017, I saw this post from South Kortright School:


"Anyone is need of compostable material?
SK is looking for anyone interested in food waste material for feeding their pigs, chickens or other animals, or just to compost. If you or anyone you know would be interested in collecting the school's food waste and helping SK become a more sustainable community by reducing what we send to the landfill, please contact Dawn."


I quickly emailed them and got a reply several days later. They thanked me for my interest in their food waste and would get back to me when they'd worked out the details, since it was just in the planning stages at the moment. I didn't hear anything all of December. Finally, on New Year's Day, I got an email that said they were ready for us to start collecting the food waste on Tuesdays and Thursdays, if that worked for us. I was delighted and worked out the details with them. In my correspondence, I'd offered to answer any questions, etc since I'd been doing this for several years. In response, Dawn said, "I was actually thinking that you may be a good resource for students to maybe come in and talk about what you do. I have the environmental at 11:15 each day if you ever have time in your schedule to stop in.


I was like, " How about this Thursday? Now, I don't have much experience doing a presentation, but I'm passionate about these things. So, I'd be honored to talk to the students about what I do. Thank you for the opportunity!" 

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I'll leave you there, for now. We've now received 4 "barrels" of food waste from South Kortright school, which has been enough to provide food for every coop, even the young pullets and cockerels growing out! They're still eating grain, but I have noticed a reduce consumption of grain since they've had more food scraps.
But, it's winter and we didn't make any large "piles" of compost, so unfortunately, the compost is freezing when it's cold and snowy. I've had to feed the scraps in containers and bring it back inside to thaw overnight. I'm still learning what works and what doesn't. But, I'm so thankful for this new source of food waste that isn't just being thrown out, but being recycled.

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Part 2 Coming Soon!