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If you have a homestead with animals, you probably have lots of manure to deal with. But what do you do with manure? Believe it or not, manure can be beneficial to the homestead. It just depends on how you practice manure management!
I know, cleaning up the manure around the homestead is surely EVERYONE’S least favorite job, but it is very important to keep up with it. Failure to provide manure management can lead to flies and disease.
Benefits of manure
Manure can be very beneficial to the home garden. It provides a free source of excellent nutrients to help your plants grow big and be the most productive. When you have animals on your homestead, you can skip that expensive fertilizer aisle at the farm store!
Manure is also a good way to break up clay or sandy soil. It helps improve soil aeration and reduces compaction. Animal manure is also helpful in aerating the soil.
Improving microorganism activity is good for the soil. And manure can help do that. Earthworms love manure, and they will in turn help aerate the soil and deposit their own fertilizer as well. Worm droppings, also known as casings, are an extremely rich soil amendment.
Dealing with different types of manure
Proper manure management involves knowing how to use the different kinds of manure. Some manures can be used right away in the garden, others need to be composted.
There are “hot” manures that will burn your plants if you use it directly in the garden. Then there are some that are considered “cold” manures. Some types of manure shouldn’t be used for growing food, others will cause a boat load of weeds to grow in your garden.
Rabbit manure is my absolute favorite manure to deal with. It is rich in nitrogen, but it’s a “cold” manure. That means that you can use it fresh without fear of it harming your plants. Some manure can burn your garden veggies if you use it fresh, but that isn’t an issue with rabbit manure at all.
Rabbit manure doesn’t smell, and it comes in nice little pellets that you can sprinkle around the base of your plants. This is wonderful for giving your garden a free nitrogen boost. You can add rabbit manure year-round in your garden, or set it off to the side to age until you are ready to use it.
We give our meat rabbits rabbit feed and hay, and they usually waste quite a bit of hay. I don’t consider this a waste, though! It builds up under their cages with their manure mixed in. I always rake this up and use it as mulch in my vegetable garden. Weed control and fertilization in one easy step!
If you raise meat rabbits, make sure you take full advantage of their manure. Your garden will thank you!
Chicken manure is one of the best manures to use in the garden. Since chicken’s diets are more varied than most animals, their droppings contain a higher amount of minerals. Chicken manure is high in nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous. So, when properly composted, chicken manure is a wonderful amendment for the soil.
Keep in mind, chicken manure is a very “hot” manure. It needs to be completely composted before using in the garden. Most people recommend chicken manure to be composted and aged for at least 2 months. If you use the hot composting (18-day) method, this time period can be greatly decreased.
If you do the deep litter method in your chicken coop, chicken manure management is pretty easy to do. Coop clean-out is only needed about twice a year. I like to do mine in the spring and early fall. Both times, I just scoop out all of the deep litter and put it into my compost pile. The bedding (I use pine shavings) is the perfect carbon ingredient for good compost.
Goat and sheep manure
Goats and sheep make for pretty easy manure management also. Their droppings are firm and don’t smell.
Goat and sheep manure is considered a “cold” manure, so yes, it can be used straight in the garden. The one caveat I would like to bring up, though, is that you may get more weeds if you use straight goat or sheep manure. Since they eat grass and hay, their manure may cause weed seeds to be deposited in your garden, which will result in more weeds to pull.
Because of the grass and hay seeds, most people suggest only using well-composted goat and sheep manure. I haven’t found this to be much of an issue for me, and use their manure straight quite regularly.
There are 2 instances that I compost my goat and sheep manure. When I clean out the bedding area in their stalls, I usually compost this material. This bedding is usually soaked pretty good with urine, and I like to compost the straw before using in the garden.
The other instance that I compost the goat and sheep manure is when I clean up their pasture in the early spring. My animals are notorious for wasting a lot of their hay. It tends to pile up in one area, and gets soaked by winter snow and spring rainfall. In the spring, I clean up this area with a pitchfork and compost the wasted hay.
The reason I do this is because where the hay is matted down, it causes an anaerobic environment. The hay, manure, urine, and dirt are breaking down VERY slowly. But without the air needed to make proper compost, it can harbor bacteria and fungus. So this material always gets composted.
Horse manure is a somewhat hot manure. It is quite smelly, and can contain lots of grass, hay, and weed seeds. Horse manure needs to be either aged very well, or composted. Hot composting is a great way of using horse manure.
I am a big fan of aged horse manure. Whenever I’ve put it in my garden in the spring, I’ve had a fabulous garden. I haven’t composted much horse manure, since we just got horses this year, but next year I’ll be composting it a lot.
Horse manure is very high in nitrogen, and since a lot of horses get a quality diet and nutritional supplements, it makes a fabulous fertilizer. It also has a high amount of organic matter, so it is a great soil amendment.
The downside of horse manure is that it is a literal fly magnet when it’s fresh. Flies lay their eggs in fresh horse manure, and they hatch and become adult flies. Then the cycle continues.
There are 2 main ways of mitigating flies in your manure. One, you could spread the manure regularly, which dries out the manure more quickly. The other option is by composting, which heats the manure enough to kill all fly larvae.
Cow manure is another somewhat hot manure. It tends to not burn plants much, but can contain weed and hay seeds. Cow manure is best used after aging or composting.
Cow manure is also very good at adding organic matter to the soil. If properly composted, the weed seeds will be burned and will not be viable. It is typically less nutritious than horse manure, since the cow digests their food several times before excreting it out as waste. But it is, however, a more balanced fertilizer than others.
Effective manure management for cow manure includes spreading the manure in the pastures, or piling it up in a compost pile. Add brown carbon-based ingredients like hay, straw, or wood shavings, keep it moist, and turn it. It will turn into a lovely compost in no time at all.
Most people don’t recommend using pig manure for growing food-bearing plants. Since they are omnivores, their manure tends to have a higher bacterial load. If composted thoroughly, it may be used around non-fruit bearing trees and shrubs.
Pig manure is a hot manure that will burn plants if not composted. Of course, if you have pigs, you will have lots of manure that you need to do something with. I would recommend aging and composting their manure thoroughly.
For aging pig manure, let it sit for at least a year, maybe even 2. Then add to a separate compost pile with your desired brown material. Compost it with the “hot composting” method, but do it much longer than the 18 days. Even then, I wouldn’t use on food-bearing plants.
You can use well-aged and composted pig manure to fertilize roses, non-fruit bearing shrubs, and non-fruit bearing trees. Or you can add to your pastures for fertilizer.
What is the best manure to use in the garden?
In my opinion, composted chicken manure is the best to use in your vegetable garden. It has a good balance of nutrients, and doesn’t stink while composting. And when composted properly with enough carbon-based material, it has enough volume to amend a good amount of soil.
Since I do the deep litter method for my chickens, there is usually a large amount of material to work into the soil. I’ve had several 4 foot tall piles of chicken manure and pine shavings composting at the same time. When I use the “hot composting” method, these compost piles can be ready in as little as 18 days.
My chickens free-range as well, so every once in a while I use a leaf blower to clean the areas they frequent. The manure, grass clippings, leaf bits, and small sticks get put into the compost pile as well.
I have lots of chickens, and lots of chicken manure. So it’s just logical for me to use it to its fullest, which for me, is in the garden.
What do you do with your manure? Do you have a manure management “plan” in place? Let us know in the comments!
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