Are you curious about the benefits of keeping the compost bin in the chicken coop? Don’t worry – this post will tell you all that you need to know!
We decided to move our compost bin from our garden to our chicken area recently…
Here are some of the biggest advantages of keeping your compost bin close to your chickens.
7 Benefits of Having the Compost Bin in the Chicken Coop
1. Removes Some Hassle
Our chickens are free range…
That means they have full control of a fenced area. Sometimes that meant they figured out how to fly over the fence and get into our garden and compost bin.
Clipping wings helped some, but it wasn’t always enough. Now, the compost is where they can scratch around at will and the issue of flying over the fence is nearly non-existent.
We give our chickens all the kitchen scraps.
As a matter of fact, if someone goes outside carrying the compost bucket or a pot, they all come running for their latest “treat”. We used to dump it into their area, but if they got bored of it before it was gone, we got a LOT more flies.
Now, it’s in the compost bin already, and the chickens scratch for what they want, and the rest is where it already belongs.
2. Gets Rid of Pests
Compost draws a lot of flies, who lay their eggs, who turn into maggots, which turn into more flies.
During the hot summer, it was a rough cycle. We couldn’t seem to break no matter how many times we turned the compost, or added grass or leaves.
The chickens now eat all the maggots (fine dining y’all!) and the fly population has greatly decreased. Yes, we still have them, but it’s not nearly as horrible as it used to be.
Chickens eat worms. Lots of worms. And compost bins draw worms.
And I DO understand that worms are necessary for the compost cycle and all, but even with 40 chickens, they are not able to eat all the worms that are in there. There are still tons of worms everywhere. Really.
Remember, it’s not just worms and flies that you might find in a compost bin, either. You’ll also have to watch out for rodents, beetles, and other pests.
Chickens to the rescue! They’ll be happy to serve as your best and most reliable pest management system.
3. They’ll Work the Soil for You
Here’s the deal – chickens were born to scratch, dig, and turn. They like to use their little talons to scratch into the soil and see what goodies they can turn up. They don’t like seeing things in piles!
This makes chickens some of the most efficient and effective compost spreaders around. Let your chickens at your compost pile and they’ll do all the burning for you.
As they work, they’ll also add more green matter (manure) back to the pile – and eat bugs and other pests you don’t want in your compost bin.
4. You Can Compost IN the Coop!
You can even compost inside your coop – albeit this process will look a little bit different than if you composted in the traditional way.
It’s called deep litter bedding. All you have to do is allow your chickens to hang out and poop in the coop as they normally would.
Once it starts getting a little bit ripe in there, you can add your bedding, skipping the step of removing the soiled bedding as you typically would. Let the bedding continue to build up over the period of several weeks.
Within Those weeks or months, it will get nice and hot, just like a compost pile, and eventually break down into rich humus that can then be used in the garden.
It’s a self-enclosed compost system and the chickens will do all the hard work of keeping the pile moist and turned!
5. Compost Breaks Down More Quickly
Since your compost will be aerated more often, you may find that it breaks down more quickly when you garden with chickens than it would otherwise. That’s a major benefit right there!
6. They Can Spread the Compost for You, Too
When it’s time to put your finished compost in the garden, don’t waste your time or the effort involved in spreading it by hand.
Let the chickens do it for you! Simply pull the pin away and let your chickens spread the compost all over the garden bed.
7. Wintertime Fun
In the winter, your compost pile will likely stay thawed due to its innate heat as well as the fact that chickens are turning it constantly.
That means your chickens will have a warm place to hang out and you will be able to compost year-round.
Tips for Composting With Chickens
Here are a few more tips for using your chickens as composters.
For one, you may want to build a special composting area in the run or coop.
Make sure this spot is easy for you to access so you can remove the finished compost. It might make sense to put it as close to its final destination as possible (like the garden).
Don’t stop adding to your compost just because you have chickens hanging around. You can continue adding ingredients for as long as you see fit.
With any luck, your compost will be ready to use in the garden in as little as four or five months. You’ll know it can be used when it is dark, crumbly, and has a rich, earthy smell.
What to Keep in Mind When Composting With Chickens
There are a few things to keep in mind if you’re going to allow your chickens into your compost pile.
One is that compost piles, no matter how well cared for and planned, o have the potential to attract pests and predators. The strong smells of decomposing food attract rats, raccoons, and other animals looking for a quick meal.
Some of these creatures are also interested in eating chickens and/or their eggs. Therefore, it’s vital that you make sure your coop is well-protected.
You’ll also need to make double- and triple-sure that you’re not disposing of anything in your compost pile that could harm your chickens. Certain plants will break down just fine in a compost bin but may be toxic to chickens.
They won’t necessarily be deterred from taking a bite just because the plants are laying on top of the compost pile, so limit these additions if you are going to be having your compost near your chickens.
Another thing to be aware of is that, when you are composting, there are essentially two methods of doing so – hot composting and cold composting.
Cold composting isn’t always used with chickens. Chickens will eat many of the food scraps you put in your compost bin, so the mixture might have more chicken manure than you might like.
Hot composting is better, since it will provide you with a larger yield of finished compost.
Therefore, aim for a hot compost pile that is no smaller than a cubic yard- that way, your pile will be at a higher temperature and kill off any pathogens that might be found in the manure.
The Best Alternative to a Compost Bin in the Chicken Coop
Ultimately, if you decide not to put your compost bin in or near the chicken coop, that’s okay. You can still reap all the benefits of composting and raising chickens in tandem.
Remember, a chicken produces an egg about once every 24 hours – but it also produces up to one cubic foot of manure every six months. If that doesn’t sound like a lot, try raising a flock of a dozen or more chickens!
That manure adds up over time.
However, chicken manure shouldn’t be thrown in the trash. It can be composted and converted to black gold, where it will serve as a wonderful soil amendment, increasing the water-holding capacity and microorganisms in the soil, and as a fertilizer.
Since you’ll need to scrape out the chicken coop anyway, consider collecting the combination of bedding and manure and dumping it into a compost basin.
While you won’t also get the aerating benefits that free range chickens can have it will still allow you to get the best of both worlds.
And if you just really don’t want to have to compost at all, you can always eliminate the compost pile entirely.
Feed all your kitchen scraps and lawn waste directly to the chickens instead. They’ll eat it and, of course, poop it back out – and you can use those droppings right in your garden (after you let them age, for a while, of course).
You can even let the manure and bedding in the coop accumulate and then process it into chicken manure tea.
It sounds unpleasant – definitely not something you’d want to enjoy with a nice biscuit or cookie! – but chicken manure tea is a great way to provide your plants with a topdressing of beneficial nutrients later in the growing season.
Of course, you can always let the chickens hang out right in the garden, too. Then. you can skip the composting process and just let your chickens keep weeds, bugs, and other pests in check – just move them out a few months before you plant.
That way, your soul will be nice and fertilized and you won’t have to worry about the excess nitrogen burning your plants.
For us, raising chickens near the compost bin was an ideal situation.
We used to have to spend about 1 hour each week on the bin,
turning and adding the ratios of brown and green to keep it cycling down and the smell down. Now, the chickens do the work for us.
They jump in, scratch it all up, and turn it for us. In turn, they get the yummy bugs and maggots, egg shells, and other treats they so love.
Those are the reasons we decided to put the compost bins in our chicken area. It makes our lives a lot easier, to be honest, and we still have great quality compost to add to our garden.
What are your thoughts on this? Would you ever put the chickens near the compost on purpose?
last update: November 8th 2021 by Rebekah Pierce
Heather’s homesteading journey started in 2006, with baby steps: first, she got a few raised beds, some chickens, and rabbits. Over the years, she amassed a wealth of homesteading knowledge, knowledge that you can find in the articles of this blog.
Learn more about Heather and the rest of the writers on this page.