Farm Farm

How the Chickens Do the Composting For Me

Since getting rid of bedding from chicken coops and goat stalls can be an issue for an urban farmer, I thought I’d show you what I do. Now there are two rules I’m governed by here in my town: I am not supposed to create a noise or a smell nuisance with my animals. If I do either of those things the neighbors would have a right to either say something or report me to the health/building department. While I’ve had a neighbor call regularly within the first day or two of a rooster starting to crow, I have never had a complaint about causing a smell nuisance.

Last week India and I cleaned out the goat stalls down to the rubber mats. I don’t find that I have to clean the goat stalls very often, but probably more often in the winter when they spend more time indoors. In the winter though, using the “deep litter” method really does help to keep them warm. I find with goats though, who are such hay wasters, that this method just sort of comes naturally, as all the hay that they toss around just naturally becomes a thin layer of clean bedding.

Armed with my pitchfork, big snow shovel and wheelbarrow, between both stalls I think I hauled 4 big loads of old bedding out of there.

Cleaned down to the rubber mats, Princess Kate doesn't know what to think of her stall.

Pine shaving bedding forms the base layer.

Then a thin layer of straw goes over that. They'll put plenty of hay down in layers over time.

And yes, that is a fluffy chicken butt you see poking out from under the hay rack in the previous photo.

Melina & Kate's stall.

And this poor chicken is desperately trying to ignore me in there cleaning the stalls as she tries to lay an egg. She finally gave up and left, but came back as soon as we were done.

Now normally I have been putting this old bedding in a different area, but since it backs up to my neighbor’s house that just got put on the market to sell, I thought I’d be nice and start a new area. This time I chose the area surrounding the trampoline which doesn’t have any grass growing there. I dump the load out bit by bit as I move over the area and then spread it out with a rake into a somewhat even thick layer. Then I sit back and watch the chickens come running.

I rake the old stall bedding out into an even layer.

The chickens frantically scratch around looking for some delicious treat buried in the bedding.

They're stirring up a dust cloud they're so busy scratching around.

Now I’ll try to remember to take a photo of that area in a few weeks so you can see how the chickens have naturally broken down the hay, straw and bedding. It’s really amazing; like it’s been chopped up by a mulching machine or something. Over time it will just compost right into the ground.

The ladies were just glad to have us out of the stalls so they could lay their eggs in their favorite spot - the goat's hay racks. This one is in Grace & Kiki's stall.

You can see how excited Melina, The Queen Grump, is about the clean stalls.

The adolescent chicks are getting very comfortable outdoors now. In a perfect world they will just naturally migrate to the new coop, but things never work that way for me. I'll probably have to drag them kicking and screaming.

Aren't they cute?

Of course if you only have a few chickens and a very small coop, you can just put your old bedding in a trash bag and put it out with the rest of the garbage. But if you have a garden that you let your chickens free-range in during the off-season, you might consider using this method as it’s great fertilizer and compost for the garden beds.


  1. It’s all very fascinating. Your photos are always so great.

Speak Your Mind