As Doug and I were shoveling alpaca poop onto the garden beds yesterday I said lightly, “You sure can’t be bothered by poop if you live on a farm, can you?!” He laughed and agreed and we continued shoveling. I did not know that I would be around it so much post baby diapers. But there it is, now what to do with it?
The nice thing about Alpaca droppings is that it won’t burn plants. It is adds nitrogen to the soil but does not have to be composted. It can be added directly around plants and into garden beds. From poop pile to garden bed. Instant fertilizer. If you know someone that has alpacas, they will likely share. It is an added benefit to adopting alpacas, no more Miracle Grow!
The chicken coop is full of future nutrition for the soil but it needs a bit more time. Believe me, six months on a farm goes real fast though. I have a compost bin that Doug easily made out of discarded pallets. In the first one, the pile starts. Coffee grounds from the coffee shop and the kitchen, tea bags, and other items I wouldn’t put in the chicken food go in the pile along with the soiled chicken bedding.
When Nancy and I saw Joel Salatin two summers ago he mentioned that leaving the bedding in the coop all winter and just adding more as needed creates a warm space for the animals. In the spring, we are to shovel out the foot high plus pile of bedding and move it to the compost pile. Nancy didn’t like this idea when she tried it. She has a lot more chickens than I do and for her the smell was overwhelming. The floor of my coop is dirt and it works well for me. Next month I will scoop out the soiled bedding and leftover scraps they didn’t want (orange peels and such) and throw them in the first open bin of compost. He also mentioned that using straw is what creates the ammonia smell. I stopped using it and started using the pine shavings he suggested. The coop does not smell bad at all. However, now I learn that ducks will eat pine shavings so we will be back using straw soon. So, in this case, I may clean out the coop four times a year instead of two.
Scooped into the wheel barrel and thrown into its requisite side, it will be topped with some dirt or finished compost and left to finish. (Note: I constantly forget to turn my compost. It never looks completely black and finished, but it still works.) In the fall when I go to add compost to cleaned out beds, it will be perfect. Then the bedding from the summer coop pile will be cooking away in the second open area of the compost bin and will be ready to apply in spring.
The goat poo is new to us this year. It will not easily be picked up in their pasture as they drop small and many pellets. I’d be raking for a week. However, their bedding will get changed out next month from their igloo and that will go into the cooking pile of compost.
Dog and cat feces may not go into the pile. It will decompose in the grass, true, but just like ours, one would need a composting toilet and high heat to kill the bacteria present. Doug and I are planning on getting a composting toilet in the next house though!
Human urine kick starts the whole process. However, raised in a home of decorum and higher society than most folks I know, Doug refuses to pee on the compost pile. (Of course we are open to a major thoroughfare and close neighbors.)
I used to think the chickens were going to give me too much compost to use. But I find myself in constant lack. The more I garden, the more I need. The larger this farm gets, the more I need. Even if one lived in a house smack dab in the middle of Denver one can use the compost from the allotted chickens and goats there. It goes faster than you think!
Manure tea can also be made with droppings and poured on house plants or outdoor beds. Just make sure the manure sat for six months if it isn’t from an alpaca.
I never thought in my life I would be writing about poop. Just goes to show, never say never and having a farm changes you.