This is the last installment in my series of advice blogs on coop design and function. From my “Scoop on Coops” post, I laid out the following topics that were important considerations when setting up your coop:
- Provide access to fresh food and water
- Protect the hens from excess cold, heat, predators and vermin
- Provide a place for hens to lay their eggs
- Maintain hygiene for both the hens and the eggs
Now, I want to mention some things about the environment. Not global warming and carbon footprint so much….something a little closer to home, and much more in your control. I’m more interested in the environment in your backyard and inside your coop.
There are 2 things about chickens that make them a little tricky to manage.
1 – they EAT EVERYTHING….and anything they don’t eat, they scratch up and denude
2 – they CRAP EVERYWHERE…..birds have evolved all their facilities for flight…no teeth, hollow bones, don’t carry their young inside them, and don’t hold their excrement for a nanosecond longer than necessary….ie, where a bird walks, there will be poop
These 2 factors result in the major environmental problems caused by hens. They will destroy the ground cover of any area you keep them in unless you a) have a lot of land (think acres), or are able to periodically move the coop (think every week or 2). Chicken manure is an excellent fertilizer (professional egg farmers do a good business selling their manure to other farmers), but in too high a quantity, it will burn grass to death.
So….removing the manure is necessary so that the area the chickens live in won’t become fouled (sorry). The problem is, unless you have a good size garden (or very small flock), there will be more manure than you can use. Composting it is often unsuccessful, since the high nitrogen and phosphorus content will kill small composters (remember each chicken will produce around 2 lbs of manure per week). Some plan needs to be developed to deal with the manure that is produced. Some municipalities allow it to be disposed in municipal compost, but some don’t. I’ve talked with some backyarders who collect the manure and flush it down the toilet….your call.
These habits need to be dealt with individually….a large lot, small flock, big garden situation is very different than the flock that uses up most of the lot in a static coop. But think about your situation, and plan for the pollution….because, trust me, you can’t stop it.
Mike the Chicken Vet