Compost - Wildhaven Permaculture Design

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Chicken Compost System
"Integrate Rather than Segregate"

Composting is such a rewarding endeavour! Being able to take a large volume of "waste" material and turn it into a valuable resource is really quite magical. When I think about the waste stream in conventional industrial agriculture it is heartbreaking. Animals, kept in confinement, are fed food that is trucked in. That feed is converted to manure and deposited in rather large amounts. Then that manure is scooped up with machinery and  trucked offsite to be treated as toxic waste! With our chicken composting system, the waste manure and bedding is used to provide a significant amound of feed for our small flock of hens.

At this time we do supplement the flock with a small amount of scratch grains but with a fully mature and balanced permaculture system the hens should be able to get all the food they need, at least for the growing season. Our compost piles are just a small part of a larger system that includes recycling of waste from the garden (weeds, crops that are unsuitable for sale or processing, extra crops and even the scraps that come back to the garden from the kitchen), bedding and manure from goat and sheep pens and any other organic material that comes through the farm.

In the photo below you can see the progression from raw materials to finished compost. In the past we would stack the raw materials inside a wire surround. This prevented the chickens from working that pile while we were stockpiling the material. Over the winter of 2017/18 our goats accumulated far too much waste to fit in the wire! It just got stacked and we didn't start processing it until well into the spring. It worked well without the wire. The chickens tend to work mainly where we throw their scratch grains out anyway.

On the far left in the photo you can see the raw materials stacked up. As the chickens work at the edges of the pile they mix it up very well. Every few days I take a rake and pitchfork and restack the material into a new pile (center of photo) When the whole pile has been turned and mixed we start feeding on the new pile, process repeats. By the end the second turning (generally about 2-3 weeks) the material is well broken down and can then be used as mulch around the garden. Or, we can go through another couple turns and break it down into a black, soft compost suitable for use as potting soil (pile at the far right of photo).

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