Monday, April 2, 2012

Making compost the homespun way

Since we brought chickens to live with us we've created quite a system for dealing with organic waste. I thought I'd share some notes on my system and how it all is working.
Chickens eat kitchen scraps, scratch around in straw and mulch and sleep and lay in waste paper. Chook poo is very high in ammonia which is too strong to go straight into the garden so I process it through the compost. My vegie garden has been a bit neglected of late and is in desperate need of compost so I'm eagerly anticipating the next batch. This production line seems a little complicated but is turning into wonderful, life giving rich compost quicker than usual.

The experts talk about carbon to nitrogen ratios of 30:1 for perfect compost. Carbon is supplied from sawdust, straw, paper, ash, wood chips = brown materials. Nitrogen comes from kitchen scraps, weeds and manures = greens. I have always been low on the carbon but the paper, straw and mulch now being pushed through the system has changed the balance for the better.
1.  Our garden waste, hedge and tree prunings, leaves and twigs are turned into mulch by "the beast", a large petrol run shredder.  Some of this goes straight onto the garden (flower and fern beds not vegies) but we have kept a large bag aside.
 This forms a scratch layer in the bottom of the coop.
 2. All of our paid bills, receipts etc are shredded. We've started to bring shredded paper home from work as well as we can't keep up with demand. This paper becomes a dry, springy bed for our chooks and prevents eggs from getting cracked.

 3. I scrape up both the bedding paper and floor mulch once a week and layer into my compost bin.

4. I keep kitchen scraps in a cute little bucket in the kitchen. I put things like egg shells, tea bags and gross things from the fridge into this. Peelings and green scraps I throw into a stainless steel bowl and feed to the chooks fresh. Fruit scraps tend to go to the worm farm as that is their favourite.  See my earlier post about the worms.

I add the scraps and other green material including cut green grass and weed clippings to the compost.

The scraps that I givet to the chooks contribute to what I scrape up each week ;)

5. Maintaining the compost.  It is important to turn and aerate your compost regularly to prevent it compacting and becoming inactive. As you can see the compost is full of worms.
 I keep a garden fork and bag of horse manure handy to add to the mix. When we empty the wood burning combustion stove I keep the ashes in a bucket near by to the compost. Sometimes you don't have quite the right materials on hand to add when needed. Turning can help with this. I have two bins (although only one lid sadly). Sometimes I tip the whole lot out and re-layer.
Tip: Here's a free tip to give your compost a boost.  Add a drink of molasses once in a while.  As you know molasses is very sticky and stiff. Mix with a little bit of hot water until runny and then top up with cold water. You don't want to scold the worms.
 Make sure its cool and then pour into your compost. This keeps the mix moist and attracts all those little micro-organisms who make your compost. They seem to have sweet tooths!
Benny and Harry watched the whole operation from the verandah.

I'll let you know when I start to spread the compost.


  1. Hi Jodie
    Looks like a good formula for Compost.
    Chickens are essential, I believe.

  2. I was just thinking it looks like compost tea !
    It takes an awful lot of trial and error and hard work, but eventually your homesteading will be so rewarding.
    I so admire you.

  3. Thanks Jo, your comment has made my day:)

  4. Since getting my chooks I too have started working on my compost again. I love the shredded paper idea. I normally buy straw and shavings.



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