Being in a suburban setting means that we and our neighbors are all rather close to each other. Therefore, we clean out the chicken coop each morning and add new pine shavings. We dump the used shavings and guano into large covered garbage cans. Each weekend we scrape out the chicken run straw and give them fresh straw. We have found that putting straw in the run keeps the odor down and the chickens like to play in straw. The used straw also goes in large lidded garbage cans. The garbage cans are large enough for about two weeks of cleanings. We end up with two cans of straw and a can of shavings every two weeks. That is a lot considering we only have six chickens. It is a lot of work but we have been told by neighbors that they detect no bad smell from the chickens.
I should add here that I have clothes and shoes entirely for this task. Those clothes stay in the utility area of out house. The shoes usually stay out side in summer or just inside the back door in winter. This utility area is off limits to the other pets in the house. This prevents the tracking of chicken waste through the house.
We of course have a compost pit. However, this filled up the first year we owned the chickens. We have a garden to fertilize but we have enough manure to fertilize every garden in the neighborhood at least once.
So we were left with few options:
1. Throw this out in the weekly garbage. We would not be surprised when they cancel us from the route.
2. Pay to take it to the dump ourselves. If they had a punch card where I get the 10th trip free I may consider this.
3. Find someone else who needs it and give it to them. Craigslist is already full of horse owners offering to let people “gather” their own garden manure for “free”. Does anyone read these and think “Wow! What a deal! I better call before they run out!”?
We went with option 3 with a sprinkle of option 2. We have a contact who owns a farm farther out of town. On that farm, they happen to have a compost area. The farmers are nice enough to not charge because they are relatives. However, the sprinkle of option 2 means we have to take it and dump it ourselves.
Some advice for anyone considering getting backyard chickens is to consider how they will dispose of the chicken waste. There will be more than expected. It will smell bad. It is not glamorous. And you will be responsible for removal. It is not impossible or too much work for the average person. However, it is one more chore to add to the already very long list.
Below is the compost added to the farm in only a few months.