Why did the chicken cross the road. To poop all over it!
One of the awesome things about backyard chickens is the free chicken manure. Free ranging chickens even spread it out on your garden for you. And chickens are poop machines, producing about 40kg (90 lbs) per hen, per year.
It sounds great, but there can be a downside to all this poop. The trouble is, chickens don't contain themselves neatly around your fruit trees, where you want them to spread their manure.
They poop everywhere. And they seem to especially love pooping in areas you really don't want covered in poop. Your patio, outdoor furniture, deck, driveway, paved areas and even your door mat (that’s my favourite one).
And if you have little kids running around your backyard (like we do), they will without a doubt step in it or even pick it up. My son loves pointing it out in our backyard "poooo."
Comparison to other pets
In many ways chickens aren’t that different to other pets which poop all over your lawn. But there are 3 important differences:
1. Chickens poop more often:
Chickens poop more often and leave a trail of poop everywhere they go. They poop at least 15 times a day. On the other hand dogs and cats poop 1-2 times a day and tend to poop in a similar area. They can also be trained to poop in certain areas and not in others.
2. People often have more chickens than dogs or cats:
It's common to have one or two dogs or cats. But with chickens, people often have a lot more than that. Five to six chickens in a small backyard (and often many more) is not that uncommon.
3. Chicken poop is the best fertiliser you can get:
Chicken poop (in the right amounts) will make your grass greener and is one of the best fertilisers you can get for your vegetable garden. However dog and cat poop (and urine) is so strong that it kills grass and can't be used in your garden because of the risk of pathogens.
Do you know what you're in for?
Chicken poop really is a double edged sword. It’s one of the best things about backyard chickens and is one of the best things you can do to build healthy soil. On the other hand, if it's not managed properly, chicken poop can be really annoying.
The trouble is most people (like I did) jump into chickens without any planning and without any clue about what they're in for. Here are two all to common examples:
“We only have a small property, slightly less than an acre of land. I've been letting my 15 chickens freerange and now there is poop everywhere! With summer coming and the backyard being for everyone - how can I have the layers I love without everyone getting upset over stepping in poop! How do you manage the poop load in a small backyard flock? Help me please to figure out some options before flip flop season is here.”
“We recently got the paving done around the house (looks great!) and we have chickens. The chooks poop on the pavement and it doesn't look nice. We were wondering if anyone had suggestions to prevent them doing this on the pavement around the house? We didn't realise how bad the paving would look in 2 weeks with only 2 of our 10 chooks out and about (the other 8 were recently bought and aren't very big yet).”
The good news is that with a bit of planning you don’t have to put up with messy poop in your backyard. Here are eight ways to plan for and better manage chicken poop in your backyard.
1. Flock size:
Don't get more chickens than you and your backyard can handle. Less chickens in your backyard means less poop which is easier to manage.
Cutting your flock size in half will also cut poop in half.
I’ve tried putting up a “keep-off” sign but for some reason my chickens ignore it. I wish it were that easy!
So unfortunately fencing is the only way to keep chickens poop off areas where it's not wanted.
3. Part-time / supervised free range
If you only let your chickens out of the coop for part of the day, this will cut down the poop load.
And if their free ranging is supervised, you can deter them from areas you don’t want them to go. But keep in mind chickens can be very persistent and will keep coming like a swarm of ants or a zombie horde.
4. Enriched habitat
Encourage your chickens to hang out in certain areas of your backyard by providing an enriched habitat. Dirt baths, shady bushes, hanging toys and mulched areas where they can dig for bugs. This will encourage your chickens to spend more time in the areas you want them and less time pooping on your outdoor furniture.
Also lots of mulch and leaf litter in their coop and free ranging areas will help neutralise any smell and turn it into compost quicker.
5. Combine orchards and chickens
Keep chickens in areas where their poop is productive rather than a nuisance. Orchards are a perfect example of where chicken poop provides an excellent source of fertiliser and is productive rather than a nuisance.
6. Poop Patrol
If chickens are free to roam and poop in your backyard, the only way to keep it under control is regular poop scooping and hosing. Scooped up poop can be thrown into the compost or onto areas of the garden such as your fruit trees. Hosing will also help the chicken poop decompose more quickly.
7. Chicken Diapers
Luxury chicken diapers are a ridiculous idea, but apparently very popular. Chicken Diapers are used to catch chicken poop and is often used by people who want to take their chickens indoors. This site (https://www.pamperyourpoultry.com/) sells 500 to 1,000 diapers each month, at $18 a piece.
8. Poop boot covers
Get these covers for your shoes so that you don't get chicken poop on your new clean shoes:
Chickens poop everywhere. Which is why it can be difficult to have backyard chickens without your backyard getting covered with chicken poop. But with a bit of planning you don’t have to put up with messy chicken poop in your backyard. And no you don't have to resort to chicken diapers! I've provided 8 different ways to achieve this.
How do you keep chicken poop under control in your backyard? Let me know in the comments below.