Using manure to cut your chicken food costs is something many homesteaders do whether they realize it or not. Properly managed manure with chickens will help cut your chickens’ feed bill. It gets you closer to your end goal of sustainable chicken feed.
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Good Management Is Key!
The way you handle and manage manure is what determines the microbes, bugs and/or pathogens that will grow. Manure will either be a source of health and success or disease and sickness. Not to mention foul odors. Yuck! It all has to do with your management.
One of the best components to a homestead management plan is chickens. Chickens are a valuable piece to the holistic puzzle when it comes to manure management.
Health or Disease?
The good vs. the bad bugs in manure grow and reproduce depending on how you manage the manure—AKA the environment they live in.
Manure that’s properly managed will support the growth of the good microbes, larvae and bugs. This means healthy pasture and animals.
Poorly managed manure leads to bad microbes, bugs and pathogens. You’re more likely to have a sickness and diseases in your animals and pasture.
Supporting Health—3 Manure Management Methods
There are three great ways you can manage manure on your homestead. One is composting, the second is rotational grazing (preferably with multiple species) and the third is chickens.
Here’s a great way you can safely handle manure. Composting breaks the manure down and grows billions of healthy microbes and bugs for your garden and/or pasture.
Give the chickens access to the compost pile for even greater benefits. They’ll eat the bad bugs, larvae and parasites right out of the pile—while helping you turn it at the same time. (At least the tearing-the-pile-down part.) This gives you a better end result—compost for your plants.
Rotational Grazing With Multiple Species
If you have pasture and multiple kinds of ruminants (animals with four stomachs like: sheep, goats or cows) rotational grazing is a must! This is the best way to manage manure for optimal health on the homestead.
“‘Generally you have different parasites in different species (they are host-specific); they can't mature in the wrong host...You can break the life cycle of most parasites by multi-species grazing.’ When equine-specific parasite eggs hatch, the larvae move onto grass plants where they might be ingested by a horse. If they're eaten by a cow or sheep rather than a horse, those larvae won't mature.” —Source
“Cattle, goats, sheep, pigs, and poultry...have differing tastes in herbage and are host to different parasites, and their droppings contain different nutrients, too.” —Keeping A Family Milk Cow, by Joann S. Grohman
Chickens Make it Better...
Adding chickens to your rotational grazing plan improves the control of bad bugs and parasites. The chickens tear up manure and spread it around while they eat out the harmful bugs.
“‘...[chickens] are very good at spreading manure around—they tear up the piles to get any grain that wasn't fully digested or to eat the insects that live in fresh manure.’ This also helps with parasite control; many of the parasite eggs passed in manure will be scattered—and dried out—and won't survive.” —Source
This is amazing for pasture health, the ruminant's health, and the chicken’s health.
Just Chickens For Manure Management
Chickens can do much to aid and support health on your homestead by eating the bad bugs, larvae and parasites out of the manure. This stops the bad bugs from reproducing and possibly making your animals or pasture sick.
Composting and rotational grazing when done in conjunction with chickens is the best option for a healthy homestead. Even if that’s not possible, chickens with access to the larger animals’ pens will still eat out some of the harmful bugs and parasites. It’s better than not having them.
When chickens have access to manure, you’re supporting health. Their health, all your other farm animals’ health, and your pasture and land’s health.
What Do the Chickens Get?
We’ve listed a few already: bugs, larvae and parasites are all a good source of food. The protein, calcium and other minerals in the bugs are great for their health, and help produce strong egg shells.
They also find and eat any undigested food. Grains and any other foods the cow, sheep, goat, etc., didn’t fully digest—the chickens will gladly eat them.
This is free chicken food!
Free Chicken Feed
You’re providing your chickens with a food source. You’re feeding them!
Don’t underestimate this. On a homestead with a fair number of animals like cows, sheep or goats, your chickens are getting a decent amount of food, picking through their manure.
It’s chicken food...
FREE chicken food!
Will this allow you to stop feeding commercial feed with this as their only food source? Most likely not, although it will give you a foundational, holistic piece homesteaders can’t afford to miss out on.
What they harvest from your animals’ manure—which you already have—means they’ll want that much less food from your commercial feed pail.
You’re saving that much more on feed. Plus you’re that much closer to having home-grown, sustainable chicken feed—right from your backyard!
A Given Holistic Homestead Piece
If you already have land, pasture and a few animals, all you need to do is give the chickens access. There you have it...free chicken feed.
If you’re already doing this, that’s great!
Now you need to view it as a food source.
Don’t pretend it’s not there. Just because it’s a matter-of-fact part of your homestead doesn’t mean you need to ignore the role it’s playing in your sustainable chicken feed sources. Chickens with access to manure means you’re one step closer to a sustainable food supply for your flock.
If you’re interested in cutting your chicken’s feed bill even further, check out this page to learn more:
10 Ways to Save Money on Your Chicken Feed Bill