The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Deep bedding for ducks

Cleaning out the coopOn the one hand, deep bedding with ducks is a pain in the butt. The waterfowl's wet poop and big feet mean that the bedding gets mashed down into matted clumps within a couple of days. In contrast, deep bedding in a chicken coop goes a lot further because the chicken manure is drier and the hens scratch through the bedding, mixing the manure in.

On the other hand, the same wetness that makes duck manure hard to stay on top of also means that the lower levels of the deep bedding truly compost into a perfect, crumbly substance ready to get the spring garden off to a great start. In this photo, Kayla is reaching the bottom of the bedding and is hitting a bit of clay, but if you were to reach into that wheelbarrow, you'd find lots of pillbugs and other microorganisms happily digesting the manure, straw, and leaves.

I'm always keeping notes on how far my deep bedding goes because I dream of someday having enough for my entire garden without bringing in off-farm manure. Our main chicken coop (which houses the layers year-round) made enough compost this year for 20 garden beds (about 300 square feet), while the coop that houses our summer broilers made enough compost for 15 beds (about 225 square feet). Over the course of a year, we plant about 220 vegetable beds, which means our chickens only provide 16% of the fertility we need (without even considering our woody perennials).

Of course, we're slowly developing other homegrown sources of compost. Last summer, I was thrilled to discover that a year of humanure feeds about 72 square feet beneath our woody perennials, and the goats will help us take another step in the manure-self-sufficiency direction (once I figure out the level of composting necessary to kill the weed seeds in their discarded hay). But there's still a lot of garden that needs to be fed, so I guess Mark will have to keep
shoveling horse manure for the foreseeable future.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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What? Only Mark shovels manure? I need to talk to him about a union.
Comment by Errol Sat Jan 17 08:42:39 2015
Daddy --- Ack! You're always making trouble! No nasty unions here. :-)
Comment by anna Sat Jan 17 10:16:27 2015

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