Hay, chickens and compost.

I’ve got into a routine for turning hay into compost, after trialling a few alternatives. It involves using it as bedding in the chicken house. Now that the warm wet weather has returned, it’s time to start the process again.

Cut hay is a useful resource

Cut hay drying in the paddock

Bill got the tractor out and slashed some new grass last week. It is a distant part of the paddock that hasn’t been mowed for many years, so the standing crop was pretty heavy. Our grass just keeps growing on very long stems which fall over on each other, with the result that there is a very thick cover which takes a couple of cuts to get back to ground level.

The upshot is that a slashing leaves a heavy crop of hay that is perfect for raking up and using elsewhere. If it stays in the paddock it makes a thick mulch that hinders even pasture growth.

A load of hay

The back of the ATV loaded with hay ready to take up to the chicken run.

So I got down with a rake and collected a couple of trays full of nearly dry hay while the sun was shining.

A recycling system uses it as hay for the chicken house puts it through a few stages which turn it into a rich compost for the vegetable garden.

hay stack

The new hay stack in the chicken yard. Willow, Spike and the chickens are checking it out.

First stage is to stack it in the outer chicken yard to dry out. Nice and high and airy is good, so that any rain runs through and the wind can dry it.

The chickens like to poke around and tend to rake it out and lay it all in the one direction, which makes the next step easy. When it has dried in a week or so I can take the top off and use it as replacement bedding for the chicken house. Then the bottom layer dries out and I use that. Cleaning out is a messy job but the long hay makes it easier as it tends to lift in sheets, bringing the manure with it.

Then I load the old bedding in the ATV and take it down to the kitchen garden where it sits in a pile to mature for a while in the rain, until I have a bed or three to dig over and prepare for the next crop.

One bonus advantage of the chicken bedding is that there is a pot luck germination of tomatoes, chilis, and whatever other fruit the chickens have eaten in the new beds. Most get weeded out, but I have had a couple of Winter tomato crops just from random seedlings.