Chicken manure tea is a great source of nitrogen and other nutrients, and can quickly perk up a plant that needs a shot of nitrogen. Tomatoes, asparagus, cabbage and watermelons are examples of heavy feeders which may greatly benefit from some extra nitrogen.
I always add important trace minerals to my manure tea to meet this pressing need in my garden.
Like other birds, chickens do not urinate. Therefore, all of the nitrogen which other animals excrete through their urine is in the chicken litter. To balance out the high level of nitrogen, it is a good idea to add in trace minerals to your tea, and apply calcium to your soil.
Chicken litter has one of the highest contents of nitrogen of any manure. Nitrogen in chicken litter is also in a more available form than the nitrogen in non-bird manures. Therefore, it is doubly important that the chicken manure be aged for a year, or composted before using.
This will substantially lower the nitrogen level of the manure, plus help to reduce or eliminate pathogens.
Even then, care must be taken not to burn plants, or their roots. If you do burn a plant with too much nitrogen, it actually looks like the leaves went through a fire – they look dry and shriveled up.
As with most other manure teas, our goal in making chicken manure tea is simply to dissolving nutrients from the manure into the water. We are NOT trying to increase beneficial bacteria. Therefore, just add 1 part chicken manure to 3 or 4 parts warm or hot water, and agitate. This may be done by stirring occasionally, or by pouring the contents back and forth between 2 buckets (called boxing). Let the bucket sit in the sun and steep in between stirrings.
To apply, (manure tea app. page) dip the tea out of the top of the bucket, or pour it through a cloth into another bucket to strain it. As this YouTube video shows, for the average sized plant, one to two cups of weak looking tea is probably sufficient. If the tea is too dark, dilute it with water.
Manure tea is most useful when given to young plants for a boost of nitrogen to help them grow. For nitrogen loving plants, in a soil with low nitrogen this application can be made weekly till the plants start to flower. Be careful, because too much nitrogen and too little calcium encourages blossom end rot.
In the vegetable garden, extra care must be taken because of pathogens. Don’t apply your tea over root crops like carrots, beets, radishes, etc. Because of the danger of pathogens and burning, I avoid applying it on leaves, especially leaves that you will be eating, like spinach, lettuce or collard greens.
There is less danger of contamination with plants like tomatoes, pumpkins, watermelon, cucumbers, pole beans, etc. where the fruit is far away from the root zone where the application is made. Just try to keep the tea from splashing up on the fruit.
Another good application for your tea is to use it to inoculate your compost pile, especially if your compost pile is low on nitrogen items. It takes nitrogen to heat your compost pile up to the needed 150 degrees F. to destroy pathogens and weed seed.
Once you have removed some of the tea, you can continue brewing more tea by adding water to the remaining solids. This can be repeated for several days. Finally, dump any remaining solids on your garden or lawn.
Chicken manure contains heavy metals, and is especially high in zinc. After a few years, those who use a lot of chicken manure can start to develop a zinc toxicity in the soil.
Because birds don’t urinate, chicken litter is full of ammonium nitrate, and is pretty smelly to work with. I just wanted to make sure you knew this before you headed out to a chicken farm to collect some chicken droppings. However, if you can put up with the smell, you can really benefit from the nutrients in your tea.
Any manure deprived of oxygen can grow pathogens, like E.coli. It is best not to let manure steep for more than a few days. Wash your hands after handling it, and don’t allow children to touch it. During application, be careful that it doesn’t splash up on vegetable plant leaves or fruit.
Please visit my home page, Healthy Vegetable Gardening, for some great ideas on how to grow a healthy garden, and to benefit from it.
(Return from Chicken Manure Tea to Manure Tea)
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