Composting Chickens: How to design and manage a composting chicken house (FUN)

Greetings. I’m Shad and I’m coming at you from Atitlan
Organics here in Tzununa, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. Today we’re going to be talking about alternative
ways to keep happy healthy chickens no matter where you live in the world. Before we get into that, I want to start by
looking at ecosystems. I’m gonna paint you a picture. Imagine there’s a raccoon walking along in
a forest and all of a sudden, BOOM, it drops over and dies. What happens? Within a matter of minutes, things start to
come and use the resources that are from that raccoon body. Maybe some birds come and get some of the
fur. Some scavengers eat some of meat and within
a couple of days all of the raccoon body has been worked back into the forest. This is an example of a healthy ecosystem
and of an Active Decay Cycle! But let’s look at an alternative. What happens if that same raccoon is walking
in a Walmart parking lot and falls over and dies? Then what happens? The next day maybe some flies come and lay
some eggs. Maybe a couple of seagulls or pigeons or some
weird birds come. It starts to smell really bad. It could potentially get people sick. And eventually someone has to come and expend energy and effort to clean it up because that resource has become a waste. And that’s the big difference. An Active Decay Cycle has no waste. All potential waste gets worked back into
the system. But what does this have to do with chickens? Well lets consider out typical backyard chicken
setup. Everyone recommends that first you build a
chicken coup and then you give them a range, maybe sectioned off by fence. Or maybe they don’t have any fence and they’re
just allowed to go wherever they want. But what happens over time? On the first day the chickens go out and they
eat all of their favourite plants and all of their favourite bugs. They go back in. The next day they go and eat their next favourite
plants and bugs. As soon as their favourite plants start to
grow again the chickens immediately come and eat them back down. And over time the chickens change the composition
of plant species that are growing on their range. Now the range is no longer providing the nutritional
benefits for the chickens. Furthermore, their manure and constant scratching
burns the organic matter and creates bare patches and hard ground in the range. It starts to look less like a forest and more
like a Walmart parking lot. Which leads to unhealthy or sick land, which
eventually leads to sick chickens. So if free range is not an acceptable solution,
then what are our alternatives? As long as you have enough space to build
a small chicken coup, you can keep happy healthy hens. How do we do this? We will build the active decay cycle directly
underneath the chickens. So lets go check this system out! So here we are inside the deeply bedded, stationary
chicken house. And as we said before, we’re actually going
to build a compost underneath our chickens. So, before we go any further, we need to talk
about the basic recipe of compost. Every compost system has two basic types of
ingredients. On the one hand, you have CARBON. Organic material that is dry and brown is
considered high in carbon. Examples might be straw or hay, wood chips,
dried leaves, or even newspaper or cardboard. On the other hand, we have NITROGEN. Nitrogen is green and wet organic matter. All manure and urine, as well as green plant
material, and kitchen scraps are high in nitrogen. If we mix them together at 30:1, we have perfect
recipe for hot compost. It you’re wondering what 30:1 actually means,
I strongly suggest that you check it out online and look around a little. This principle is very important in the composting
process. In short, every organic material has an inherent
carbon-to-nitrogen ratio. For example, this cotton shirt has one or
wood, or leaves . All material has a carbon to nitrogen ratio. And you want to mix them so that they balance
to 30 to 1. In a more practical setting, what does that
mean? It means to Follow Your Nose. Nitrogen is the waste. It smells bad. Carbon is the diaper. We use the carbon to balance the nitrogen. We use the diaper to absorb the waste. So when in doubt, add more carbon. And when you do this, you always get a great
compost pile. As you can see here, we are now in the deep
bedding. This is a real live compost pile that is being
turned and maintained by our chickens. What happens is as we add organic matter and
carbon to the top and they add nitrogen, three layers start to form. The top layer is what they’re scratching in
and contains things like the straw and the wood chips that we add, even sticks that go
in here as well as left over kitchen scraps. Some green material that’s left over as well,
also gets left in here. That’s the top layer and that’s what the chickens
are actively scratching. The next layer down you can see from about
here to here is partially composted organic material and it’s really hot. And if you smell it, it doesn’t smell at all. It smells like a forest. That is because it IS an ecosystem. And this is where all the micro-organisms
are. This is where the chickens are actually trying
to get to. The bottom layer is about where I have dug
down to, again this more than a meter deep. When we get down to the bottom layer, what
actually forms is a layer of dark, rich, finished compost. This compost is amazing for the garden. You can put it on fruit trees. On vegetable gardens. Anything. And this is all over the bottom of the chicken
house. You get about 10-20 cm of this at the bottom
and each layer above that is about 30-40 cm. Alright so let’s wrap this video up by looking
at two things. Let’s look at how to build this type of house
and lets look at how to manage it. Depending on where you live, you’ll have to
take special precautions for predators or for weather or climate conditions. Beyond that, there’s only really two special
design aspects of this type of chicken house. The first is that you need to have a wall. A wall or some sort of container that holds
in your deep bedding. This wall goes down a meter twenty. We recommend a minimum of 70 cm of depth. The other design aspect is that we want to
make sure that our poop always falls into the bedding and not on to hard surfaces. This is the Walmart parking lot. We want to make sure that the raccoon always
dies in the forest. So as you can see, there is a design flaw
in our house. We should have put the walls here. Now, because we didn’t, every morning we come
in with our broom and we sweep off all our chicken poop. As with all chicken houses, you need to provide
your hens with a few basic necessities to keep them happy and comfortable. You need some perches for them sleep on
that are raised above the ground. You need a feeder or two. You need nest
boxes and you also need a waterer. And we recommend that all of this stuff should
be raised above ground level. That way no compost gets kicked into the feed
or water. We recommend using chicken wire that allows
the chicken poop to fall straight down into the bedding to build the tables and supports. Its a good idea to make 50% of your roof out
of transparent material to allow sunlight in. Don’t forget that chickens also need to be
protected from drafts, but do like some airflow during the hot weather. Before you build your house, you have to ask
yourself one question. How many hens do you want? The number of hens will determine the size
of your house. We recommend two hens per square meter. As for the management of this house, in addition
to chicken feed and water, we recommend that twice daily, you bring your kitchen scraps
and all the garden wastes right into the house and throw it into the compost. We also recommend that once daily you bring
a carbon source in and spread it over the wetter spots in the area. We like to make sure that the house isn’t
too wet or too dry. Compost needs moisture to really get started
and really heat up, so often times we water the house. We also like to help the chickens by turning
the compost a little bit for them each morning. This not only helps the compost to heat up,
but it provides the chickens access to deeper layers in the compost so that they can go
find good treats to eat and help us in the composting process. One of the most important parts of the management
of this house is that you have to practice the Two-Day Poop Test. The way you do that is first you find a real
fresh, steamy chicken turd and you make a mental note of where it is. Then you come back the next day and look to
see if you can find it. If you can find it, then your house has failed
the two day poop test. The goal is that within twenty four hours,
all of the poop is worked back into bedding. Imagine that. On only two meters by two meters, you can
get yourself eight hens and produce over 2000 eggs and over five cubic meters of compost
every year. Say WHAT??? For real! So if you’re down with happy healthy hens
and tons of hot compost and super awesome eggs, check out our design and build your
own today!

100 thoughts on “Composting Chickens: How to design and manage a composting chicken house (FUN)

  1. I'm sharing this video with all the homesteaders I see that have the conventional coops.
    Could you make a water heater system at the bottom of the compost pile also?

  2. Best video on the topic. I appreciate the discussion about the theory of composting and using the nitrogen sniff test.

  3. if you have Predator problems this is the perfect way to raise chickens if you want to stop spending money on chicken food this is the perfect way to raise chickens if you want to protect your chickens 100% this is the perfect way to raise chickens from trial and error it has led me to raise chickens in this way thanks for the info bud

  4. yaman…that was truly awesome…loved every bit of it. One question please. I've studied under Elaine Ingham and she mentions that much darker compost is generally crystalised…it turned into a form of charcoal (carbon cooking under reduced oxygen) and therefore not really available for plants.

    Seems yours is a bit dark… would you benefit from airflows in your walls…

    Another cool thing would be to trade house between pigs and chooks once a week…the pigs would turn the manure out of it…

    voila…love love love from Baba Bear. France

  5. How soon can you harvest compost after starting from scratch? 95% of my carbon is wood chips, so will it take a lot long to break down with this system?

  6. Thanks! Can I do this in the chicken run area? I have a large area outside that isn't covered…

  7. I have been watching a LOT of videos on raising chickens and this one is definitely one of the best! Muy informativo! Gracias! I subscribed!

  8. 1 question…..what happens if u use antiparasite medicines on ur chickens or antibiotics….All the compost goes bad?I mean it gets contaminated right?

  9. Shad! i remember seeing this video like a year ago and thinking too much work and "what"…? But since then i got chicks and with the seeing other videos on the subject, i watched it again, and must say this is very well done, with lots of good info, even though in the beginning your hairstyle looks kind of "chicken" but maybe that was your intention! Looks like you all are living the good permaculture life out there! Thanks for such a great video! Keep up the good work!

  10. Great video. I would like to know how often you empty it, what you take out, and what you put back in? Basically, I would like to see you get the compost out of there and how you do it.

  11. Love it! Had to subscribe. Keep these educational videos coming, and keep the flair Shad! Say WHAAAT?!

  12. So glad I found this video! I'm gonna be moving to Honduras soon and this looks like a great plan for raising chickens. Thanks for posting this and explaining everything so well.

  13. We're looking at building this, but how do you get the compost out? It seems you need a grated or pipes on the bottom so you can get the compost out from the bottom.

  14. I replicated your model here in Canada. Only 4 birds in an 11×4 hoophouse. Dug down 1.5 meters. The heap is heating the coop.


  15. Love this video and idea of keeping chickens! I have three questions though, if you don't mind.

    how do you deal with pests like mice? We live in an area where there are lots of rodents and issues with them getting into the coop.

    living in a cooler rainy climate, do you need to alter the composting side of the design (obviously they need a a structure that keeps out the inclimate weather. But, do we need to be concerned with the compost getting too wet?

    is it ok to allow the chickens to have a run in addition to the chicken house or should they be maintained in the house at all times?

    Thanks for the post and for all of the other awesome videos! Subscribed for sure!

  16. i made a chicken house following your guidelines and now have seven chickens only a few metres from my house – lots of eggs, no smell. happy chickens. thanks!

  17. Could this concept be applied outdoors in a 4 season climate? I realize the breakdown wouldn’t be slowed down but I like the idea

  18. I clicked because I thought the guy on the thumbnail holding the chicken was Nacho Libre……but I watched the whole thing….TWICE because this guy's enthusiasm is contagious. Great video!

  19. I loved your video but I did not love your music. It was at least as loud as your voice and frankly did not add anything to your video.

  20. I just bought 9.5 acres in Washington County, NY and I've been waiting a long time to get a homestead going. I've got some apple trees ordered and berry bushes for my perimeter and I plan on building a chicken house exactly like yours. I bet the rock footing does a good job keeping out predators. about how big is your chicken house and how many birds can it hold?

  21. So, if we are basically building a compost bin under the chickens, what about other compost pile materials, such as rabbit manure and coffee grounds? Can they be added to the coop, or do I need a separate compost bin for these?

  22. Doing my research before I start this project. So, if my house fails the "2 day poop test", what measures are needed to correct the problem? More carbons? More nitrogens? More birds?

  23. I have spent months studying building coops and discovered an awesome resource at coop magic tactic (check it out on google)

  24. 14 months ago I first watched this video and it totally changed my perception of what was important when it came to keeping chooks, and I also thought about the ongoing waste that I was loosing and was not cycled back into the system. So I quickly built this version of a coop adjacent to my more traditional model. Over a year now I have continued feeding that active decay cycle beneath my chickens and being guided by my nose as to when to add more carbon etc, I have treated my veggie gardens with the most amazing compost I have ever made and in surprisingly huge amounts.
    Thank you Atitlan Organics from Western Australia.

  25. Well done! Very detailed & informative and thanks for having the cc/translation function activated. Sharing via twitter @cecalli_helper

  26. This video is gold. I found another on yt where someone is feeding his chickens 100% on compost. Maybe adding compost also outside in their run can sustain more this system.
    Another good option is paddock shift system where you move chickens every week to another fenced area. Fence can be portable or not. This eliminate cleaning, let vegetation to recover and provide food and entertainment for hens.
    But why bot both? This system is perfect for winter seasons in cold climates. It provide heat from compost.

    Btw do you have any tips for raising ducks like muscovies and indian runners/khaki cambell's? Egglayers and meat ducks together?

  27. A truly great video guys. I tried to replicate this system on concrete but the compost really missed out on the soil bugs and worms that come up through the soil so the chickens werent really getting alot of extra protein from the compost. Great fertilizer though. I´m planning out the next chicken coop now and I´m excited to give it another try with a soil floor. I wanted to ask you all what you fed the chickens? I am a coffee grower in Colombia and I want to start a small laying hen enterprise to increase our income but with non soy feed. Right now they get corn and kitchen scraps and they do ok but I want to get closer to commercial egg production and I have been having some problems figuring out what to feed to get the hens the protein and fat that they need to lay properly. I would love to hear any tips you all have learned over the years on the feeding side. Thanks!

  28. Hi Shad, thanks for this amazing inspirational video. I want to try your method but I am not sure if it will work for me because where I am living the summer is too hot the temperature reaches 120 degrees and it around 107 for long periods of time. So I am considering if the compost will make the temperature more hot for the chickens?

  29. This works! Great job and thank you for sharing. I have lots of predators and now you've given me ways to strengthen the integrity of my coop.

  30. As I know during composting proccess there are methane and some other gases come out. It would be a problem for more closer hencoop especially on winter season? This was the best explanatory video .Thanks a lot.

  31. Hello, my dad introduced me to this video. He wanted me to help him do this type of chicken coop/house this upcoming summer. Unfortunately he passed, but I still want to do it.
    He wanted to buy new blocks and rocks and such on from the store, but I was curious as to if I did just stuff from around my yard (such as branches and other materials) would it work well enough? I figured you have tried other ways before settling on this idea.

  32. Gary commenting. We can't free range/open pen here due to coyotes day and night. A similar set up should work well for us. Thanks for posting.

  33. hey just some friendly advice, you could use some scraps of metal roofing(anything slippery really) to build a little 45 degree overhang along the foundation of your chicken house so chickens cant climb up onto it. thanks for all the information you gave in this video. I remember watching this like a year ago and its still the best setup I have seen so far. I finally got a few acres and I plan on building a chicken house just like yours– maybe a little smaller — to house about 30 chickens.. Thanks again Shad

  34. Thanks for an awesome and very memorable video. I modeled my chicken house after this and its going really well!

  35. The gable style rooftop provides refuge in the most dangerous weather conditions, and several access entrances allow for effortless entry in order to feed, thoroughly clean[ Check Details Here=> ]and harvest two areas: the run and also the nesting location. The linked hatching situation makes for quick access to the nesting area.

  36. Wow! This is an excellent video with a lot of valuable information. Please will the chicken still need vaccinations with the system? Do u also provide the chickens with supplementary feeds? Please, also talk about organic feed composition when they are day old chicks. Am serious considering setting up a similar design in my farm in Nigeria. I will really appreciate ur response. Thanks.

  37. By far the best chicken management and setup I've seen in almost ten years watching homesteading videos!!! Awesome!!

  38. I don't understand the 2-day-poop test much. So what if the chicken house fail the test, what should I do next? Does it mean we have many chickens in the house?
    Anyway, very excellent video. Thanks so much

  39. Love it! Ever since seeing that documentary on large scale meat production. I made this decision….now I have a design with the birds and our comfort in mind. Got the breed picked.dual purpose and cold and heat tolerant…and feeding plan ( ) I have to go to hardware store and build.. thanks for showing us

  40. wonderful presentation. Thank you so much for excellent information on compost for happy healthy hens..

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