Chickens hold a special place in the nation’s heart. Brits munch their way through a staggering 2.2 million chickens every day of the year. This makes chicken the most commonly consumed meat animal in the country, accounting for more than 50% of the UK’s total meat consumption.
Then let’s talk about eggs. In 2015, the British public ate an average of 33 million chicken eggs per day. That’s 189 eggs for every man, woman and child in the country - adding up to a total of 12.2 billion chicken eggs consumed per year.
Where do all these meat and eggs come from? While about 15-20% of chicken products are imported, the majority come from British chickens. The UK poultry population is estimated to include 875 million chickens, plus 17 million turkeys, 16 million ducks and 250,000 domestic geese.
That’s a lot of birds, and they produce a lot of poo.
If you keep these staggering stats in mind, you will begin to understand why so many British farmers are turning to chicken litter as a cheap, almost inexhaustible alternative to commercial, inorganic fertilisers.
The question is, what’s so great about chicken litter?
What is chicken or poultry litter?
It is simplistic to say that poultry litter is chicken poo, although this is an important element of it. The poultry litter that is commercially available as fertiliser consists of two components:
1) Poultry manure; being a blend of urine and faeces taken from domestic livestock birds
2) Litter; this is a mix of bedding material, wood shavings, sawdust, rice husks, chicken feed and feathers, scraped from the surface of chicken barns.
Poultry litter is created by composting this blend together. The composting process breaks down the organic matter, releasing the nutrients into a water-soluble form. It also significantly reduces the risk of contamination from poultry pathogens that is present in some fresh manures. The nutrient-rich end product is a highly effective agricultural fertiliser, which is suitable for direct application to most arable fields.
What is the nutrient content of chicken litter?
Chicken litter is a rich source of several important plant nutrients. It contains high levels of organic nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K), each of which are important elements of plant fertilisers. What makes chicken litter a superior alternative to inorganic fertilisers is how readily these nutrients are mineralised by the composting process. Studies in the USA and Australia have shown that chicken manure releases 50% or more of its nutrients in the first year, meaning that continued applications can prepare fields for multiple crops in successive years. Farmers thus have the opportunity to increase crop yields while reducing dependency on environmentally dubious commercial, inorganic fertilisers and superphosphates.
Additional benefits of chicken litter
Chicken litter fertiliser is also good for the long-term health of the soil. Fertilising fields with poultry litter acts as a soil enhancer that increases the soil’s organic matter content. This is important as it improves the soil’s capacity to retain moisture, lowers its density (for better root formation) and improves the stability of the soil, making irrigation, ploughing and crop management easier.
Using poultry litter fertiliser as a partial or total replacement for inorganic alternatives makes good economic sense for UK farmers. The litter has a beneficial effect on soil health and crop yields and is cheaply available at high volumes. To talk to one of our team about the benefits of chicken litter or to place an order, please send us an email to email@example.com, or give us a call on 01526 353 978.