The use of animal waste products as a fertilizer is nothing new, but the emphasis on using chicken organic matter in Georgia is growing – along with the research.
Chicken litter – the combination of bedding, feed, water and bird waste – is a prime candidate for use as a fertilizer because it is rich in nitrogen and phosphorus, two main elements in a balanced conventional fertilizer. This natural occurrence is compelling growers to consider the benefits of fertilizing with chicken litter.
“I think the use of chicken litter as a fertilizer has had a positive impact on Georgia agriculture,” says Dr. Claudia S. Dunkley, an extension poultry scientist with the University of Georgia. “It saves crop producers money compared to buying commercial fertilizer. Producers also have to do a nutrient management plan, which manages the amount of nutrients that are added to the soil. We have a program right now where farmers can go in and know how much litter they need to apply to their soil, so they don’t add too much nutrients to the soil.”
This fact makes the use of chicken litter as a fertilizer a benefit to farmers like Donald Chase.
“This has actually been one of our competitive advantages for a long time,” Chase says. “From a chicken farmer standpoint, it was a liability, and from a row cropper standpoint, it’s an asset. You have to do something with the litter and figure out where it is going to go. Over the years, this practice has allowed us to build our soil profile in a sustainable way.”
Both Dunkley and Chase advise other farmers to investigate the use of chicken litter as a fertilizer, but do so with the facts. They urge farmers to have a nutrient analysis performed, know the providers, be cautious when applying the fertilizer and talk to a local crop specialist or soil scientist to know exactly what the farm needs.