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Using Chicken Litter to Fertilize Fruit Trees

Posted on 25 September 2014   Uncategorized

Using Chicken Litter to Fertilize Fruit Trees

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We live in the heart of Texas poultry country, and as a result, there is always chicken litter to be had. That got me thinking about using poultry littler as a natural fertilizer for fruit trees. So if one was so inclined, how would you use chicken litter to fertilize fruit trees?

In any given flock of chickens, a hen will probably produce more than 40 pounds of litter per year. I always knew chickens were full of crap….

To use poultry littler for fruit tree (or just general gardening) fertilizer, the first rule of thumb is to never use fresh litter. Whether your source is your own chickens, a poultry farm, or some commercially available chicken litter-based fertilizer, make sure the litter is aged before applying it to any plants. Some plants tolerate fresh litter better than others, but a good rule of thumb is to make sure the litter is composted or aged for at least a week or two before applying it to the fruit trees or any other garden plant.

For fruit trees, its best to apply fertilizer of any kind (including poultry litter) away from the trunk but within the drip line of the tree (the drip line being that area on the ground beneath the tree where the water drips off when it rains). Using aged/composted poultry litter, sprinkle the litter on the ground around the tree. We recommend using about one cup of litter per each inch of trunk diameter, but with composted litter applied around a tree, you really can’t go wrong. Just make sure you don’t add an inch of litter covering the ground around the tree….that might be too much 

After the litter is applied, water it in. If it is well-aged, there should be minimal odor or none at all. I had a pile of this stuff composting on our farm, and there was never an issue with odor – thank goodness!

You should notice an increase in vegetative growth within days. Chicken litter is naturally “slow-release” fertilizer, so there is residual fertilization that takes place months after the initial application of the litter. Commercial fertilizer usually has the “Big Three” nutrients only –Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium – but chicken litter has those nutrients plus micronutrients that are beneficial to plant health. Clemson University has an interesting article on the chemical analysis of chicken litter here.

Poultry litter can also be mixed with water to make litter “tea” and it can also be added to compost for an extra nutrient boost. And of course chicken litter can be applied to any garden or ornamental plants. I know many people (probably readers of this blog!) that have grown amazing gardens with chicken litter applied to the soil.

Here on the farm, I have applied chicken litter to apple trees, native fruit trees, and peach trees, all with great results. I’ve been shocked at how much new growth I’ve seen, and how that growth is continuing.

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4 Comments

  1. I raise chickens and do use the litter. Great results too! I use shavings in the coop and once a month clean out and use sparingly around plants, trees etc. with no issues. The key is sparingly with mostly “green” manure but mixed in with the shavings has been working here. A little sprinkle goes a long, long way

    R W on 30 September 14, 12:15pm (Reply)
    • Excellent advice! Thank you!

      Trey Watson on 01 October 14, 7:20pm (Reply)
  2. Trey,
    I compost my own litter, and let it sit for about 6 months. I add timber mulch, rice hulls, leaves, and grass clippings during the year, and turn the pile with my tractor about once a month. I use this around the fruit trees I get from you, and in food plots for deer. Adding this to our Sandy soil in Sabine County has done wonders for the soil. It now holds much more moisture, and the compost has created massive growth. I still have to use a good bit of lime to offset the ph in my soil. Thanks for your support over the years !

    Chas. on 03 October 14, 12:33pm (Reply)
    • This good stuff! Thanks for your business over the years!

      Trey Watson on 04 October 14, 4:54am (Reply)

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