Using the same logic as the poly-face farms model for pigs we have purchased twenty, four week old chicks to help¬† feed us through the summer during our building and permaculture courses.
We keep our sheep in a purpose built shed during the winter to preserve their foot health and give the dormant pastures a rest from their foot traffic which simply poaches (undermines) the ground. This leaves us with an abundance of spoilt hay and sheep’s dung in their shed, this mixture is not easy to deal with as it tends to matt together as it decomposes, making moving it difficult with hand tools. So we have combined our higher nutritional needs with a solution for our problem the chickens natural habit is to scratch the ground looking for food, the decomposing hay and dung attracts insects and makes a good environment for mushroom growth of some sort which means the composting mix is full of mycelium the vegetative part of a fungus. The chicks therefore gain a highly nutritious return for their labour of turning and aerating the composting mixture at the same time the chicks are adding their own contribution of nutrient rich dung which is high in both nitrogen and phosphates. The aeration and nutrient addition speed the decomposition and make the whole mixture easier to move with hand tools.
While this is not the end of the story for the compost or the chickens it is the end of the hard work of breaking up half decomposed and matted hay and sheep’s dung both this year and for the foreseeable future. The next step might be to see if we can combine our laying chickens with¬† the sheep during the winter so the whole job is started earlier.