The Scoop on Poop

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Weedguru Higher
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The Scoop on Poop

Post by Weedguru Higher »

The Scoop on Poop
By 3LB (Three Little Birds)

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History of Manure and Gardening

The use of manure in agriculture is an age-old and time-honored tradition. Manure has been used as a soil amendment and fertilizer since before mankind first began recording words and symbols in writing. Scientists as prominent as Carl Sagan have suggested that the very first cultivated agricultural crop was likely cannabis. It’s possible that the mingling of manure and marijuana goes all the way back to the very beginning of mankind's attempts to grow crops for a purpose, rather than surviving by simple hunting and gathering.

Under the influence of some fine herb, it becomes simple to imagine going back in time. Looking back, in the mind’s eye we can see a tribe of nomadic people looking similar to modern man, but leading a primitive hunter-gatherer existence. We can imagine the clan following available game while taking advantage of locally available fruits and nuts. These men (and women) were not necessarily bigger or stronger than the wild animals they competed against for survival, but they were smarter. And during those seasonal migrations, one of those very distant ancestors likely noticed that their favorite herb plants were thriving especially well in areas where their nomadic tribe disposed of wastes near their seasonal camps.

They may have realized that the very herds of animals their clan had been following helped to distribute and nourish the plants they favored. Perhaps, as Bill Drake suggests, it was a discovery from a pile of birdshit where it all began. Regardless of where it started, with a little more thought, our ancestors realized that crops could be fertilized, and even grown with a purpose. Some speculate that this is how agriculture was born; that it all began with a fortuitously placed pile of shit.

Nutrient Value of Manure


For a simple definition, manure is the dung and urine of animals. It is made up of undigested and partially digested food particles, as well as a cocktail of digestive juices and bacteria. As much as 30% of the total mass of manure may be bacteria, so it should be no surprise that dung can serve as excellent inoculants for a compost pile. Mixing manure in your compost can provide all the necessary bacterial populations to quickly and efficiently break down all the other materials common to the heap.

Manures can contain the full range of major, minor, and micronutrients that our plants need for strong health and vigor. Most manure will contain these nutrients in forms that are readily available to plants. The organic components of manure will continue to break down slowly over time, providing food for plants in the longer term as well. When composted with even longer-lived rock fertilizers such as Rock Phosphate or Greensand, manures can be used for true long-term soil building.

In addition to providing excellent service to gardeners as a potential fertilizer and soil builder, guanos and manures can also both be effectively applied as teas. Manure and guano teas act as fertilizers, providing available nutrients in forms easily assimilated by plants. They also serve as very effective inoculants of many beneficial bacteria

The nutrient value of manures can vary significantly from species to species, due to different digestive systems and feeding patterns. Even within a species, the fertilizer content of dung will vary depending on factors such as diet, the animal’s general health, as well as their age. Young animals devote much of their energy to growth, so their manure will be poorer in nutrients than that of mature animals. A lot full of baby pigs on starter feed will deposit wastes with a different nutrient value than the wastes produced by a lot full of swine ready to go to market.

With the exception of guanos (which are mined fossilized waste deposits) and castings (which are mild and well digested), it is generally advisable to compost wastes and manures before direct use in your garden. When added directly to soil, fresh manures can act in a similar fashion to chemical fertilizers. The Nitrogen in fresh manures (ammonia and highly soluble nitrates) can burn delicate plant root systems and even interfere with seed germination.

Another good reason to compost manures before use is the fact that some animal manure can be full of weed seeds. Proper high temperature composting techniques can kill those unwanted guests as well as many potential soil pathogens. Used alone, animal manures may not be completely balanced fertilizers. However, once the manures have been properly amended and composted, any imbalances can be easily corrected and the manure itself can be broken down and digested into nutrients that are both balanced and available for our favorite plants and herbs.

Proper composting will actually increase nutrient value in manure. Some types of bacteria in a compost pile will “fix” nitrogen. This preserves this essential nutrient by preventing escape as gaseous ammonia. If the conscientious composter prevents leaching, all of the original phosphorus and potassium can be preserved. As an added benefit, the composting process will increase the solubility of these nutrients.


Types of Manures

We want to continue our discourse with a simple listing of manures that can be used to good effect by budding gardeners. But, we would be remiss if we did not begin by first discussing the few manures we believe are NOT suitable for use in gardening.

Human wastes, as well as the wastes of domestic cats and dogs, are considered totally unsuitable for use as fertilizer. DO NOT GARDEN WITH THESE WASTES! With these sources, too large a potential exists for the spread of deadly parasites and disease. Just say no to any suggestion for the use of those few manure sources.

That said, there are a great variety of guanos, manures, and castings that are safe and available for use by the enterprising horticulturalist. The list includes but is not limited to:

• The Manures
1. Chicken Manure
2. Poultry Manures (including Duck, Pigeon & Turkey Manure)
3. Cattle Manure
4. Goat Manure
5. Horse Manure
6. Pig Manure
7. Rabbit Manure
8. Sheep Manure

• The Guanos
1. Bat Guano – (including Mexican, Jamaican, & Indonesian bat guanos)
2. Seabird Guano – (including Peruvian seabird guano)

• Miscellaneous Wastes / Manures
1. Earthworm Castings
2. Cricket Castings
3. Aquarium & Aquatic Turtle Wastewater
5. Green Manures

The various manures and their unique attributes.


Animal Manures vary by species, and also depending of how the animals are kept and manures are collected. Urine contains a large percentage of nitrogen and potassium. This means that animals boarded in a fashion where urine is absorbed with their feces (by straw or other similar bedding), can produce organic compost that is richer in nutrients.

Bird Manures
- are treated separately from animal manures since fowls don't excrete urine separately like mammals do. Because of this, bird manures tend to be "hotter". Overall they are much richer in many nutrients than animal manures, especially nitrogen. Because of their higher nutrient content, some growers prefer birdshit to the other animal manures.

Chicken Manure
(1.1-1.4-0.6) - is the most common bird shit available for farmers. It's high in nitrogen and can easily burn plants unless composted first.
Feathers (often included with chicken manure) tend to further increase available nitrogen - an added bonus. A small amount of dried chicken manure can be used as a top-dressing or mixed in small concentrations directly into soil. Chicken manures are probably best used after complete composting. Chicken droppings are often composted with other manures as well as green matter, leaves, straw, shredded corncobs, or other convenient source of organic carbons. Chicken manure is also a common ingredient in some mushroom compost recipes. One potential concern for the budding organic farmer, is the large amount of antibiotics fed to domestic fowl in large production facilities. It is also suggested that some caution should be used when handling chicken droppings, whether fresh or dried. Dried chicken shit is very fine and is a lung irritant. Caution is also counseled since bird (and bat guanos) can carry spores that cause human respiratory disease, so please wear a mask when handling bird and bat guanos and fresh foul waste.

Poultry Manures (1.1-1.4-0.6) - are often simply chicken shit mixed also with the droppings of other domesticated birds including duck droppings, pigeon poop, and turkey turds. They are "hotter" than most animal droppings, and in general they can be treated like chicken shit.

Cattle Manure (0.6-0.2-0.5) - is considered "cold" manure since it is moister and less concentrated than most other animal shit. It breaks down and gives off nutrients fairly slowly. Cow shit is an especially good source of beneficial bacteria, because of the complex bovine digestive system. Cow digestion includes regurgitation (cows chew their "cud") and a series of stomachs, all evolved to help cows more fully digest grasses. Since cow manure is more fully digested, it also is less likely to become a source of weed seeds than some other manure. Depending on your location, many sources of cattle manure can be from dairy cows. Recent expansion in the use of bovine growth hormones to increase milk production certainly could become a concern for organic farmers trying to source safe cattle manures. The healthier the cow, and the healthier the cow's diet, the more nutrients its manure will carry.

Goat Manure (0.7-0.3-0.9) - can be treated in a similar fashion to sheep dung or horse shit. It is usually fairly dry and rich and is a "hot" manure (therefore best composted before use).

Horse Manure (0.7-0.3-0.6) - is richer in nitrogen than cattle or swine manure, so it is a "hot" manure. A common source of horse manure is rural stables, where owners usually bed the beasts very well. Horse manures sourced from stables, therefore, may also contain large amounts of other organic matter such as wood shavings or straw with manure mixed in. Some sources of mushroom compost contain large quantities of horse manure and bedding in their mix. So from one standpoint, horseshit's use in herb growing is already fairly well documented. Horseshit, because it is hot, should be composted along with other manures and higher carbon materials, and in some cases wet down, to prevent it from cooking too hot and fast which destroys potential plant nutrients. As is true with all the different manures, healthier, well maintained animals will produce more nutritious and better balanced fertilizer. Since horses are usually well tended, this means horse manure from stables is usually a pretty good source for those in search of shit. Unfortunately, horse crap also contains a higher number of weed seeds than other comparable manure fertilizers.


Pig Manure (0.5-0.3-0.5) - is highly concentrated or "hot" manure. It is less rich in nitrogen than horse or bird crap, but stronger than many of the other animal manures. Swine crap is wetter overall than other mammal manures, and is often stored by farmers in the form of liquid slurry, that is mostly water. When allowed to dry, hog shit becomes a very fine dust, which can be a lung irritant. Pig shit is less likely to have nutrients "burn off" in the compost pile than horse manure, but is best used when mixed and composted with other manures and/or large quantities of vegetable matter.

Rabbit Manure
(2.4-1.4-0.6) - is the hottest of the animal manures. It may even be higher in nitrogen than some poultry manures. As an added bonus it also contains fairly high percentages of phosphates. Because of it's high nitrogen content, rabbit crap is best used in small quantities (as a light top dressing or lightly mixed into soil) or composted before use. An excellent fertilizer by itself, some folks combine rabbit hutches with worm farms to create what is a potentially very rich source of nutritious worm castings. As with other animal manures, healthier animals fed a nutritious diet will produce a superior manure fertilizer.

Sheep Manure (0.7-0.3-0.9) - is another hot manure similar to horse or goat manure. It is generally high in nutrients and heats up quickly in a compost pile because it contains little water. Sheep and goat pellets, because they are lighter, are easier to handle than some other manures. Sheep shit contains relatively few weed seeds but more organic matter than other animal manures. As a side note, sheep farming is generally more destructive to the environment than cattle farming (or many other grazers). Sheep have a "split lip" allowing them to graze closer to the ground, so they tend to strip grass bare to the root. This heavy grazing kills many grasses, leaving earth more prone to destructive erosion. While it’s hardly considered environmentally friendly, cattle grazing is less heavy on the land than sheep farming.

Bat Guano
- is found as deposits in some caves that have been inhabited by these little flying mammals. Bat crap can sometimes also be found in smaller quantities in other places bats inhabit (old or abandoned buildings, trees, etc.). Bat guano has many horticultural uses. Its presence can help to guarantee efficient soil regeneration. When used as a fertilizer or tea, bat crap fosters abundant harvests of a high quality, making it an invaluable agricultural fertilizer for producing outstanding organic herbs, fruits, and vegetables. Many dedicated organic farmers insist that bat guano brings out the best flavors in their organic herbs. The bottom line is bat guano has many excellent properties that give it great value for growing an organic product of the highest quality. It may very well be possible to justify the boast that bat guano is "superior to all other natural fertilizers".

Seabird Guano


Bat and seabird guanos are some of the most wonderful, extraordinary, versatile, naturally occurring organic fertilizers known to man. They are not considered to be a renewable resource, and they are sometimes mined in an environmentally destructive fashion, so environmentally conscious growers sometimes avoid guanos.

Green Manure

Green Manure is a crop grown for the purpose of supplying the soil with nutrients and organic matter. It is called a “cover crop” when the green manure is grown for the added purpose of reducing soil erosion. Green manures are usually legumes or grasses, and they are grown with the simple intent that they will be turned back under the soil. Cover crops and green manures are certainly cost effective for large-scale farmers, but many backyard gardeners have no idea how simple and effective they are to use. And, as we mentioned earlier, they do offer a “manure” option for growers who choose vegan organics.

Green manures improve soil in a variety of ways. Green manures add significant amount of organic matter into the soil. Like animal manures, the decomposing of green manures works to enhance biological activity in the soil. Green manures can also diminish the frequency of common weeds, and when used in a crop rotation, they can help to reduce disease and pests. When turned under, the rotting vegetation supports beneficial bacterial populations. As those decomposers do their work, nutrients stored by the cover crop are returned to the soil.

Finding Manure

As we’ve stated, one of the best reasons to use manures in growing is the fact that society (as a whole) has a surplus of animal shit. The disposal or dispersal of animal wastes is a real problem for areas where large agricultural operations produce copious excesses of waste. Even Vegans who might avoid pure animal products like bone meal or blood meal, might do well to consider using manures in growing, because the use of manures is beneficial to our planet's environment.

The best advice we can give for finding good sources of shit is to look around! We suggest you simply contact people who raise the various cows, horses, pigs or chickens that make this fertilizer. If you are lucky, they'll probably let you take a load home for free. Stables are usually listed in the phone book, and state fairs and traveling circuses can also serve as great sources for free manure. For the hopelessly urban farmer, the local zoo may also offer free crap. As an added benefit, zoos can offer some pretty exotic shit, like crap from critters like lions and tigers and bears, (oh my!) Some folk claim that manure from predator species like these can help to deter garden pests, such as rabbits and deer.

If none of these manure sources are available, or if you just prefer your shit pre-packaged, just head off to the local nursery or home-and-garden center. Wal-Mart, Lowes, and Home Depot are all examples of large outlets which will carry packaged manure products, usually cow and steer crap. Often these are at least partially composted and come labeled as "humus and manure". Nowadays, even many grocery stores carries manure products like humus and manure or mushroom compost. The budget conscious shopper can often wait until late in the season when stores are "closing out" such products before winter, to grab these items at increased discounts.

Garden centers or hydro shops are usually better sources for the more exotic ingredients like worm castings and the various bat and bird guanos. Ingredients for green manures can often be found in rural animal feed stores, or other similar agricultural supply center

The Scoop on Poop - By 3LB (Three Little Birds)
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Full Article Can be found here ... birds.html


Posts: 1220
Joined: Mon Oct 20, 2003 12:19 pm
Location: Manchester, uk

Re: The Scoop on Poop

Post by Grrrl »

time for my rabbit to start earning his keep then :) I didnt know about rabbits, heard of the farm animals poop being used before but not rabbits or bats. Interesting stuff, learn something new everyday :)
Me importa un pimiento...

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