Community garden chicken and compost - New coop design

Compost and chicken system at community garden

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Community garden chicken and compost - New coop design

Project summary

Purpose

This project aims to fully retrofit the chicken area at the ******* St Community Garden. This would also allow to greatly simplify and maximise the on site composting processes.

Context

The current chicken area is in need of improvement:

  • The chicken house is infested by vermin, fleas and mites.

  • The fence around the chicken yard is not fox proof.

  • The fence is climbed by kids to steal eggs.

  • There are “political” issues in regards to the eggs.

The current composting system could also be improved:

  • The “three bays” system doesn’t get used properly (plastic and rubbish is thrown away with the green waste).

  • The compost takes a very long time to decompose. The bins fill up and the compost can never be fully harvested.

  • The bins are hosts to rats and they breed in them.

  • The bins can host snakes.

  • The compost is very hard and heavy to harvest. It is of very average quality and the gardeners don’t harvest it. It is costly to pay for people to tidy up the compost.

Objectives

Chicken area:

  • Sanitise the chicken house.

  • Fox and child proof the chicken yard.

  • Allow for more chickens and more food per chicken.

Composting:

  • Simplify the composting process.

  • Speed up the composting process.

  • Maximise compost use (and minimise gardener’s expenses in fertiliser and manures).

  • Sanitise the composting process.

  • Eliminate ongoing maintenance and costs of composting process.

  • Free up the compost bins and potentially dedicate them to gardeners unable to bend down low.

Project complexity

  • New system must be “fool proof” as there will be many users.

  • Budget must be available.

  • Gardeners will need to be educated to the new chicken & composting facilities.

Potential benefits

If the project was to be implemented, we could expect:

  • The creation of a replicable template for chickens and compost facilities in community gardens. This template and the processes involved could be archived for further use by Cultivating Community and open sourced to share our experience with the rest of the world.

  • A definite improvement on the nutrient cycling within the community garden.

  • An overall increase of the sustainability (environmental and financial) of the community garden.

  • Increased total yield.

  • Happier chickens.

  • Happier gardeners and staff.

Feasibility

If the budget can be secured and the consultation process with the gardeners involved is positive the project could be implemented very rapidely.

The design could be fitted to match a budget if the current provided estimate was beyond a possible budget.

The design can be amended if the gardeners so require.

Proposed chicken & composting system (see joined New Coop Design.jpg)

Central yard

The chicken & composting system we are suggesting offers a central yard where the chickens live at all times.

The central yard would be of same dimensions to the existing one.

The fence to the central yard would be quite high (2m) and hard to climb over.

The central yard would be accessed through a single gate.

The existing chicken house would be sanitised but not modified.

Runs

Two smaller runs would be available to the chickens through two small latches which can be locked or opened as needed.

All green waste would be thrown in the runs. When the top section of the fence would be lowered the fence would be relatively low and as such would allow to throw waste over.

When the top section of the fence would be in the upward position, it could be locked with a pad lock.

The runs would be accessed through two large double gates. This would allow for easy access with wheel barrows at compost harvest time.

System

The run #1 would be opened for green waste and the small latch #1 would be opened for chicken access.

Green waste would be added for a determined amount of time, typically a month period.

Chickens would have access to the run #1 for the entire period.

After that period, the top section of the fence #1 and the small latch #1 would be closed and locked. The opposite top section of the fence #2 and small latch #2 would be opened and green waste would be thrown in the yard #2 for a period of a month.

The small run #1 would be left to rest during the month period where the yard #2 is in use.

At the end of the month period the compost harvested or left for the chickens to come back to.

Typically one harvest a season can be expected with such a system. It can also be harvested more regularly or left to build up indefinitely (years). The harvest is accomplished by digging the soil & compost loosely with a mattock and lifting the compost into a barrow with a fork. It can be harvested with forks or spades directly but the mattock helps loosening the soil. Vigour is needed for the mattock, but it is relatively quick and quite easy. Lifting the compost can be done with a fork and doesn’t need to be physically straining. A regular seasonal harvest would mean distribution of the compost could be formalised.

The hard woody materials that would get thrown in and resist composting could be thrown along the furthest fence line of the run (creek side) and left there indefinitely. This acts as a refuge for the invertebrates that will eat the green waste and that are eaten by the chickens. The last meter before the furthest fence line of the run would hence never be harvested.

A rubbish bin would be put in the corner of the runs with clear signs (must be a eye level, not written on the bins) for plastic wastes. Perhaps a transparent plastic bag or glass jar could be filled with plastic found in the compost and a unhappy face drawn on it too.

The existing compost bays could perhaps be retrofitted into very high garden beds for people needing to garden fully standing up.