Chickens / Management

Using Fall Leaves

As every composter knows, dry, fallen leaves are a great source of carbon.  Chicken poop is an excellent source of nitrogen, so the two are a perfect match.  Dry leaves are excellent in the run.  Just get a big pile and dump it in the middle of your chickens.  They’ll know what to do!

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If you are going to use leaves inside the coop as bedding, sometimes they can hold a lot of moisture between them and become a bit of an issue.  Either introduce them as a small amount proportional to the rest of the bedding material or shred them first.  You could shred the leaves by putting them in the run for a few days and letting the chickens tear them up and then shovel them into the coop as long as they are still dry.

Gather ye dry leaves while ye may!  (Take that, Robert Herrick!  I never liked that poem.)  Rake and bag your leaves while dry and store them in your garage (beware of mice) or along the edge of your yard bagged and under a tarp.  I fully intend to stalk the streets for bags of leaves this year, stealing away with them in the early hours.  Every five bags or so of leaves I get is one fewer bale of shavings for me to buy.

For those of you who cry, “But what will I feed my compost if the chickens take my beautiful, carbonaceous leaves?”  Never fear: By winter’s end, your chickens will have spun your leaves into gold – black gold, that is. 😉

If you are going to use the compost on your garden, make sure it has time to age so that any of the newer manure (which is a fun phrase to say aloud) is broken down and won’t burn your plants.  Alternately, rake back the top layer of bedding and take the deeper layers for the garden.

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17 thoughts on “Using Fall Leaves

  1. Every fall I collect the leaves, shred them and put them on the gardens to cover them for the winter. The leaves keep the ground from freezing and we add our kitchen scraps throughout the winter. The worms do a great job of turning it into compost by the time spring rolls around, then I work it into the beds This year I have my ducks to add fertilizer to the leaves while they are foraging for food. They started to nest in the piles I put on the garden so far and was wondering if I could use leaves as bedding. I’ll have to give it a try! Hopefully soon I can get some chickens 🙂

    • Definitely give it a try! If you put the leaves and droppings on your beds in the fall, it should definitely be mellowed enough by spring not to hurt your plants, and the extra fertilizer in the dropping will round out the value of adding the leaves. I usually cover my beds with leaves as well, but I never thought of adding kitchen scraps directly! That’s a great and practical idea. Thanks!

      • I have been lining the my night time duck house with shredded leaves and every other day putting them on the garden. It has been working out great! I haven’t had to buy any bedding and the leaves keep the smell down. I used to use hay, but between the water and food that was spilled it would smell nasty. I already have worms breaking down the leaves in the beds. Thanks for the tip!
        ~Rob

      • That sounds like an awesome plan! By spring, those soiled leaves will have added tilth and a variety of nutrients to your garden beds. I bet those worms do love them! By shredding the leaves, you’re definitely getting the best they have to offer without the risk of extra moisture. I had tried straw and had the same experience as you – it really became a soggy mess. I’m glad the idea is working out for you!

  2. When we mow certain tall areas next spring summer, I plan to dry the grass/weeds and store for winter bedding for the chickens for next fall. I figure they can eat the weed seeds and whatever is in the debris. I know it won’t be good for the garden but if I get it before it seeds it would be OK. No sense to buy bedding if I can help it and I will certainly bag extra leaves to use also. Didn’t know leaves could be used so thanks.

    • I think that’s a great idea. I am sure you’ll find they eat the seeds and some of the hay, too. Mixed all together, it should make great bedding and excellent compost with the addition of the leaves!

  3. Thank you so much for the great information. I am new to the chicken raising and need all kinds of info. Will watch for more of your posts!

  4. Pingback: Happy New Year! « Scratch Cradle

  5. I know this is an old post, but I thought I’d ask… I’m getting chickens in the spring, so right now I’m collecting all my fall leaves to use in the run. What kind of bags do you store your leaves in under a tarp—those big paper bags you can get for yard clean up or plastic garbage bags? It seems like the paper bags might get too wet on the bottom and tear apart, but the plastic bags might cause the leaves to mold. Unfortunately we don’t have a garage to store them in. Thanks for sharing your wisdom!

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