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PostPosted: Tue Jul 10, 2007 11:33 pm 
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Showy Hen
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I'm going to throw a chook amonst the pigeons...

Every now and then I read a comment about chickens not being allowed near compost heaps. Since I spread my compost around the garden, it seems pointless excluding them from the compost. Especially since they do such a good job as composters.

So opinions please, but I'd be particularly interested in any studies into cause and effect.

Cheers, Richard.

BTW I've also posted a cross link in Good Samaritan.


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2007 12:03 am 
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Old Mother Goose
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Once the compost is properly broken down into soil and has a nice sweet forest floor smell it is safe to put on the garden around the chooks.

While the compost iis de-composing however it contains bacteria such as botulism which can kill your birds.
Watching a bird die this way is awful.

It is produced by 'rottiing' plant and animal matter.

For compost to break down properly and kill dangrous organisms it needs to get very hot. I have often turned a heap to find steam riissing from the centre.

Compost can also produce enough amonia fumes to cause respiritry problems iin chooks.

So say, keep chooks away from the compost, and add it to the garden once it is finished.

Sarah.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2007 8:47 am 
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Old Mother Goose
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I agree with Sarah...don't put your compost on your garden until it smells sweet and 'dirty' instead of smelly. Make sure everything has broken down first. Fence off the area where you have your compost bins from your chooks so they can't get in to it. You may have just been lucky so far with your chooks. But I fear your luck may run out sooner rather than later.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2007 11:22 am 
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Agree 100% with Sarah..

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2007 4:30 pm 
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Champion Bird
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My vet confirmed this opinion too - saying botulism can be contracted by chooks from rotting material, especially horse manure. I have a lot of manure around the fruit trees, that the chooks do get to and I try to keep them away from the compost bins, but haven't fenced the whole area - another job on the to do list. I had a rooster die this year from some mystifying problem, but path tests didn't show botulism although it was considered a possible cause, given the horse manure in the garden. What are the symptoms of botulism and how long does it take to develop? It does make sense that fully composted material is okay but the actively rotting stuff is full of nasty bacteria, and I never leave food scraps lying in the chook pen or in the garden. Just another matter of hygiene to attend to - despite the chooks spending all day scratching in the dirt :roll: .

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2007 11:19 pm 
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Old Mother Goose
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http://www.msstate.edu/dept/poultry/disbact.htm#bot

Botulism
Botulism is a disease caused by the ingestion of a toxin produced by the Clostridium botulinum bacterium. All domestic fowl and most wild birds are susceptible to the toxin's effects. Many human deaths have also been attributed to the consumption of food or water containing the toxin.
Botulism is not a bacterial infection, but a condition produced by a byproduct of the bacteria's growth. The organism is common in nature and is widely dispersed in soils. Ingestion of the organism is not harmful. It becomes dangerous only when conditions are favorable for its growth and subsequent toxin formation. The organism grows best under high humidity and relatively high temperature and in an environment containing decaying organic material (plant or animal). The organism requires an environment in which all atmospheric oxygen is eliminated. The organism cannot multiply in the presence of air. Stagnant pools or damp areas with buried decaying matter are danger areas for toxin development. Botulism results after the decaying animal or plant material containing the toxin is consumed. Decaying carcasses are a frequent source of the toxin, as are many insects feeding in the same tissue. The insects may contain enough toxin to cause the disease in any bird that ingests it. Since the toxin is water soluble, water sources may become contaminated and provide a reservoir for the disease.

The toxin is one of the most potent discovered by scientists. The toxin is relatively heat stable but may be destroyed by boiling. There are different types of the toxin; types A and C cause the disease in birds while type B frequently produces the disease in man.

Weakness is generally the first sign of the illness and is followed by progressive flaccid paralysis of the legs, wings and neck. When neck muscles are affected the head hangs limp, thus causing a condition referred to as "limberneck". Affected birds may have a peculiar trembling, loose feathers that are pulled out easily and dull partly closed eyes. Some birds (turkey) do not develop loose feathers or limberneck symptoms. Because of the paralysis, birds are unable to swallow and mucous accumulates in the mouth. Fatally affected birds may lie in a profound coma appearing lifeless for several hours before death. Significant lesions are not usually observed in affected birds. Examining digestive contents may reveal insects, decomposed animal or vegetable material or other matter suggesting that the birds have consumed the toxin.

A tentative diagnosis can be made from the history, symptoms and post-mortem findings. As an aid to diagnosis, sick birds may be given water into the crop, kept in a cool environment and treated intravenously with antitoxin. Recovery of a large percentage of the affected birds would substantiate diagnosis.

Prevention should be aimed at eliminating sources of toxin production and preventing access of birds to such materials. These practices include prompt removal of all dead animals from houses and pens, debeaking the birds, controlling fly and insect populations and avoiding access to decaying organic material. Contaminated water supplies are particularly dangerous.

If the disease strikes, locate and remove the source of the toxin and separate all visibly affected birds from the flock for treatment. Place sick birds in a cool shaded area and give fresh water into the crop, twice daily. Mild laxatives may be used for birds that have been exposed but do not show disease symptoms. Epsom salts (one pound per 100 birds) may be mixed into feed. Adding a level teaspoonful of Epsom salts in one ounce of water and placing in the crops of sick birds has been beneficial in many instances. Antitoxin therapy is indicated only in birds that have high individual value since the antitoxin is difficult to obtain and is expensive.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2007 11:31 pm 
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Ok, what about straw/soiled bedding?
I leave this scattered through the pen for them to scratch through.
It eventually breaks down or is spread so thinly it can't be seen anymore.
Is there the same problem with this as with rotting food/compost?
Hope the question makes sense.

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2007 4:24 pm 
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Champion Bird
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I was wondering about this also, as my garden is covered in straw mulch in various stages of decompostion. The chooks love scratching through it and also go mad for the bugs underneath when I lift a bale. At the moment everything is pretty damp, so the humidity is there, even though it's cold. I've spent today constructing a fenced off area that I will move my compost bins into, so the chooks won't have access to any decomposing bits of food etc. that may be around when I am turning the contents of bins (they always love to get in there with me and are oblivious to the danger of being speared by my fork, so having a separate compost yard will be easier for me as well).
But that still leaves plenty of stable manure around the fruit trees...

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2007 4:31 pm 
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The organism grows best under high humidity and relatively high temperature and in an environment containing decaying organic material (plant or animal). The organism requires an environment in which all atmospheric oxygen is eliminated. The organism cannot multiply in the presence of air.
Thanks for the info chookster...on closer reading, it does seem that a number of factors need to be present for the botulism organism to present a problem. Not just decaying stuff, but also no air, plus warm and damp. So if chooks are turning over old straw, that keeps it aerated - so not a problem?? Also the damp cold weather here at the moment might also prevent it. But maybe I shouldn't be lifting bales for the chooks to peck at bugs underneath: damp, warm because not exposed to air, and airless...??
:? Judy

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2007 8:31 pm 
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Fiesty Fowl
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i've kept all of my chooks running on compost (they spend a couple of hours a day in there digging) for as long as i can remember (my folks have had chooks running on the compost for 22 years) and have never had an ill chook (who has been on it...) so i'm not 2 sceptical...

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2007 9:18 pm 
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Champion Bird
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Kiddo, when you say "running on compost" do you mean that the chooks had access to kitchen scraps etc as they were breaking down - you know...that yukky stage between being fresh and being actual compost?

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2007 10:34 pm 
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Old Mother Goose
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I think...if it smells bad... if it looks rotten... if it has mould or fungus, and has been somewhere damp and hidden...keep it away from the chooks.

Thin layers of straw etc are fine if they are being moved in cool weather.

Big deep piles of rotting stuff however are a concern.
They get hot under the llayers... the chooks stir up the yucky stuff that has been festering in a warm damp place and might get ill.

I think it is better to be safe than sorry.

Sarah.

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 14, 2007 2:50 pm 
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Fiesty Fowl
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judy margolis wrote:
Kiddo, when you say "running on compost" do you mean that the chooks had access to kitchen scraps etc as they were breaking down - you know...that yukky stage between being fresh and being actual compost?


we have two large compost heaps in the chook yard. this is where all the scraps from the kitchen, old plants from the garden and everything else goes (including the leftovers after an animal is butchered... and all the culls :shock: ) and yes the chooks run on this every day... i do bury anything that contains meat or eggs but everything else just goes on top.
it is open to the air so i don't know if this is something that might cancel it out.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 16, 2007 1:06 am 
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Old Mother Goose
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I personally wouldnt do it.
So far you have probably been lucky.

Sarah.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 16, 2007 1:17 pm 
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I feel better being safe with this also. My new composting yard is working well - looks good to have all the compost stuff in one neat place and much easier to work in without chooks underfoot. They have eyed the gate a few times, but are easily distracted. The contents of the moved bins - almost but not quite ready for the garden - has been scraped into a pile and surrounded with a temporary chicken wire "fence". The chooks are happily scratching around the edges, but there's nothing too rotten available! Judy

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