Ending the Chicken Manure as Fertilizer Experiment

One gardening experiment for 2018 was to take a field that had not been used for a couple of years, till in chicken manure using a garden tiller, then plant the crops.

How well would the crops grow?  Would some types of crops do better than others?

After watching the experiment for close to two months, I think I have my answers.  The experiment for this year has drawn to a close and 13-13-13 fertilizer was spread along the garden rows.

Tomatoes grown with chicken manure experiment

However, I feel part of the experiment should be repeated in the spring of 2019.  The weather here in Southeast Texas was very wet between March – April, then very dry from April – May.

When the rain stopped in April, it stopped.  It was like GOD turned off the water valve.  We have not gotten a drop of rain in close to a month.

Starting the Chicken Manure Fertilizer Experiment

To get the field ready for planting, something like three wheelbarrow loads of chicken manure was tilled into the garden.  Some of the manure was somewhat fresh, and some of it came from under the brooder house.  The chicken manure from under the brooder house was aged.

The spot where the garden was planted had been the location for a large bonfire several years ago.  While tilling up the ground pieces of charcoal were visible.

Maybe the soil had too much potash aka potassium.  If there is too much potassium in the soil, it will prevent nitrogen from being absorbed by the plant.  In other words, if there is a lot of potash in the soil, the plant growth may be stunted.

This video was posted on April 5, 2018.

Since we were using organic material (chicken manure) as fertilizer, there was less nitrogen than what commercial grade fertilizer would have had.  If we would have used something like 13-13-13 fertilizer to start with, the crops may have grown fine.

Several years ago I grew corn in the very same spot where this years garden was planted, and the corn did just fine.  Then again, I used a high nitrogen fertilizer such as 16-6-12.

The corn was planted the year after the bonfire.

A Month into The Experiment

Just about everything planted between March – April either rotted in the ground, or did not come up.  We were getting rain every few days.


  • Potatoes rotted in the ground.
  • Purple hull peas did not come up.
  • Pepper plants growth was stunted.
  • Tomatoes took a long time to become established
  • Pepper plants which have been in the ground for two months have barely grown.

I needed to get something growing so we could do some food preservation article and videos, so another garden was planted using commercial 13-13-13 fertilizer.

Growing the food is only part of the goal for 2018.  The rest of the goal is preserving the food.  So I have to grow food to do the rest of the videos and articles.

So now I had two gardens:

  • One using chicken manure as fertilizer.
  • One using 13-13-13 as fertilizer.

Both gardens were facing an uphill battle due to no rain.  To keep the garden watered, a sump pump was used to pump water from a creek here on the farm to the garden.

Ending the Chicken Manure Fertilizer Experiment

The first part of the garden was planted at the end of March.  Here are are almost two months later, and these are my observations.

Squash and Tomatoes

Once established, the squash and tomatoes are doing well, growing, and both are starting to produce.  However, they are taking much longer to grow than if commercial 13-13-13 fertilizer had been used.

This translates to growing crops which will tolerate the summer heat.  Tomatoes for example are not very heat tolerant.  Plant them in the early spring, and harvest what you can before he summer heat kicks in.

Peppers, Beans and Peas

None of the peppers, beans or peas did anything planted with using chicken manure as fertilizer.  Purple hull peas did not come up, and just a fraction of the snap beans came up.

Peppers were brought from a local farm supply store and planted.  Only one or two of the pepper plants put on any type of growth.  The rest only grew a couple of inches in the past two months.

Final Thoughts

There are so many variables this year which could have affected the garden.  Part of it is the ash from the bonfire.  A little too much ash could have prevented the uptake of what little nitrogen is in the soil.  It is not like the chicken manure provides the same amount of nitrogen as say 13-13-13, or 16-6-12.

Another issue could have been the chicken manure was too fresh.  Maybe it needed to break down before the plants could use it?

Next year in 2019 I am going to relocate the garden away from where the bonfire was, and then till the manure into the soil a couple of months before the garden is planted.  Maybe till the chicken manure in at the start of fall?  This could give it several months to break down before the garden is planted next spring?

So far this has been an interesting year, and we still have so much more to do.  The okra was just planted and we have not even talked about it.