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Publication #PS1

Poultry Manure as a Fertilizer 1

Michael A. Davis, D.R. Sloan, Gerald Kidder, and R.D. Jacobs2

Animal manures have been used as natural crop fertilizers for centuries. Because of poultry manure’s high nitrogen content, it has long been recognized as one of the most desirable manures. Besides fertilizing crops, manures also supply other essential plant nutrients and serve as a soil amendment by adding organic matter, which helps improve the soil’s moisture and nutrient retention. Organic matter persistence will vary with temperature, drainage, rainfall, and other environmental factors.

The most common procedure for determining the amount of manure to add per acre is to consider the manure’s nitrogen content and the crop’s nitrogen needs. Typical nutrient compositions of poultry manure can be found in Table 1. These values are averaged, and the manure’s actual nutrient composition may vary depending on the manure- to litter-material ratio, litter (manure) handling, and the type of bird, feed, and litter material.

The nitrogen recommendations for selected crops and manure application rates can be found in Table 2. Poultry manure is high in phosphorus. In areas with high levels of phosphorus as determined by a soil test or in areas where phosphorus movement offsite is a concern (e.g., areas with poor drainage, a high slope, or an adjacent water body), phosphorus rather than nitrogen should determine the manure’s application rate.

Fertilizer grades for manure can be calculated by comparing the total amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium as a simple ratio. For example, given the nutrient composition values of Table 1, broiler house litter has a fertilizer grade of 3-3-2. Note that not all nitrogen in the manure will be in the same form. Some nitrogen in poultry manure will be in the form of ammonium (NH4-N). The ammonium state is volatile, so there will be some loss of this nitrogen form to the atmosphere. Environmental conditions, such as rainfall, wind, and sunlight, will also affect the availability of organic nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Because of this, assume during the first year available nitrogen will be at 65% of total nitrogen and available phosphorus and potassium will be at 75% of the total available quantities applied as manure.

Tables

Table 1. 

Average nutrient composition of chicken manures1

Manure Type

Total N

Ammonium (NH-N)

Phosphorus (PO)

Potassium (KO)

Broiler

lb/ton

Fresh (no litter)

26

10

17

11

Broiler house litter2

72

11

78

46

Breeder house litter2

31

7

54

31

Stockpiled litter2

36

8

80

34

Layer

lb/ton

Fresh (no litter)

26

6

22

11

Undercage scraped3

28

14

31

20

Highrise stored4

38

18

56

30

 

lb/1,000 gallons

Liquid slurry5

62

42

59

37

Anaerobic lagoon sludge

26

8

92

13

 

lb/acre-inch

Anaerobic lagoon liquid

179

154

46

266

1Source: Biological and Agricultural Engineering Dept., North Carolina State University, as reported in “Poultry Manure as a Fertilizer Source,” Soil Facts fact sheet authored by J.P. Zublena, J.C. Baker and T.A. Carter, North Carolina Coop. Ext. Serv., Raleigh (http://www.soil.ncsu.edu/publications/Soilfacts/AG-439-05/)

2Annual manure and litter accumulation; typical litter base is coarse sawdust, wood shavings, or peanut hulls.

3Manure collected within two days.

4Annual manure accumulation on unpaved surfaces.

5Six to 12 months of manure accumulation, excess water usage, and storage-surface rainfall surplus; does not include fresh water for flushing.

Table 2. 

Nitrogen recommendations and suggested application rates of layer manure and broiler litter for selected crops.

Crop1

Recommended N

(lbs/acre)

Layer manure

(tons per acre)

Broiler manure with litter

(tons per acre)

Improved perennial grasses

160

4 - 6

3 - 5

Oranges, mature

200

4 - 6

3 - 5

Grapefruit, mature

160

4 - 6

3 -5

Pine

100 - 200

2 - 6

3 - 5

Corn, non-irrigated

15,000 plants/acre

180

3 - 7

2 - 5

Corn, irrigated

30,000 plants/acre

240

6 - 10

5 - 7

Vegetable garden

100

2 - 5

2 - 4

1Due to the timing needs for nitrogen and the high value of commercial vegetable crops, manure is not recommended as the sole source of nitrogen for those crops.

Footnotes

1.

This document is PS1, one of a series of the Animal Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date March 1992. Reviewed November 2013. Revised November 2013. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

Michael A. Davis, PhD, agriculture Extension agent II, UF/IFAS Baker County Extension Service; D.R. Sloan, former Extension poultry specialist, Dairy and Poultry Sciences Department; G. Kidder, PhD, emeritus professor, Soil and Water Science Department; R.D. Jacobs, former area poultry specialist, Dairy and Poultry Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.