Dwarf fruit trees in old chicken yard

Asked October 31, 2017, 2:44 PM EDT

We've had a small flock of chickens penned in an area for several years. We're rearranging our yard and moving the chicken yard to another area. We want to develop a small orchard of dwarf fruit trees (apple, peach, pear, fig, cherry - probably dreaming bigger than we have space for, but...). Question: is that old chicken yard soil a good choice for the trees? Is it too rich? Will it burn the trees? Thank you.

Jackson County Oregon

1 Response

Thanks for your question about the chicken manure in your orchard-in-progress. Chicken manure is, in fact, extremely high in nitrogen (since it is a combination of feces and urine--which is high in nitrogen.) Over time, however, the nitrogen dissipates, and will no longer be at such a high range that it damages plant roots. As this Extension article explains (on page 5), manures may also have a high salt content. The amount of 'safe' manure for small trees is described on page 11. As this Extension article explains, it takes about 6 months for these issues to be addressed through the composting process, so if you remove the chickens from the orchard-to-be now, microbes and the weather should have the soil ready by spring or early summer. (Summer isn't the time you should be planting trees, however, so you may want to wait until next fall.) Here's the last link I'll give you with some advice about home orchards.

Hope these are helpful. Good luck! And remember: "compost happens!"