Fresh manure from commercial poultry operations is rarely available to home gardeners, as it is unpleasant to transport and use. If you are able to access a source, then it can be used as a spring top dressing for crops requiring plenty of nitrogen, such as blackcurrants, vegetables and plum trees. It can also be put on the compost heap, adding a 5cm (2in) layer to every 15cm (6in) of other material.
Fresh and composted poultry litter may contain bacteria that are harmful to humans. Avoid breathing in the dust of these products, wear gloves when handling them, and avoid eating and smoking while working with them. Avoid using poultry litter during confirmed or suspected outbreaks of bird ‘flu if you are in an affected area.
Dried and processed poultry manure products, such as pellets and powders, are often sterilised during manufacture, so are less of a risk.
Dried poultry manure can be used on vegetable and fruit crops, although additional potassium fertiliser may be needed (e.g. sulphate of potash or organic potassium-rich fertilisers derived from sugar beet processing).
Poultry manure and ericaceous (acid-loving) plants
The pH (acidity or alkalinity) of poultry manure varies according to its age, the diet fed to the birds, the age of the birds and the litter materials used. Most poultry manure is in the range of pH 6.5-8.0, being neutral to moderately alkaline. Because of its tendency towards alkalinity, poultry manure is unsuitable for lime-hating (ericaceous) plants, such as rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias, blueberries and heathers.