Mushroom Compost vs. Chicken Manure: Which Is Right for You?

Do you know some gardeners who swear by one of these fertilizers while others avoid them like the plague?

To make matters more confusing, mushroom compost itself contains chicken manure – so how do they differ and which one is right for you?

What’s the difference between mushroom compost and chicken manure? Mushroom compost is the by-product of mushroom farming and consists of hay, animal manure, and other organic matter while chicken manure is composted poultry waste. Both make effective soil conditioners and fertilizers but serve different plant needs.

Mushroom Compost vs. Chicken Manure

Both have the power to upgrade your plant and crop game, but to help you narrow down which will work best for you, let’s take a look at their strengths and weaknesses, how to use them in the garden, and more.

Mushroom Compost 

Mushroom compost – aka spent mushroom compost – is the leftover growing medium of mushroom farmers that typically consists of hay, poultry manure, corn cobs, and other organic materials.

The finished product is made by adding additional organic material such as lime, peat moss, or sometimes mushroom spores before being steam pasteurized to remove impurities.

It is then aged for up to two years to draw out unstable salts, making it viable for gardening use.

Mushroom Compost Nutrients

The main nutrients are in salt form, and the average commercial mix contains 1-2% nitrogen, 0.6% phosphorous, and 2% potassium.

Mushroom compost is also dense in additional micro and macronutrients that include:

  • Calcium.
  • Sulfur.
  • Manganese.
  • Magnesium.
  • Iron.
  • Copper.
  • Zinc.
  • Sodium.

Mushroom Compost Benefits

This organic-rich compost improves the fertility and structure of poor soils by aerating compacted clay-based mediums and helping loose, free-draining soils retain much-needed moisture.

Mushroom compost also has a fairly neutral pH reading of 6.6-6.7, making it a great soil balancer.

It also releases nutrients slowly over a longer period, making it more cost-effective than most mineral fertilizers.

Disadvantages of Mushroom Compost

The high levels of soluble salt make it unsuitable for germinating seeds and young plants.

For this reason, it will also kill salt-sensitive plants like rhododendrons, azaleas, and certain vegetables including radishes and cucumbers.

Its excellent water retention can also backfire by causing waterlogging issues in drought-favoring plants that could lead to root rot.

Using Mushroom Compost

It is best used from spring to summer as top soil or a deeper soil amendment. Till 1-3 inches of the compost into the top 6 inches of garden soil depending on your needs.

You can also use it as a 1-3 inch mulch layer every growing season to suppress weeds and conserve moisture.

Chicken Manure

Chicken manure is essentially chicken feces which is widely used in agriculture as an effective and abundant organic fertilizer.

Ancient Egyptians were one of the first civilizations to modify it as fertilizer when they discovered its plant-strengthening properties, and gardeners have been using it ever since.

It is available in three main forms – dehydrated (pelleted/powdered), fresh, or composted.

Chicken Manure Nutrients

Before nutrients are added to commercial pellet mixes, fresh chicken manure naturally contains the highest amount of nitrogen of all animal manures at around 0.9%.

It also contains 0.5% phosphorus and 1.2-1.7% potassium.

Further nutrients include:

  • Calcium.
  • Sulfur.
  • Iron.
  • Chlorine.
  • Boron.
  • Molybdenum.
  • Zinc.
  • Copper.
  • Magnesium.

Chicken Manure Benefits

Like mushroom compost, chicken manure also improves the drainage and water-retention abilities of poor soils.

The nutrient-rich content also promotes the population of microorganisms, which in turn keeps nutrients cycling through the soil.

Its high nitrogen also encourages the fast growth of large leafy greens, healthy stems, and root development, whil3 the slow nutrient release helps annual flowers bloom long into the season.

Disadvantages of Chicken Manure

Chicken manure has a neutral-alkaline pH of 6.5-8.0, which makes it unsuited to ericaceous or lime-hating plants, such as azaleas, hydrangeas, and blueberries.

Because pH varies according to the manure’s age and the birds’ age/diet, you can’t always be sure with some commercial mixes.

Fresh uncomposted chicken manure can also burn most plants due to high nitrogen.

Using Chicken Manure

Apply composted (not fresh) manure or pellets as a 1 inch top-dressing for plants and crops in the spring, or till between 3.5-5 ounces (or 7 ounces for hungrier crops) per square meter into native soil.

Aim to allow a 4-week gap between applications to avoid overwhelming plants, and after applying chicken manure, always water it in well to avoid root burn.

Related Questions:

What’s the Difference Between Mushroom Soil and Mushroom Compost?

Mushroom soil is the undiluted substrate in which mushrooms have grown whereas mushroom compost has been allowed to cure.

While mushroom compost has a very fine consistency, mushroom soil may not have broken down, making it clumpy in texture and high in soluble salts which can be destructive for plant use.

What Plants Benefit From Chicken Manure?

Chicken manure is ideal for annual and perennial plants in the Brassica family, such as cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower due to their heavy nitrogen requirements.

Its nutrient-dense content also promotes faster, lusher growth in tomato and lettuce plants, strawberries, blackcurrants, and plum trees.

Mushroom Compost or Chicken Manure – Which Is Right for You?

If you need to balance out heavy or loose garden soil and improve the overall fertility, then both mushroom compost and chicken manure can be equally effective.

However, the best choice for you will boil down to which plants you plan to grow (salt-sensitive or salt-tolerant, acid-loving or hating etc.).

Both fertilizers are inexpensive, widely available, and simple to use – just remember that they contain plant-harming bacteria when used in their fresh form.

Sources:

https://plantscience.psu.edu/research/labs/roots/methods/methods-info/nutritional-disorders-displayed/calcium-deficiency

https://www.ecopeanut.com/what-is-mushroom-compost/

https://manuretosavetheworld.weebly.com/the-history-of-manure.html

http://www.wecarecompost.com/blog/posts/2020/september/compost-vs-mushroom-soil/