From Chicken Manure to Fertilizer Pellets

As chicken farms grow at an exponential rate, so does the amount of manure they produce. With all this manure and no place to put it, manure is piling up, and people are looking for a solution.

Years ago, chicken manure posed less of a problem. Farms were small enough that even the largest of farms had more than enough land to spread their manure as fertilizer. But as farms grew, they began to run out of land to spread the manure. Eventually, there was no more land to buy up around them, or the distance required to haul the manure away was cost prohibitive. Where do you go from there? Up, of course. The natural solution to this problem seems simple: just put a thicker layer of fertilizer. This solution held for a while, but soon enough, there was just too much fertilizer. This fertilizer began to seep into lakes, rivers, and groundwater, potentially posing major risks to water resources. This has led to a desperate search for an economical solution to the problem. While many people have tried to develop technologies to resolve this issue, and with some success, no one has come up with a concrete solution.

Previously, a lot of chicken manure was processed into extruded pellets and sold as a fertilizer. While this is a viable alternative use for the material, it does not solve the issue, and leaves much to be desired. Due to the process used to make an extruded pellet, the pellet is highly compact and dense, meaning it is difficult to break down and allow the needed nutrients to escape into the soil. Aside from this, producing extruded chicken manure pellets can be expensive. Chicken manure that is high in silica content is very abrasive, and eats away at the high-priced dies used in the extrusion process. Luckily, a potential solution is on the horizon.

FEECO International has been a part of the fertilizer industry for over 60 years, supplying equipment and solutions all over the world. As of lately, FEECO has developed a technology to boost the value of chicken manure fertilizer without the constant reoccurring equipment costs: a round chicken manure fertilizer pellet. In the past, people have stayed away from producing chicken manure pellets, because the process is far more complex than a simple extrusion process, and requires a larger equipment investment. As people are starting to discover, however, a round pellet can be more efficient as a fertilizer than an extruded one, and this may outweigh the costs involved in creating a round pellet.

Unlike extruded pellets which are created with pressure agglomeration, round pellets are not as tightly compact and dense. The process of creating round pellets is done through non-pressure agglomeration. Similar to rolling a snowball, material is rolled on a disc, or pan pelletizer, accumulating material as it goes around. A typical process for raw chicken manure or chicken litter, would be to feed the material into a pin mixer, then onto a disc pelletizer, and off to a rotary dryer. While this process requires a greater initial equipment investment, it requires far less upkeep and replacement. This means the round pellet can hold its strength, but can easily break down and release the needed nutrients when called upon. Round pellets are also significantly less dusty than extruded pellets, meaning easier handling, and less waste. They can also be spread with conventional spreading equipment, unlike their extruded counterparts. Another advantage that pelletized chicken manure has is the ability to add other amendments (nutrient fortification, microbes, bulk density adjustment, etc.). The pin mixer and pan pelletizer allow for premium mixing between the raw material and other additives.

With the amount of chicken manure growing every day, we are in need of a solution. Pelletized chicken manure may just be the answer. FEECO’s pelletizing equipment is robust, and built for longevity. Our pelletizing equipment can produce durable, round pellets, to the desired size.

To read about more transformations from waste to value-added products, see our Waste Transformation page.

To watch a video of chicken manure in a pan pelletizer, see [youtube][/youtube]