12 Great Uses for Wood Ash in Your Coop, Home and Garden


I'm sure many of you have wood stoves, fire pits or fireplaces. As long as you're burning only "clean" wood - nothing chemically treated, pressure-treated, painted or stained - and no charcoal briquettes or commercial products like those slow-burning logs, the wood ash can be used in various ways around your coop and garden.

Here are some of my favorite ways to repurpose and recyle your wood ash.

In the Coop

1.) In the dust bath - charcoal or wood ash added to your chickens' dust bath helps to suffocate parasites such as mites, lice, fleas and ticks. 

2.) As a feed supplement - it has been observed that animals in the wild will gnaw on charred branches and stumps after a forest fire. Charcoal works as a laxative and detoxifier, flushing toxins out of the body. It will also help expel internal worms to some extent. 

Calcium is the most abundant element in wood ash, but it's also a good source of potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium. Adding wood ash to your chicken feed in a 1% ratio can improve lay rates, extend laying periods and will also reduce the smell of the chicken droppings. Ashes obtained from hardwoods like cedar, oak and maple have five times as many nutrients as softwoods like pine and balsa.

3.) As a wound healing agent - wood ash possesses antibacterial qualities which can prevent an open wound from becoming infected and also works to stop bleeding quickly, much like cornstarch, when applied topically to a wound. When ingested, the Vitamin K in the wood ash works to help blood clot and can reverse the effects of the coumadin in rat poison, for instance.

4.) To keep the coop clean - sprinkling wood ash on your coop floor can help reduce odors. Like baking soda, wood ash is alkaline and therefore will absorb and help neutralize bad smells. It will also help reduce the humidity levels in your coop.

5.) To reduce the ammonia in your chickens' manure - adding charcoal in a ratio of 1-2% to your chicken feed can help prevent the creation of ammonia, leading to a more ammonia-free output from your chickens. Studies have found that it's effective in absorbing the ammonia and preventing fumes from forming.

6.) To control impurities in the water - adding a chunk of charcoal to your waterer can help keep algae and other bacteria from forming and help absorb and filter out other impurities, while adding minerals to the water. Remove and replace periodically. 


In the Garden

7.) As garden fertilizer - since wood ash is a plant-based substance, it contains most of the essential nutrients that soil needs for optimal plant growth. Wood ash is roughly 10-25% calcium, 1-4% magnesium, 5-15% potassium and 1-3% phosphorus, depending on type of wood burned. If wood ash were packaged and sold commercially as fertilizer, it would have an N-P-K value of 0-1-3. 

Note: It's a good idea to have your soil tested before broadcasting ash over your entire garden. Most vegetables like a pH of 6.8 - 7.2 and wood ash will raise the soil alkalinity. Read the next point.

8.) To neutralize acidic soil - wood ash has properties similar to agricultural lime as a fertilizer. Since it's alkaline in nature, it will neutralize acidic soil in your garden. Great for all your non-acid loving crops. Just be sure not to use it on azaleas, berries, cilantro, cucumbers, garlic, parsley, potatoes, pumpkins, rhododendron, squash, strawberries and others plants that prefer acidic soil. 

9.) To nourish calcium-loving plants - with its high calcium levels, wood ash is a wonderful soil additive for those plants that like extra calcium such as beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, lettuce, peas, potatoes, spinach and tomatoes. 

910) To deter garden pests - sprinkle wood ash around the base of your plants to deter slugs and snails from attacking them.


Around the House

11.) As ice melt - because wood ash contains potash (a type of salt also called potassium carbonate), it makes a super eco-friendly ice and snow melt on paths and the driveway. It won't corrode metal or concrete like rock salt, won't harm your plants or the grass and is safe for your dogs, cats and chickens to walk on. Of course, it can make a bit of a mess, so you likely won't want to use it too close to the house where it can be tracked inside.

12.) To deskunk dogs - rubbing some wood ash into your dog's coat after it's been sprayed by a skunk is said to help neutralize the stinky odor.

So before you toss that pail of wood ash, think about how you could use it around your home, coop or garden.

References/sources:
http://www.hobbyfarms.com/charcoal-for-chickens/
extension.oregonstate.edu
extension.uga.edu/publications/detail.cfm?number=B1142
Earthwisegardening.com
library.umaine.edu/maineaes/technicalbulletin/tb154.pdf
http://apps.caes.uga.edu/gafaces/?public=viewStory&pk_id=4067

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