Chickity-Doo-Dah, Chickity-Ay…

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David Perry
David Perry

No, I haven’t lost my mind. This weekend I bought a 40 lb. bag of “Chickity Doo Doo” organic fertilizer from Northwest Hardware on Brambleton Ave. Those folks have everything.

Yep, “Chickity Doo Doo,” a 100% organic fertilizer for lawn and garden made from 100%—you guessed it—chicken manure.

Now, before you get really grossed out and wonder why anybody would spread chicken manure on their yard, hear me out.

It’s processed chicken manure—as in, it’s been collected from the chicken house, probably run through a sieve, baked in an oven to sterilize it, ground up, and packed together into little pellets with some kind of glue. It hardly even smells like chicken manure. And trust me—I spent four years in the shadow of Rocco Chicken while a JMU student in the Shenandoah Valley, and nine more years in Frank Perdue’s back yard in Salisbury, MD. I know my chicken poo.

Chickity Doo Doo isn’t even the grossest option on the market for those who prefer an organic lawn fertilizer. (We’ll get into the petrochemical industry in a minute). Ever heard of Milorganite? A venerable and widely-used fertilizer among the tree hugger set, it’s made from—get this—the sewer sludge dredged up from beneath Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

All kinds of stuff goes into other organic fertilizers: dried cow blood (which began its fertilizer career draining from the slaughterhouse floor), ground up animal bones, crab shells, dead fish, bat manure, worm feces, baby seals…okay, no baby seals. But you get the point.

Of course, none of this compares on the yucky scale to synthetic fertilizers—brands like Scott’s, Miracle Gro, and others. Made primarily from petroleum, this is the stuff that turns your yard day-glo neon green within 48 hours of application. Just like nature intended, right? I’m pretty sure it’s all made in a big plant in Newark, NJ. Synthetic fertilizers usually go on sale in the spring in the big box home improvement stores, which is the wrong time to fertilize grass around here, but everyone’s thinking outdoors, so why not? Grills, lawn mowers, and fertilizer—the holy trinity of Memorial Day weekend sales.

Probably the worst thing about these oil-based fertilizers, which require us to buddy up with countries that hate us like Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and Texas, is that they don’t stick around. I won’t bore you with the chemistry, but most of that giant bag of “quick-green hydro-plus for a bug-free, lush lawn all summer long” you applied in May ended up running into the sewer and then the Roanoke River, where it did all sorts of nastiness.

My chicken poo, being closer to Mother Nature’s bosom from the start, hangs around for a few months, allowing my little grass plants to nurse at the bottle instead of doing an inverted keg stand of nitrogen like some sort of ExxonMobil frat boy on Saturday night. And we all know what happens after you do too many keg stands.

Columbia University professor Joan Gussow once said, “I trust cows more than chemists.” She was speaking of the butter vs. margarine debate, but I like the analogy. I’m with the chickens over the chemists on this one.

By Dave Perry
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