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Most gardeners are familiar with composting waste materials from their kitchens, but this is generally fruit and vegetable waste. If you’re a dedicated composter, you may consider it wasteful to toss chicken bones in the trash. Can you compost chicken bones, or should you avoid these items in your composting system?
Chicken bones can be composted if the hot composting or bokashi composting methods are used, and the bones are correctly prepared before composting. Cold composting can be used, but it takes longer for the bones to decompose, and the resulting compost should not be used on edible plants.
Composting animal products, including bones, is generally discouraged in most composting recommendations, but this does not mean chicken bones cannot be composted. This does not mean that chicken bones cannot be composted, but certain methods and practices should be used to compost these items safely.
Is It Possible To Compost Chicken Bones?
Most gardeners look at all waste products that come from their homes and wonder whether they can be composted.
Can chicken bones be composted? Chicken bones can be composted, but they must be composted in the right way. Is it wise to compost chicken bones, even if it is possible? Not always!
Composting any animal product, whether it be meat or bones, is always a risky undertaking that requires your composting methods to be accurate and structured.
What Are The Concerns For Composting Chicken Bones?
There are several concerns regarding composting chicken bones that you should consider before including this material in your composting process.
- Bacterial contamination. If the composting of chicken bones is not done correctly, it can encourage the proliferation of dangerous bacteria in your compost pile.
- Bad smells. The chicken bones can rot in the compost pile and produce bad smells, which can be unpleasant to have around your home.
- The attraction of pests. The smell of the decomposing bones can attract rodents and flies to your compost pile and create an infestation that you would rather avoid.
- Pets and wild animals may dig in the compost. Dogs and wildlife may be attracted to your compost pile and scratch through the layers to find the chicken bones. Besides ruining your compost pile, this activity can spread disease to the animals or cause choking and digestive issues in your dogs.
- Decomposition time. Depending on your composting method and the preparation of the bones, chicken bones may take a long time to decompose fully and turn into usable compost.
Most of these concerns can be addressed if the chicken bones are correctly composted and the composting process is adequately monitored.
How Will You Be Using The Compost?
Depending on how the chicken bones are composted, you may be unable to use the resulting compost on vegetable or edible plants.
Chicken bones can introduce bacteria and pathogens into the soil that can be taken up by edible plants and transferred to people when the plants are eaten.
Compost that includes animal products is generally only considered suitable for use on general garden plants and not in your vegetable garden.
Should Composted Chicken Bones Be Raw Or Cooked?
Composting raw chicken bones can be done, but it is not recommended for beginner composters. The possibility of introducing pathogens and bad bacteria to your compost is too great if your process goes wrong.
It is preferable to compost cooked chicken bones rather than raw ones. The cooking process kills the potentially harmful bacteria in the bones and helps to start the breakdown process before the bones reach the compost pile.
Cooking the bones also reduces the risk of attracting pests and pets to the smell of rotting bones and reduces bad smells emanating from your compost during the process.
Some people compost entire raw chicken carcasses, but this requires specialized techniques and layering systems to decompose the carcasses safely.
How To Compost Chicken Bones
Chicken bones should only be composted using certain methods which make the process safe and feasible.
The first aspect to consider is your composting method when contemplating composting chicken bones.
Some composting methods are ideal for composting chicken bones, while others do not use techniques that will safely break down animal products.
It is important to use the right composting method to ensure the resulting compost is healthy and suitable for use on all the plants in your garden.
Can You Compost Chicken Bones With Hot Composting?
Hot composting is one of the best composting methods for composting chicken bones and a variety of other items that cannot be composted using other methods.
The techniques used in hot composting raise the internal temperature of the compost medium to levels that kill off bacteria and disease-causing pathogens.
This characteristic of hot composting makes it an ideal method for composting chicken bones. The heat allows the composting of raw or cooked chicken bones.
Hot composting is so effective that it is often used to dispose of whole carcasses on farms, including chicken carcasses and large livestock carcasses.
The main problem with hot composting is that it requires more management and monitoring, especially when composting animal products. You must ensure sure that the correct internal temperatures are reached.
The temperatures in the compost pile must be above 130°F or 54°C, but should preferably be between 135°F and 160°F or 57°C and 71°C. It should reach this temperature within two to four days of starting the composting process.
Can You Compost Chicken Bones Using Bokashi Methods?
Bokashi composting methods are slightly different compared to traditional composting methods. The main difference is the process of turning kitchen waste into compost.
Bokashi uses a fermentation process rather than a decomposition process, which utilizes specialized bacteria to ferment the waste and break it down into usable plant nutrients.
Can bokashi be used to compost chicken bones? Chicken bones can be passed through your bokashi bucket, but they will not be broken down during the process.
The fermentation process will prevent the development of pathogens and bad bacteria in the bones, but the bones will not break down.
Once the bones have been through the fermentation process, they are less desirable to pests and pets and can be added to your garden soil, where they will continue to break down and provide slow-release nutrients to your plants.
Can Chicken Bones Be Composted In Composting Appliances?
Certain electric composting appliances are designed to break down kitchen waste, including chicken bones and fish.
They have specialized mechanisms to physically grind the material into fine particles and fast-compost the material to produce plant-ready compost in hours. An example of this is the Lomi composting system which includes this functionality.
Can You Add Chicken Bones To A Cold Compost Pile?
Cold composting can be used to break down chicken bones, but it takes a long time for the bones to decompose into compost. The other material in the compost will be ready for use long before the bones have sufficiently broken down.
Chicken bones can take 30 to 60 days to break down in hot compost systems but can take several months to a few years to break down in a cold compost system.
Cold composting does not elevate the temperature in the compost pile, which can cause dangerous pathogens and bacteria to proliferate in the compost. Consequently, it is not recommended to use cold composted chicken bones on edible plants, such as in your vegetable garden.
You can compost chicken bones in a cold composting system, but be prepared to leave the compost for a long time for the bones to break down and only use the resulting compost on non-food plants.
Can You Compost Chicken Bones In A Compost Tumbler?
Compost tumblers are an easy, convenient, and fast method of creating rich compost from your kitchen waste. But can you add chicken bones to a compost tumbler?
The composting method used in compost tumblers is the cold composting method, which does not reach sufficiently high temperatures to kill pathogens and bacteria in chicken bones.
This will cause the chicken bones to smell, rot, and attract flies, rodents, and other pests to your compost tumbler. The bad microbes in the totting bones will also contaminate the resulting compost and make it unsuitable for use on edible plants.
Compost tumblers are designed for fast composting, and the bones will not decompose in this timeframe using cold composting techniques.
Composting chicken bones in a compost tumbler is not recommended. You should not place any animal products in a compost tumbler. This method is designed to be used for plant waste from your household or garden.
Can You Compost Chicken Bones In A Vermicomposting System?
Vermicomposting systems use specialized worms, such as red wrigglers, to speed up the processing of plant materials into nutrient-rich compost.
The idea of vermicomposting is that the worms eat the plant waste, and their castings, or poop, become a valuable, nutrient-dense compost that can be used on any plants in the garden, including your vegetables.
Composting worms do not eat animal products but only eat plant waste. Adding chicken bones to your vermicomposting system will be detrimental to the entire micro-ecosystem and will become a health problem for the worms.
The bones will attract flies and bacteria, and other undesirable microbes to the rotting bones. These chicken bones will release toxins into your worm bins that will poison your worms and cause them to die.
No animal products should be included in your vermicomposting system, making this composting method totally unsuitable for composting chicken bones.
Preparing Chicken Bones For Composting
The following methods can be used to prepare chicken bones for composting in the methods we have mentioned.
- Cook the chicken bones. Cooking the chicken bones will help to remove any remaining meat and cartilage attached to the bones. The cooking process also kills much of the bad bacteria present in the raw bones.
- Burn the bones. Burning the bones is not required, but it makes the decomposition process of the bones a lot faster. Place the bones in a wood-burning fire until the bones have dried out and become slightly blackened.
- Break the bones into smaller pieces. Use a hammer to break the bones into smaller chunks, which speeds up the composting process and reduces the risk of attracting pests to the compost.
- Don’t add too many bones to one compost pile. Even bone fragments can take a while to decompose, and a little bone goes a long way in a compost batch. If you have too many bones to include in your compost, place them in a freezer bag and freeze them until you are ready for your next composting cycle.
Should You Double-Burn Chicken Bones?
Some people advocate double-burning bones before adding them to a composting system. This process requires burning the bones in a wood fire, then crushing the bones and burning the fragments a second time in a wood fire.
The resulting wood ash and crushed bone mixture can be added to a hot or cold compost pile to add valuable nutrients and minerals.
This process works well to speed up the decomposition of the bones but is additional work unless you normally use wood fires for heating your home or heating water systems on a homestead.
If wood fires are not a normal part of your lifestyle, you can leave out the burning and double-burning process. Cook the bones, and crush them before adding them to an appropriate composting system.
Check out: Can You Compost Oyster Shells?
Chicken bones can be composted, but it is not recommended for beginners. If the composting is not done right, the resulting compost may not be suitable for use in a vegetable garden, but it can be used on non-edible plants.
Chicken bones can be successfully composted using these methods and preparation techniques for the bones before composting. If hot composting is used and the temperature gets high enough during the process, the compost can be used on food plants.
It is worthwhile trying to compost chicken bones once you have some composting experience to reduce waste, and the minerals the bones ad to the compost are beneficial to the plants.