Composting is a great way to break down organic waste at home and turn it into incredible fertilizer for your plants in your home garden. If you consistently compost your food waste, you might wonder if chicken bones can be composted like other foods can, and the answer is a resounding yes.
Chicken bones should be broken down in a compost pile separate from that used on your fruit and vegetables. If you are using a cold composting system, the compost made with chicken bones is best used on non-edible plants to avoid the spread of any bacteria. If bones are burnt or broken down in a hot composting pile then they will be safe to add to your edible garden.
While it sometimes takes a little longer to compost chicken bones than it does soft foods, you can still place these bones in your compost pile to disintegrate on their own.
This article will explore all you need to know about composting chicken bones
Composting Chicken Bones: Easy Tips
Any type of plant or animal product can be composted, and this includes chicken bones, although they will take longer than other organic produce.
1. Chicken bones will break down faster if they are burnt first
Chicken bones can be composted but they need to be broken down first. Burning them in a campfire or wood fire is a great way to start the break down process.
If you burn your chicken bones before placing them in your compost pile, they’ll decompose a lot faster. Adding wood ash to your compost is a another great ingredient, adding carbon and feeding soil bacteria.
2. Break chicken bones into small pieces first
Break the chicken bones up with your fingers or chop them into fragments with a hammer before adding them to your compost. The smaller the pieces will decompose faster and easier. Chicken bones contain a lot of phosphorus which is fantastic for flower growth and fruit development.
Bone meal is made entirely from steamed bones and is a great way to add extra phosphorus to your soil naturally. For tips on how to turn your chicken bones into bone meal, check out the video below.
3. Break down chicken bones in a separate compost bin when cold composting
If you are using a cold composting system then it is best tp break down bones in a separate pile. the compost is perfect for your flowers and established non-edible trees but it is best to keep them off your vegetables. There is the chance that bacteria can still survive on the chicken which can contaminate the soil around your edible plants.
Unless you are breaking your chicken bones down in a hot composting system, keep them separate from your edible plants and fruit trees.
4. Hot compost chicken bones to break them down fast
Hot compost is the best way to break down chicken bones. Hot composting is a process where larger amounts of organic matter are brought together at one time to break down anaerobically. The heat can kill any bacteria that exists on the meat and bones making it safe to add to your soil.
Break down the chicken bones into large pieces and add them with 2/3 brown materials and 1/3 green materials. This could consist of hay, straw or fall leaves as the brown materials and lawn clippings, green weeks or coffee grounds as the green. Add the chicken bones. Mix it together and mix it every week to encourage good bacterial growth.
After around 12 weeks the compost will have heated up, cooled down and will have broken down all of the smaller bones.
5. Add chicken bones to a food waste bin or garbage disposal
If you don’t want to compost chicken bones at home, they can still be turned into organic matter in a food waste bin. Put chicken bones in your green waste bin and it will be taken to a commercial composting facility where it is hot composted and ground down.
How Prepare Chicken Bones for Composting
To compost chicken bones properly, they have to be prepared the right way. This is not a difficult or time-consuming process, but it’s important if you want them to break down fast. Here is what you should do to prepare your chicken bones for the compost bin.
Defrost your chicken bones
Take all of the chicken bones you have and make sure they are defrosted. If you have some in your freezer, in other words, you can lay them out in the sun and let them defrost that way.
Burn bones in a camp fire or skillet
If you have the space and your local municipality allows it, burning bones will help them to break down fast.
Place the bones in a cast-iron skillet or camp fire, then add a layer of well-dried wood shavings or paper to act as a fire-starter. Place the wood shavings or paper in the skillet first, then place the chicken bones on top of that. Start your fire and let the bones burn.
Keep cooking the bones until they have a blackened or charred look. Remove them from the stove and let them cool, then take a hammer and crush them into smaller pieces.
At this point, the chicken bones are ready to be placed into your compost, where they’ll stay and add lots of nutrients to the pile.
Is composting chicken bones worth it?
Most composting enthusiasts agree that it is worth it to compost chicken bones. If you crush them up well and then place them in your compost pile, they can decompose in as little as 60 days.
There are a few things to look out for when composting chicken bones and why it needs to be done properly.
1. They can attract pests
Animal products, when decomposing, often attract lots of pests, along with the animals who will want to eat those pests
2. Composting meat can transfer bacteria
Adding meat to the compost bin can transfer bacteria which can exist in the compost when you mix it through your soil. Avoid this by removing all meat from your chicken bones, break them down in a hot composting pile or burn them first before adding them to your compost bin.
3. Chicken bones can smell
Chicken bones can smell in your compost bin if they are added with a lot of attached meat or fat. Strip all of the meat off before adding them to your compost bin to avoid the meat rotting and smelling.
While there are both pros and cons of using chicken bones in your compost, the pros outweigh the cons for most composting home gardeners. Not only are you able to compost chicken bones, but it adds tons of nutrients to your composting pile and allows you to end up with a rich, nutrient-filled compost that you can use to help tons of other foods to grow.
It is super easy for most people to save up their chicken bones to put in the compost pile and the best way to do this is to put them in your freezer.
I am an accredited practicing dietitian, experienced gardener and a dedicated cook. I love writing and sharing my experience so you can learn from my successes and mistakes.