Can You Compost Chicken Bones (from plate to compost pile) 

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Every gardener has their comfort food, and for me, chicken is one that never disappoints. After enjoying a savory meal, you might ponder what to do with the leftover bones. The thought that bones should never go to waste crosses your mind. So, can you compost chicken bones?

Chicken bones are compostable. Rich in calcium and minerals, chicken bones decompose faster than others, primarily when crushed or ground. To compost them quickly, ensure your compost pile reaches a temperature of between 130°F (54°C) and 160°F (71°C) and turn the heap frequently to encourage airflow and proper drainage.

several cooked chicken bones in a row on white background

Getting started with composting at home can be deceptively confusing, especially regarding specific items like chicken bones. However, it doesn’t need to be. In this article, I’ll guide you with tips for composting chicken bones effectively, including the steps, decomposition speed, and possible risks of adding them to the compost mix. So, without further delay, let’s get started!

Humble Highlights

  • Uncover the benefits of chicken bones in the compost pile to enhance your heap with the proper nutrients your crops will love!
  •  Save time by discovering how chicken bones can be composted using various methods to find the proper process that works for you.
  •  Explore exciting and alternative ways aside from composting to use chicken bones to reduce household waste and help sustain and preserve the surrounding environment.

Chicken Bones: Compostable

Chicken bones can indeed be composted for the garden. They are rich in calcium and phosphorus, among other essential minerals your crops will enjoy once you spread your mature compost (humus) throughout your garden.

how long does it take chicken bones to compost

You divert organic waste from landfills by putting chicken bones in your compost. This simple action reduces the volume of waste and prevents the production of methane, a potent greenhouse gas produced when organic matter decomposes anaerobically (without oxygen) in landfills. 1

Chicken Bones: Biodegradable 

Chicken bones are also considered biodegradable because they are organic materials derived from living organisms. Over time, with the action of vital microbes, fungi, and other decomposers, chicken bones will break down and return to the environment as essential elements and compounds that will enrich your garden.

how to compost chicken bones

Issues With Composting Bones In Your Compost Pile

Unfortunately, chicken bones may attract pests such as rats, raccoons, and other scavengers to your compost. This mini rodent invasion occurs when the compost isn’t maintained at a high enough temperature to deter these animals or if the bones aren’t adequately buried in the middle of your pile.

Chicken bones and attached meat residues can harbor harmful pathogens if not properly composted. Remember, these dangerous pathogens might not be eradicated if the compost pile doesn’t reach high enough temperatures. 2

Humble Tip:

Ensuring any bones you toss into your compost bin are situated appropriately is essential. For example, leaving them on top of your heap encourages rodents to become curious about their smell and any residual meat on the bones. 

To avoid this issue, deeply bury chicken bones in the center of your compost, which masks their smell, helps deter pests, and accelerates the decomposition process.

How Long Chicken Bones Take To Compost 

Chicken bones need more time to decompose in a compost pile than other organic materials. Although they may start to break down sooner than you realize, it may take six months to 2 years or more for them to decompose fully. However, even though they may take months or years to break down, they still decompose faster than other types of bones, making them ideal for any backyard compost pile.

are chicken bones compostable

Notice Title

Consider using compost accelerators or starters like mature manure or untreated grass clippings, as these additions incorporate nitrogen and introduce a diverse range of microorganisms to your pile, helping to speed up the decomposition process. 3

Factors Affecting The Decay Rate Of Chicken Bones

Several factors affect the decay of chicken bones, including:

  • The Size Of The Bones
  • The Temperature Of The Compost Pile
  • Adequate Moisture Levels
  • The Presence And Quantity Of Microorganisms 
can you put chicken bones in compost

Let’s look at these components to see how they may affect your compost heap.

Size Of The Bones

Smaller bone pieces have a greater surface area relative to their volume. This increased surface area provides more access points for microbial activity, accelerating the decomposition process. By crushing or breaking up chicken bones before putting them in the compost, you’ll help the microorganisms and decomposers penetrate the surface more efficiently and quickly break down the smaller fragments.

Temperature Of The Pile

Microorganisms responsible for decomposition thrive in specific temperature and moisture ranges. A hot compost pile, with temperatures between 130°F (54°C) and 160°F (71°C), promotes faster microbial activity rather than a colder one. 4

can chicken bones go in compost

Moisture Levels

Moisture is essential for microbial life. A compost pile that’s too dry won’t support microbial activity effectively. At the same time, compost that is too wet can become anaerobic (lacking oxygen), slowing down the decomposition process, and the compost pile will start to smell. In either case, decomposition will slow or even stop, and you’ll be left to amend the moisture and carbon-to-nitrogen ratio to get your compost back in working order.

Presence Of Microorganisms And Other Decomposers

Bacteria and fungi are the primary agents of decomposition. They break down organic matter by secreting unique enzymes that digest the material, converting it into simpler substances. 5

In addition to microorganisms, larger decomposers like insects, worms, and other invertebrates play a critical role in breaking down organic matter. These decomposers physically fragment materials, increasing the surface area for microbial action while providing a more efficient composting process.

Regarding gardening, it comes down to fertile and nutrient-rich soil. And what better way to enrich your soil than to compost kitchen waste and yard scraps? It reduces household trash and provides an excellent method to provide your crops with sufficient nutrients for fuller, more abundant harvests. Check out the informative video below that details how the process can work for you!

The Smart Way To Compost Chicken Bones: Step-by-Step

Prepare The Bones

As previously mentioned, it’s best to crush, ground, or break the bones into smaller pieces. Grinding the bones before composting increases the surface area, making it easier for microorganisms to break them down once incorporated into your compost.

Before tossing them into your pile, consider cooking the bones to eliminate any remaining meat and help neutralize potential pathogens in your compost. Although some growers initially opt to boil the bones, this step is optional but can help speed up decomposition. 6

Adding Chicken Bones Into The Compost Heap

When adding chicken bones to compost, layer them with high-nitrogen materials like untreated grass clippings, vegetable scraps, or coffee grounds. This nitrogen infusion helps balance the carbon-to-nitrogen ratio, crucial for efficient composting.

Humble Tip:

Remember, to keep your carbon-to-nitrogen ratio balanced, it’s vital to understand that chicken bones are considered brown material, like dried leaves, straw, hay, paper, and cardboard. 

Maintaining Compost 

Regularly turn and aerate your compost pile to introduce oxygen, which aids in decomposition and prevents it from becoming anaerobic (oxygen-deprived). Ensure the compost pile remains moist but not soggy. The consistency should be like a wrung-out sponge. If it’s too dry, add water; if it’s too wet, add more brown materials like leaves or cardboard.

Monitor the temperature within your compost. A hot compost pile (between 130°F (54°C) and 160°F (71°C) will compost much faster. However, if the pile cools down, turning it or adding more green materials can help raise the temperature.

do chicken bones go in compost

Methods For Composting Chicken Bones

If you’re concerned about attracting pests or the slow decomposition rate of bones in your compost pile, consider these alternative methods:

  • Bokashi fermentation – Placing chicken bones in a bokashi bin accelerates the decomposition of chicken bones compared to traditional composting due to the fermentation process. 7
  • Trench composting – Bury the chicken bones deeply in a garden trench to speed up the composting process, especially if the soil is rich in microbes.
  • Hot compost method – The hot compost method uses elevated temperatures within your pile to expedite microbial activity. Additionally, constant turning of your pile is necessary to provide oxygen for decomposition. Placing chicken bones in a hot compost pile ensures rapid decay due to this intensified microbial action.

As you can see, composting chicken bones successfully can be done in various methods. It’s essential to understand that bones require specific conditions to decompose, and these techniques provide the optimal environment for rapid breakdown.

can i put chicken bones in compost

Judging When Bones Are Fully Composted

Once the rest of your compost looks dark and crumbly, and you can no longer recognize the original materials, sift through it again. If you spot bones that haven’t entirely decomposed, you can leave them in the pile for longer or remove and discard them.

Spread the finished compost (called humus) in your garden, ensuring that any larger, undecomposed bone fragments are not used around plants to avoid attracting pests.

Humble Tip:

Cooked chicken bones break down faster than composting raw chicken bones. Cooking processes like boiling weaken the bone structure by breaking down collagen and other proteins, making cooked bones more brittle and easier for microbes to decompose. Raw bones, on the other hand, retain their dense structure and take longer to break down. 

Put Chicken Bones To Alternative Uses

Beyond composting, chicken bones have many alternative applications that tap into culinary, educational, and artistic realms. From crafting flavorful broths to constructing miniature structures, these bones can be repurposed in surprisingly diverse and unique ways.

should you compost chicken bones

  • Bone Broth – A chicken carcass can be simmered in water to create a flavorful base for soups, stews, and sauces. 8
  • Gelatin Production – Boiling chicken bones may take time to release collagen, producing gelatin for cooking and baking. 9
  • Educational Projects – Chicken bones can take educational projects further, letting students assemble skeletons for hands-on anatomy lessons.
  • Crafts – Using chicken bones will help create beads or pendants for necklaces, bracelets, or earrings.
  • Building structures – Chicken bones can be used to build small structures or models, such as birdhouses or miniature buildings.
  • Charcoal Production – Raw bones can be carbonized when you burn the bones in a low-oxygen environment, making chicken bones suitable for producing bone charcoal used in refining sugar and as a black pigment in art.
can i put bones in compost bin

Conclusion

Chicken bones are not only safe to compost but are also beneficial. When composted correctly, they release valuable nutrients like phosphorous and calcium, enriching the compost and promoting healthier plant growth. While there are considerations to keep in mind, like the potential attraction of pests, these challenges can be effectively managed with the correct methods and precautions.

Chicken bones, while not commonly considered compost material, have a place in the compost pile. Breaking the bones into smaller pieces, monitoring compost pile temperature, and ensuring the proper moisture levels are essential steps to compost these bones successfully. Additionally, there are many alternative uses for chicken bones, including crafts, building structures, and even creating gelatin for cooking and baking.

So, the next time you’re left with chicken bones after a meal, remember they’re good for more than just the trash bin, as they can be a valuable addition to your compost pile, turning typical household waste into a precious garden resource.

Do you compost chicken bones? We’d love to know your method. Take a moment and drop us a quick comment below and tell us your effective process for composting these bones!

SOURCES

  1. ResearchGate – Effects Of Composted And Powdered Bones Meal On The Growth And Yield Of Amaranthus Cruentus
  2. National Library Of Medicine, National Center For Biotechnology Information – Optimization Of A Multi-Step Procedure For Isolation Of Chicken Bone Collagen
  3. University Of Minnesota, Extension – Composting Livestock And Poultry Carcasses
  4. Perdue University – Composting Poultry Carcasses
  5. MDPI – Microbial Community In The Composting Process And Its Positive Impact On The Soil Biota In Sustainable Agriculture
  6. University Of Georgia, Extension – Poultry Mortality Composting Management Guide
  7. Wikipedia – Bokashi (Horticulture)
  8. Frotiers – The Influence Of Comminuting Methods On The Structure, Morphology, And Calcium Release Of Chicken Bones
  9. Michigan State University, Extension – Make Your Own Chicken Broth

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