Not-So-Awful Chicken Offal

In the last 4 days I have butchered near enough to 300 birds as makes no difference.  The last three days have all been above 100 degrees.  One might think there would be a smell.  Well, there is a slight odor when you’re next to the compost pile.  Otherwise, not so much.  Here’s how we build the compost pile.

I build my piles with pallets since pallets are free.  The pile needs to be a minimum of 3’x3’x3′ so it has enough mass to heat up.  It is important that your compost pile “cook” itself when you’re adding in manures or animal wastes.  They will digest more quickly keeping the scavengers away.  Normally I use 8 pallets wired together with baling wire in a big 2 pallet by 2 pallet square.  We dig  a slight depression in the ground in the center of the pile.  Then we add a foot or so of straw, old hay or, better yet, bedding along with a shovel or two of finished compost.  From then on, we add layer after layer of compost and carbon.  These pictures reflect the maturity of the pile.  We’re nearing the top.  I should also point out that I don’t stir my compost.  That’s too much like work.  I just let it sit for 12-18 months and feed it keep it hot most of that time.  Biology does the rest.

First I scrape away the covering material from the top.  This is 6 or 8 inches of used bedding and hay the goats rejected.  I pull the material to the edges of the pile leaving about a foot-thick wall around the perimeter.

Then I dump the buckets and level them out across the pile.  Same goes if you’re composting humanure.  If there is any roadkill in the area I toss that in too.  When we have kitchen scraps we can’t feed to livestock we put them here.  We don’t feed pork to pigs or chicken to chickens so if she makes a potato soup with chicken broth and sausage…

Next I cover the offal with an equal volume of sawdust.  I’m shooting for 2-3″ of sawdust here.  The carbon absorbs the nutrients, sponges up moisture and keeps the smell down.

Then I pull the covering material in from the edges and cover as well as I can.  We’ll need more material but it’s a start.

The goal is at least 6 inches of covering material.  That allows moisture in if it will ever rain and filters odors.

So, there you go.  Our current pile is 6×6.  It should last us until we start a new pile on April 1st.  If not, I’ll get two more pallets and make it a bit longer.

Good luck with your composting.  Don’t overthink it.  If it stinks, add carbon.  If it’s not hot, add nitrogen.  Stacey has some good ideas on that topic.

13 thoughts on “Not-So-Awful Chicken Offal

  1. So it sits there composting till April? Is it fully composted after that and useable? Is the pile closed now, or will you keep adding humanure etc to it? I don’t have nearly the volume to deal with that you do, so for the past few years, I’ve been digging a hole and burying the offal. By the way, I thought you had no sense of smell :)? Someone else must be the smell tester…

    • Mom has no sense of smell. My smeller is fine.

      We add to it at least weekly until April 1. It grows, it shrinks, it changes over time. We screen it as we empty the pile because pig bones and rabbit skulls usually need a second round of composting. Right now it’s hot, hot, hot. Once we stop adding to it the worms will move in and chew everything up. There’s no way I’m going to stir that volume of compost.

      I though all you islanders composted since it’s so expensive to haul trash across the ferry.

  2. We should all compost, but we do in fact have 2 or 3 landfills on Vancouver Island. The smaller Gulf Islands do have garbage issues – they are masters of recycling and composting – especially Hornby Island. The landfill for Victoria is almost full, and there’s a lot of controversy about what to do next…surprise surprise, they’re piloting a composting programme.

  3. The 2 cans/week is typical service, but I think you can pay for more if you want. For some municipalities garbage pick up is part of the taxes, for others you have to hire a company if you want the service.

  4. If it’s hot in winter can you grow stuff on top the pile? I remember the gardener barrowing up top soil and then putting dutch lights/cold frames o top of the manure piles when I was a kid…. we’re talking about manure heaps 50feet long and ten feet high(and more)….. My father was a cowman….. In summer the grass snakes laid their eggs in the heap…. after two winters the manure was spread on the meadows and other fileds….. in the 60s the demise (almost complete) of mixed farming mean the soil structure died with in three years…..

    I tried to build a hot bed for pumpkins and squashes this year but …not enough manure…….

    • I have seen tomatoes started above manure compost piles like you describe in unheated greenhouses. I have personally dug out a foot beneath a cold frame to pile manure in to get my brassicas off to a good start.

      You included a lot of good detail in your comment. I agree about the demise of mixed farming and the loss of soil structure. You can’t build soil without manure. We have placed all our cows in feedlots now where manure disposal is a problem instead of many thousands of farmers keeping cows on pasture where they can spread their own manure. I think it will have to turn around.

  5. I like the title of this post. Made me laugh. 🙂

    We have tons of composting material with just 3.5 acres. Can’t begin to imagine how much lovely stuff you must accumulate to add to a compost pile with your acreage and animals.

    Always amazes me how much green is pulled and pitched from a garden. Flower or veggie, either one. Russell piles it and just digs out from under when he wants some compost. Never turns it or even manages it. If I had the physical strength, I would make the compost piles work harder. We have four places we dump yard and kitchen composting material right now. Not to mention the burn pile for bigger limbs, etc.

    • We pre-compost most of our green material through our livestock. Chickens and ducks get the garden weeds here at the house, the horse gets the weeds at the other garden. Our compost piles are mostly manure, bedding animal waste and the odd kitchen bits we won’t feed to livestock.

  6. My Dad used to make a hot bed to raise his hot weather plant (tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cukes) by making a square with old bales and filling it with manure, and putting his cold frame on top. They did it that way for all sorts of things when he was a boy in England (same cool climate I guess).

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