Simplifying food scrap disposal – the chicken compost bin
When we lived in suburbia I had a compost bin and worm farm so it’s fully ingrained in me to not throw away food scraps or put them down the waste disposal (we’ve never installed one much to hubby’s confusion). We now pay for our rubbish pick up so it’s an incentive to reduce what we put out plus we have a septic system which I think is uneconomical to use to process food waste. Although we have chickens, getting rid of food waste is somehow very complicated since they (and the worms) don’t eat everything I want to give them.
Ways I’ve tried to simplify the food scrap disposal –
- I’ve tried giving everything to either the chickens or worms which meant a lot of uneaten food on the ground of the chicken orchard or mouldy food in the worm farm. The chickens don’t eat alot of vegetable scrap and the worms won’t eat things like citrus or onion peels (neither will the chooks).
- I’ve tried having several bins in the kitchen where foods are allocated separately (worms, chickens, Chino, compost bin). Too complicated.
- I’ve put all non chicken/worm food into the bottom of new garden bed. This method relies on having new or unused beds to use which isn’t always the the case. It still meant having several scrap bins on the go.
I also tried making a couple of garden beds with a shute which I could slide all the food waste down to compost within the bed. Unfortunately rats or something soon got wind of this and dug through the soil to get the scraps, repeatedly taking out my seeds and seedlings.
- Trenching: I set aside anything obvious for the worm farm but everything else went into the general bin. Once a week or so I dug a hole next to one of the fruit trees. As we had a lot of fish scrap at that point it went in deep with soil and some rocks on top (to stop Chino digging them up) then each day I threw the general scrap on top of that. What the chickens didn’t eat got raked into the hole along with the manure off the bottom of the coop and the compost from the worm farm then I buried the lot after a week or so. It was fairly labour intensive and the chickens were scratching the uneaten scrap far and wide – it wasn’t really getting broken down properly so I revised this system to make an actual bin.
Currently – the chicken compost bin –
I like the idea of most of the scrap going to the chickens – they can eat what they like and the rest gets broken down to compost but I needed the pile to have sides. I first tried some netting around the base of the fruit tree as I thought it would be brilliant to make compost right where it’s needed. I made it with an opening on one side to create a ‘bin’ but again the food scrap got flung everywhere.
I was being lazy and trying to avoid construction but it was relatively simple to create a shallow box. I used four corner pieces with a couple of lengths of timber to make the sides. Yes I made it and even used screws. (Ok – I was being supervised).
This shallow box I put next to one of the fruit trees and started throwing all the food scrap in there. It only took a couple of days for the chooks to get the idea and start jumping in there to fossick around. I’ve also been throwing in weeds and their manure and dirty straw bedding as I have it.
I did this for about a month then moved the box to another spot – leaving behind a pile of ‘compost’.
- I don’t put in cooked bones in case Chino gets to them – those go into the freezer to go into the rubbish bin when it’s due.
- We haven’t had a surplus of fish bones to get rid of yet – but I think I’ll continue to dig a hole in the orchard or garden and bury them with something heavy on top so Chino can’t dig them up. For a while I was giving them to the chickens but one morning the soft boiled eggs tasted of fish! I don’t know why we hadn’t noticed it before. Maybe we’d had them in a dish where it wasn’t noticeable or maybe it depends on when the fish is eaten vs time of laying. Anyway – no more fish to the chickens.
- I still have the worm farm as the worm wee is a great source of nutrients for the plants and it’s easy really. I usually feed them with scrap generated while making dinner – I put aside peelings and stalks then rather than constantly having two bins on the bench. They also get leaves from the garden if they’re looking a bit low.
- It was all made from left over bits of timber but you could also adapt something to use: eg an old plastic drum with top and bottom cut out or a compost bins using the lower pieces to make a frame.
- Ideally the box would be wider and higher. Wider so the chooks can really scratch up what’s in there to turn it over and higher so the puppy can’t just lean in and eat what he doesn’t need to be eating.
- The left over pile of compost does still get scratched over by the chooks as it’s got lots of worms in it. I don’t mind that so much as they’re pushing it around the fruit trees but ideally I would leave it for longer until fully broken down then rake it under the trees or where ever it’s needed. Next time I move the box I’ll try covering the compost – even a pile of grass clippings could work.
Is the chicken compost bin a success?
I’ll keep on using the bin as it’s simplifies getting rid of the scrap. Things may change as we generate more plant material to get rid of. At the moment I just have weeds and most of them have seeds or it’s kikuyu so I don’t want to put them in a compost bin anyway. An added bonus is it keeps the chickens occupied for a while and makes them ‘forage’ as they’ve been getting lazy when it comes to free ranging lately. The downside is that I recently saw a rat in the orchard but as I have that in the veggie garden with or without garden scraps isn’t enough to put me off. Rats and mice would come for the chance of left over chicken food anyway I guess and the puppy-rat-chasing that ensued in that case hopefully put an end to them venturing in.