Composting Poultry Mortalities Backyard Poultry Flocks


In this video we will demonstrate how we can,
if necessary, compost an entire flock of backyard poultry up to 300 birds. Composting is an acceptable beneficial management
practice for animal mortalities in British Columbia and can be done on the farm, reducing
potential bio-security risks associated with moving poultry carcasses off the farm. In this video, we demonstrate the composting
of 35 adult birds weighing an average of 3kg each, using materials that are readily available
to the farm. This process can be used for routine mortalities
on commercial farms, in suitable solid manure storage facilities, or for composting entire
small flocks. We recommend composting on an impervious surface
to reduce the risk of soil or water contamination, particularly in higher rainfall areas such
as the south coast of British Columbia. In this case, we are utilizing a small concrete
pad on the farm. If there is no concrete pad, 6 mil plastic
or equivalent can be used as a base. We recommend using ground green waste or yard
waste as the bulking agent. Plan to use 1 – 1.25 cubic meters of bulking
agent per 50kg of birds, with half of it being used as a base and a cover and the other half
to be mixed with the birds. Begin with a 15 – 30 cm layer of ground green
waste. This layer provides some absorbing capacity
for excess fluids, provides insulation to keep the carcasses decomposing optimally and
provides porosity to facilitate air entering into the pile. This helps to encourage natural convective
air exchange to supply adequate oxygen for the microbes. The reason we recommend ground green waste
or yard waste is that it’s readily available, provides porosity and has available energy
to provide heat for the process. A rule of thumb is that the bulking agent
must be able to heat up on its own if left in a pile. Meaning that the moisture content should be
approximately 50-60%. Next, lay your birds and bulking agent in
a manner that optimizes the compost process. A rule of thumb is to add at least as much
volume of bulking agent as the volume of birds that are being composted. We recommend blending poultry litter with
ground green waste as the bulking agent between layers of birds. Some manure is important to provide energy
for the microbes that produce the heat. For this video, the bulking agent used above,
below and between the layers of birds was 50% ground green waste and 50% poultry litter
by volume. We placed a layer of this blend on top of
the 15cm layer of ground green waste before adding the layer of birds. We then added approximately twice the volume
of bulking agent before adding the second layer of birds. You can include up to four layers of birds. We added the bulking agent/manure blend on
top of the birds, then covered it all with a minimum of 15cm of ground green waste. It’s most important to ensure a minimum of
15cm layer on the sides of the pile to provide insulation. In wetter climates, such as in south coastal
British Columbia, we recommend the use of a breathable cover which can be as simple as
Tyvek or Typar, products used as house wrap. Specialized breathable compost covers can
be used as well, but are not as readily available. The goal of the compost process is to achieve
temperatures of 55 degrees Celsius for at least 3 days, which kills potential disease-causing
organisms as well as speeds up decomposition. The pile should be left for a minimum of two
weeks to allow much of the flesh to decompose. The moisture also moves through the pile making
some areas drier and some areas wetter. Mixing after two weeks will help break up
any remaining material and redistribute the moisture. This then will encourage final decomposition
of any remaining bones and feathers and create a secondary heating of the pile to further
eliminate potential harmful microbes that may remain. The final product can be used as soil amendment
for plant growth in the garden or in the fields when the weather permits. We encourage you to consult the Ministry of
Agriculture fact sheets for more information on the process, including sizing the pile
and understanding provincial regulations.

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