Can You Compost Bones? What You Need To Know!
Creating good compost means creating a balance of waste. This means balancing woody, brown ingredients, and green ingredients that contain nitrogen. It also means balancing acidic and alkaline waste. As such, it is a good idea to include a wide variety of items, but there are certain things that should not be placed in a compost bin.
Bones are a somewhat controversial composting item. On the one hand, they will decompose over time and can be treated properly to ensure that they do not pose a health risk. On the other hand, chicken bones can carry bacteria, and all bones and meat can attract vermin and other pests to your compost. They also take anywhere from several months to decades to break down thoroughly.
In most cases, it may be better to avoid adding bones altogether unless you are an experienced composter that knows how to deal with these particular waste items. Or, at least, until you’ve done your research and determined how best to compost animal bones.
Why Include Bones in Compost?
The following are some of the reasons why it is safe and can even be beneficial to add bones to compost:
Why You Should Avoid Putting Bones in Compost
How to Treat Bones Before Composting Them
If you do intend to add bones to your compost, follow these steps to ensure that they are safe and that they will break down quickly enough to be a beneficial source of minerals and nutrients.
1. Boil the Bones
Boiling the bones will remove any excess meat and collagen while also making them easier to break down. You can use the bones to create a bone broth or put them in a large pot of boiling water for about an hour if you don’t want to make a stock or broth.
2. Bake the Bones
Once the bones are boiled and soft, place them on a baking tray and put the tray in an oven at 400°F for approximately 30–40 minutes until they start to brown. Large beef bones can take longer to reach this stage. Once they reach this stage, take them out of the oven and allow them to cool.
3. Break the Bones
Once the bones are dry, they should be brittle enough to be broken. Place them in a thick bag and use a mallet, hammer, or rolling pin, to smash them into small bits. Placing them in a bag first makes it easier to collect the pieces once you’ve finished and will prevent mess.
4. Add to the Compost
Optionally, you can grind the bones down even further using a pestle and mortar. This will give you bone meal that can be fed directly to plants.
Alternatively, add them to the compost pile. Don’t add the bone pieces to the top of the pile. Instead, try to get them into the center, where they will be covered with other compost and break down quicker. If you do have to add them to the top of the pile, cover them with other items to aid in the composting process.
It is safe to add bones to compost, but they do take a long time to break down when whole. Some bones, especially chicken bones, can harbor bacteria.
As such, you will need to prepare them by first boiling and then breaking the bones down before adding them, ideally, to the center of your compost pile. This will give the bones the best chance of decomposing quickly and being a viable addition to your compost pile.
Featured Image Credit: Eliane Meyer, Pixabay