vermicomposting pet waste

lecorbeau(7b)September 3, 2006

I have two dogs, and I was wondering how large a container and how many worms I would need to vermicompost about a quart of waste a day. This would be a bottomless container as described in another post:

My soil is hard to dig deep, and I was really wondering if I could get away with something about 2' deep.

Other questions:

Should I use regular earth worms, or red wrigglers?

Will keeping the lid on and covering each new addition with something like shredded newspaper keep the odors from being a problem? I would like to put the system at the back of my yard, which, unfortunately, is close to the neighbors' house.

Thanks for any input.


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I have a container 18" wide by 18" deep buried in the ground to take the waste of my two dogs. I didn't add any worms but I was hoping the local earthworms would move in.

I know this isn't answering your question, but the reason I didn't add compost worms is because I have read so much about harmful bacteria in pet waste I decided not to do anything that was going to concentrate huge quantities of matter that could pose a health risk.

Getting back to my buried problem. I now face the task of removing the buried bin and a few kilos of waste.

As to how many worms for your bin: I suppose the popular yardstick is half a pound of waste per pound of worms per day.


    Bookmark   September 3, 2006 at 9:07PM
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Thanks for answering! I'm not clear on what you were saying, though. Did you not add compost worms because you didn't want to hurt the worms? Or because you decided you didn't want to put the bacteria in the soil after all?

I was under the impression that worms would take care of the bacteria making it no longer a health risk. Anyone out there know?


    Bookmark   September 4, 2006 at 8:22AM
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Here is part of a discussion from another forum.


Be convinced or not; dogs carry pathogens and parasites that humans can
catch, some of which are not harmful to dogs (or worms) especially but can
be lay a human flat in short order. (Others are killers in dogs too, but
because we as a culture do not value a dog life as we do a human, they are
treated when possible and when they can't or aren;t treated you get a new
dog when the first one dies prematurely. Only recently have people
frequently started putting human-scale medical treatment to work for pets.)

Handling dog waste directly with your hands is a very poor idea, and I
doubt many people do it. (A scoop or shovel seems more likely for most folks
I will submit.) There are parasites and pathogens that are easily picked up
through the skin, or by one unthinking touch of the nose or mouth with
contaminated hands.)

Horse manure has its issues, but horses do not suffer from as many parasites
and pathogens that can jump to humans as dogs do. Shrug. You don't have to
believe it, but do you really want to convince people of demonstrably false
information and be responsible for them getting sick?

They only thing that makes it ok in some modest respect is that (1) you have
a separate bin and (2) it is not going on food plants. (Perennial or annual
is irrelevant -- the issue is food plants, although many fruit trees *will*
filter the pathogens.) Even then, if you are using the castings on the
surface, you are potentially spreading a nice layer of living biological
pathogens and parasites all through the garden -- and increasing your chance
of exposure. A toddler in that garden, who is in close contact with the
dirt, as toddlers are, is at especial risk.

Do the same hazards exists in any yard with dog feces all over it? You bet.
But to ascribe magical cleansing properties to worm composting is inaccurate
and, well, just wrong.


    Bookmark   September 5, 2006 at 10:38AM
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sqh1(z7 NC)

"But to ascribe magical cleansing properties to worm composting is inaccurate
and, well, just wrong."
hhmmmm....I do not think it is totally inaccurate or wrong. I do think pet waste must be handled in a separate bin and not used on edible plants. Worms and Black Soldier Fly larvae would be a great combination for a pet waste bin.
Check out this article written about worms and hog manure. When the worms have digested this manure the end product has innoculated both salmonella and ecoli. Read this and you might also believe a bit more in magical worms.

Here is a link that might be useful: Worms Eat Hog Manure

    Bookmark   September 5, 2006 at 11:56AM
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I guess I should have been clearer. I don't want to make compost from the stuff. I just want to dispose of my pet waste without polluting the water and soil. And I thought worms might do it better at the bottom of a whole than just the usual composting organisms. For one thing, I won't be reaching down in there to turn it.

I have some concerns about the clay soil and the odor. I may do research on this and let you know what I try. But I'm open to any more suggestions about size, drainage, etc.

Thanks for the postings, squ1 and Marshall.


    Bookmark   September 5, 2006 at 1:17PM
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sqh1(z7 NC)

Kitty..Do a search on "zeolite". with each addition

    Bookmark   September 5, 2006 at 9:46PM
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All of the argument that marshall2000 makes against vermicomposting dog-poop goes equally well against keeping a dog at all. You already have all the risks of parasites and such. any toddler crawling on your lawn is going to find lots of pathogens and traces of dog waste.

I have a special worm bin for dog-poop. I use surgical gloves whenever I handle wormm stuff. I turn the bin with a claw-rake. I haven't yet harvested any compost from the bin. Right now things are on hold because it is frozen. If the worms don't survive the winter I will just add more worms in the spring.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2006 at 12:44AM
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This is intriguing. I thought poop from some animals (ie-rabbits, hogs) was OK to use with composting worms because the original diets are plant based.

Wormlover1, do you use red wrigglers to compost dog waste?

    Bookmark   December 6, 2006 at 11:34AM
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billr12(Z5/6 MO)

I have lived with dogs and cats all my life. Think about the dog licking itself and then kissing you with a big old slurp. I personally think we spend way to much time worrying about pathogens. I do not know of one single person ever diagnosed with a disease supposedly passed on by a dog. Every time you hear on the news about sickness it is in general human caused. I would not let the poop become castings for my yard or garden which you stated you would not use them for, but letting them reduce the waste volume to huge degree seems like a good idea. You were worried about the "waste stream". Where does it go if you bag it and put it in the trash, 'the dump' aka waste stream. I would add the worms and see what happens. If you get a significat reduction you have reduced the problem and if you don't discontinue doing it. The worms definitely will not add germs and have shown pathogen reduction in experiments. Remember these worms are surface feeders and in general will stay where there is food. 'in your buried bucket'.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2006 at 8:08PM
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Glad to see this thread revived!

Bill, I was worried about the groundwater. If you bag the stuff and put it in the trash, it goes to the landfill which is designed with all sorts of precautions to keep the bad things out of the groundwater, including at the bottom compacted soil (clay) with a very low permeability, covered by a liner, and including a leachate collection system. I think what I have to do is find out how high my land is above the water table and what the permeability of the soil here is.

As I said before, once in the hole, I won't be taking it out. That's the idea, anyway. I'm not super-concerned about dog germs, in general, but I have plenty of other things to compost, and would rather just dispose of the dog waste. If it won't be adding to our water quality problems, I will feel like I've helped a little to reduce the burden on the landfill.


    Bookmark   December 6, 2006 at 9:00PM
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I think the problem with pathogens in moot, at least in dogs, as you already come into comtact with all those anyway and it seems to be safe enough that millions of people share their homes with dogs. That being said, cats apparently can carry some kind of human transmittable desease, I forget the name of it, toxoplasmosis ? This apparently is not killed during the passage through the worms gut and could cause problems if you were going to put it on vegetables or other food products.
Someone asked if I am using red wigglers. Yes, at least for the most part. When I first started to compost, I picked up a few worms that I found under the layers of pine needles in my yard. I threw these in my compost bin and was amazed at how they quickly multiplied. That got me interested in worms and my wife bought me Mary Applehof's book, "Worms Eat My Garbage". I then ordered a worm factory and some red-wiggler worms. The worm Factory arrived but the worms did not. I called the worm-ranch and they told me they were experiencing record high temperatures and they could not ship the worms until the temperature dropped. Meanwhile my own yard-worms in the compost were multiplying like crazy so I took all those worms and added them to my new worm factory and also to my newly home-made dog-poop worm-bin.
I eventually gave up on getting my worms from the original supplier and ordered some others from a different guy. I only ordered one pound and then, only because I wanted some genuine eisenia foetida worms to check if mine were the right kind. It seems to me that they were, at least most of them. I have some worms that are shorter, but still red, and I have some that are much bigger soil-digging worms. I consider my worm-bin to be an "Equal Opportunity" worm-bin. If a worm can eat garbage and reproduce with other worms, and deal with the temperatures and such, then that worm and his/her offspring are welcome. If some of them are not red wigglers, but they stay out of trouble and are chomping on dog-poop whenever I raise the lid, they can earn their citizenship.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2006 at 12:30PM
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When you guys compost pet waste....are you doing this in a container or in the ground? Do you have holes on the bottom for liquid to leak out? I just threw a few worms into the cat litter bucket that I collect dog poo in along with a few handfuls of shredded paper. Won't it eventually get filled and I'd have to find a place to get rid of it anyway? It has no holes for drainage.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2010 at 11:01PM
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Hi all! I'm a regular reader, but infrequent poster but I thought I'd chime in.

I have two large dogs. One of them will only go in the back right had corner of the yard. Great! I used to clean up that area every two days and put the waste in the garbage can.

One winter, many leaves had fallen on top of the area and I went a few weeks w/out picking up after her. When I went out to clean up, the layers of waste and leaves had added up to about 3 inches. I decided to rake it up with a garden rake and bag it. I noticed that under the pile, the matter had all started to decompose and there was a rich humus left behind as well as many many earthworms.

At that point, I decided to try a seperate compost bin for the dog waste. I created a bin with shredded leaves and hay and I add the waste to it every few days. When I add the waste, I either make a hole in the leaves (with a fork, of course) and then cover it up OR I put a new layer of leaves on the top. This cuts down on any odor and encourages decomposition.

The worms have showed up on their own and are multiplying and turning the bin for me. I don't do anything to it. I don't have an odor and after a year, I don't have a full bin--it reduces very quickly.

I have not used this compost on the landscaping, but in a few years, I will probably put it on the ornamental shrubbery.

My point in this long post is that the worms are doing what they are bred to do--decompose organic matter. Any animal waste is deposited on the ground and handled by a variety of insects. Sure, not in the same volume of two domesticated dogs living in a small space, but with a certain amount of management, this or any other composting system will work for dog waste. Whether you decide to use the resulting compost is a personal decision, and we're all educated on the topic enough to make an informed decision about it.

I commend all of you for making an effort to reduce waste in the landfills! My local landfill is petitioning the county to expand at this point, which is a sore spot with the few environmentalists in the area.


    Bookmark   April 8, 2010 at 3:25PM
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Okay, I'm new to vermicomposting, so be gentle with me!

I'm on the brink of starting a worm bin - my only claim to fame is that I actually met Mary Applehof some years ago when I attended a demo she did. Delightful woman!

I ran across the product linked below and wondered if anyone has tried it. The product information indicates that the compost produced is useable. I wouldn't use it on food, but wonder if it would be safe to use elsewhere.

I'm also wondering how worms woud survive outside in the container. I'm in middle Tennesee, so have mild winters, but very hot summers. Seems to me I'd have cooked worms in there.

I'll be disposing of waste from one Golden Retriever who will use a small dog run, so the waste will be in one area. I'd really like to be able to deal with it other than adding to landfill.

I'm thinking I'll start a new thread with this question as well, so you may see it twice.

Here is a link that might be useful: Pet poo composter

    Bookmark   May 3, 2010 at 1:03PM
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Personally, I would not spend the money on a system to compost dog poop. I would simply bury it next to an ornamental tree/bush. Something non edible.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2010 at 12:07AM
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I compost in the following way: I use black 5 gallon buckets. My first bucket starts with several inches of chlorine free water and 1 teaspoon of rid-x. Dog feces are put in and water is added to cover if necessary. When the bucket is full, the lid is put on tight and stored in the sunlight.

The next bucket is started with remaining liquid from the previous bucket. Lids are kept over the buckets at all times. The sealed bucket is aged for at least 2 weeks, preferably one month or more.

The resulting mush is poured in the flower beds, spring or fall and tilled in or covered up. The resulting flowers look great! It is also poured into low spots in the grass and washed in. I use urine mixed 10:1 to fertilize my yard and garden; they are healthy and very green, some say the best in the neighborhood.

Rid-x uses anerobic bacteria to break down the waste; once the first teaspoon is added, the bacteria multiply on their own, just like bokashi or sourdough.

The same process can be used to vermicompost feces (human and dog) either dry with 1/3 carbon source (ie: newspaper shreddings, straw or sawdust), stored in the sun with ventilation holes in the lid, and adding the worms after the temperature no longer elevates after shaking or stirring the contents. A separate hot compost pile can also be used.

Or, wet by adding the month old drained slurry incrementally to a vermicomposting bucket or pile with worms as they digest it. Finished vermicompost exceeds government standards as certified pathogen free compost if it has been processed adequately.

Some municipal waste treatment plants in the US use vermiculture to process human waste sludge which is certified and sold to sod and ornamental farms. It is pathogen free after the worms finish digesting it. Class A pathogen certification requires regular testing.

This post was edited by Stormygale on Sat, Jul 13, 13 at 18:38

    Bookmark   July 13, 2013 at 2:58AM
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