Sunday, November 8, 2009

Household Organic Waste: The Crib Sheet

This is a table I have been updating for the neighbors near my henhouse who contribute food scraps to our feathered friends. Just for comparison, I added the vermicomposting column too. Together, these 3 food waste options sure take care of almost any organic material from your household- some inedible. As I continue to learn about this topic, I plan re-post the crib sheet when new information has been added.

Organic Waste
coffee grounds
yes, the filters too.
Best place for coffee grounds as worms consider this bedding. Unbleached filter are OK
dried fruit
past their prime is fine, but if the dried fruit is hard and tough, then soften first before serving.
cheese (cream & cottage too) OK if has a touch of mold. Hard cheeses like Parmesan or dried out cheese edges are great but need to be diced. Yogurt must be soaked up with old cereal or similar. Try to serve these early in the day so that there isn't protein sitting in the chicken run overnight attracting mice/rats. No, attracts vermin
OK, but very liquid products should be avoided.
grain products: breads, cereal, crackers &
other grain -based foods
This is the best place for grain products. Stale bread is perfect for hens, but bread can't be hard and dried out when served to chickens. Soften with leftover milk, soup, sauce. Same for hard crackers and pretzels and hard pizza crust. Best chunk up into nickle size pieces to keep squirrels from stealing it all. Rice, noodles, quinoa, oatmeal, uncooked oats, etc.
No, attracts vermin
All, but only if whole grains (100% white flour products are not good for worms, or for you)
eggs & eggshells
Hens love cooked eggs. Empty hells of hard cooked eggs are great too (no raw eggshells though due to passing bacteria). The trick is that the hens can't know that they are eggs! They will start to eat their own and its very hard to stop that behavior. Crush any shells into tiny bits. Try to serve these early in the day so that there isn't protein sitting in the chicken run overnight attracting mice/rats.Provides good calcium for layers.
Shells are OK even if raw.
Shells are OK even if raw. They provide needed calcium to the livestock.
egg cartons (and packing material made of the same stuff)
OK, great source of carbon
super for bedding, would need to be torn up first.
drier lint and kitchen sink gunk
meat / stockpot leftovers
Hens will definitely eat meat leftovers. Can't be rotten though, and needs to be diced if its hard or grisly. After stock-making, Hens will love to pick the bones clean (remove bones later in the day). Try to serve these early in the day so that there isn't protein sitting in the chicken run overnight attracting mice/rats. No
meat drippings
Mixing meat drippings with hen feed, or even cat food until soaked up becomes fine hen food. Think Suet served to wild birds.
nuts Most nuts are hard, so really need to be ground up, like a coarse cornmeal consistency. Rancid is just fine. Try to serve these early in the day so that there isn't protein sitting in the chicken run overnight attracting mice/rats. No, attracts vermin OK
Fruit: citrus,
melon (rinds & seeds too),
apple/pear peel & cores (seeds removed),
berries, bananas,
Fruit is a real treat! Apples must be diced in order for the hens to take much. Apple seeds are toxic, so I usually cut that part out before dicing. Grapefruit halves are welcomed, even after eating.
All can go in no matter its state
All plus worms will take peels that hens won't
paper towels, napkins and tissues
All can go in unless there was a chemical cleaner used on the towels.
unbleached paper products only, no cleaning product on them
take-out and plate scrapings
Generally all good. Pizza should be diced, if crust is very hard best to soften with liquid. Try to serve these early in the day so that there isn't protein sitting in the chicken run overnight attracting mice/rats. No, attracts vermin OK
packing material - cornstarch peanuts & egg carton materials
tea leaves hens like the size of loose leaf
OK, with any paper teabag too
OK, with any paper teabag too
pizza boxes (unrecyclable corrugated due to food residue)
Yes, the best place for pizza boxes. Take the time to tear up the box, but it is not necessary
vegetable scraps:corn
lettuce, chard, beet greens, tomato, pepper seeds, cucumbers
Hens will take anything leafy without any prep and OK if they are not particularly fresh. Corn cobs with bits of left overs on them are well loved. Hard veggies should be diced. Root veggie scraps work best if cooked first to soften. I have read that folks suggest to go light on items in the cabbage family as egg flavor can be impacted.

This is the best place for onions, carrots and anything in the cabbage family, & avocados. These items are either toxic to, or not preferred by hens. Otherwise, any vegetable waste in any condition can be put in the bins.
Worms will take it all, but may have to limit onion.


  1. what a great resource you have put together!! thank you for the info!

  2. Hi Steph, this is a great resource! You clearly have some lucky birds - I don't think I've gone to the trouble of cooking anything for mine!:) I do question the use of dryer lint in compost or worm bins. Since so many of our clothing items are petroleum-based and treated with chemicals such as formaldehyde for wrinkle-free qualities, I would pause before incorporating the lint into compost. Have you seen anything about this?

  3. Hi Faith, nice to see you here! Generally, I do not go out of my way to cook for chickens- its more the case if the oven is on already, or a pan is dropped into the solar oven for the day.

    Using cloth (or dryer lint) in worm bins comes from Laverme's Worms of Duluth. For demonstration purposes, she worm composted an intact pair of jeans. The worms ate away every cotton fiber and all that was left were fasteners, the zipper, seams, and any non-natural fibers. Again, she didn't do this as a suggestion for regular bin use, but for a cool demonstration of the power of worms.

    Your question about residual chemicals from clothing is worth thinking about. It's odd, the stuff we allow on our bodies. Our composting facilities here are generous with 2 extra large worm bins and 3 outdoor compost bins. The quantity of dryer lint (and it's residual chemical load) would be pretty dilute in the finished product. A household with a sole single and smaller bin may want to think that through differently. In my next update to the crib sheet, I will factor that in some way.

    Expanding your question even bigger to ask what to do with waste cloth from cities presents different options. Shall we landfill them? Shall we burn them and release the byproducts in the air? Maybe composting is the most regenerative solution for the natural fibers at least. The dilution of residuals would limit concentrated waste problems, much like waste ash from coal plants are metered into the gypsum to make wallboard.