Compost These 7 Pet Items for a Healthy Garden

Gardeners usually try to keep their beloved pets out of their planter boxes, but there are some things from our pets that can actually benefit growing plants and trees.

If you compost, you’ve probably considered all the things you can toss in your compost pile, from carrot tops to coffee grounds, but have you thought of your dog’s nail clippings? Or your rabbit’s bedding?

Composting is essentially the breaking down of organic material, such as vegetable scraps, into nutrient-rich soil. It has long been used to improve farms and gardens, with evidence of composting dating back at least to the Stone Age. The earliest known written reference to compost was recorded on a stone tablet in Mesopotamia in 2,300 B.C.

Those ancient composters were on to something, and through generations of trial and error, we have a good grasp today of what items we can add to a pile to make great compost.

Following are 7 pet items you can toss into your compost pile for better soil:


  1. Pet fur/hair: Clean out those brushes directly into the compost bin. Pet hair and fur are a source of nitrogen in compost, a nutrient plants love. When you toss your pet’s fur into the compost bin, mix it around a little, or place something over it to make sure it doesn’t blow away.
  2. Nail clippings: Like fur, nail clippings are fine to compost, provided there’s no nail polish on them. (Please don’t paint your pet’s nails. Polish can be toxic to animals.) Simply clip and add in.
  3. Bird feathers: Backyard chickens provide a steady supply of feathers, or the insides of old down pillows can be tossed into the pile. Just be sure you know the source to avoid using contaminated feathers from sick birds.
  4. Small animal bedding: It’s OK to use the bedding from small, vegetarian animals, such as rabbits and guinea pigs, as long as the bedding is a natural, biodegradable product, like straw or shredded paper. Don’t worry about cleaning out your pet’s poop either; the waste from healthy vegetarian animals is fine for compost. Note: Hamsters and gerbils are omnivores, but most of their commercial food is vegetarian. Confirm before including their bedding and waste in your compost pile.
  5. Chicken manure: Speaking of waste from healthy animals … chicken poop is perfect for composting. c, making it great for vegetables and flowers. As with other small animals, you can throw in the bedding along with the manure. Make sure your compost pile gets hot – 130-150º Fahrenheit — for about three days to destroy pathogens. You can buy a compost thermometer at a local nursery. Then let it cure for six to eight weeks, and apply it to your garden soil.
  6. Dry dog and cat food: If you have old, stale pet food, or simply something your dog or cat won’t eat, feel free to add it to your compost bin. Make sure to use dry pet food, and moisten it a little with water to help it break down quicker.
  7. Hay/straw: Mucking out your horse’s stall? Don’t toss the straw or the manure. Both can be added to compost. If you include the manure, follow the directions for chicken manure and heat it to 130-150º F for three days, then let it cure for a month up to a year.

Composting is an easy, sustainable way to improve soil, keep pet items out of the landfill, and help your plants and trees grow.

Download our free 7 Pet Items You Can Compost take action guide reminder for your bulletin board or refrigerator. 

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