Is It Possible to Compost Bird Feathers? A Guide on Safe Feather Composting

Is It Possible to Compost Bird Feathers? A Guide on Safe Feather Composting

Composting is an amazing process. Given enough time, things you may consider “garbage” can be turned into pure gold for your garden. We’ve all heard of composting kitchen scraps and manure, but one compostable you may not think of right away is bird feathers. Keep reading to learn more about adding feathers to compost piles.

How to Compost Feathers Safely

Can you compost bird feathers? You absolutely can. In fact, feathers are some of the most nitrogen-rich composting materials around. Compostable items are generally split into two categories: browns and greens.

  • Browns are rich in carbon and include such things as dead leaves, paper products, and straw.
  • Greens are rich in nitrogen and include things like coffee grounds, vegetable peelings, and, of course, feathers.

Both browns and greens are essential to good compost, and if you feel like you’re too heavy on one, it’s a good idea to compensate with a lot of the other. Composting feathers is a great way to raise your soil’s nitrogen content because they’re very efficient and often free.

Composting Feathers

The first step in adding feathers to compost is finding a feather source. If you’re fortunate enough to keep backyard chickens, you’ll have a constant supply from the feathers they lose naturally day to day. If you don’t, try turning to down pillows. Sad old pillows that have lost their oomph can be opened up and emptied. If you can, try to find a factory that makes down products– they may be persuaded to give you their leftover feathers for free. Bird feathers in compost break down relatively easily– they should break down totally within just a few months. The only real hazard is wind. Make sure to add your feathers on a day without wind and cover them up with heavier material once you’ve added them to keep them from blowing everywhere. You can also soak them in water for a day beforehand both to weigh them down and jump-start the decomposing process. Note: Don’t use bird feather compost that you’ve randomly found just laying around without knowing the source, as they could be contaminated by sick or diseased bird species.

Dr Heidi Parkes

By Dr Heidi Parkes

Senior Information Extension Officer QLD Dept of Agriculture & Fisheries.