Chickens as Bio-Recyclers and Zero Waste Partners

Using chickens as bio-recyclers can help decrease costs of collection, transportation, and disposal of household garbage.

If 2,000 households each kept a family flock of 6 chickens (or more) in a single city, they could divert over 500 tons of biomass reaching landfills.

Keeping backyard chickens has several benefits, but one of the biggest advantages of these birds is their function as bio-recyclers.

Benefits of Keeping Backyard Chickens

Employing a family flock to bio-recycle kitchen, garden, and yard waste greatly reduces the amount of trash and garbage that would normally be dumped in landfills. 

Many local governments are underfunded, some even reliant on loans.

By encouraging people to keep chickens, governments can potentially save money, giving them the chance to direct expenses elsewhere.

Sounds pretty good, right?

Did you know that food scraps and yard waste make up a large portion of waste sent to landfill?

Food Scraps


It is estimated that nationwide, food scraps add up to around 17% (29 million tons) of waste in landfills. If that was not enough, yard waste weighs up to 33 million tons – together this adds up to 28% of all municipal solid waste generation – the equivalent of two adult humpback whales!

There is a lot we can do to reduce that percentage. And this is where bio-recycling comes in.

A lot of waste can be bio-recycled which means it does not have to reach a landfill. 

Many municipalities have adopted a zero-waste system to ensure that all garden, kitchen, and food waste can be recycled to one form or another such as top-soil or compost. 

How Do Chickens Help Zero-Waste?

A single average-sized chicken consumes roughly its body weight in food each month. This amounts to around 84 pounds of food per year.

Chickens do not just eat store-bought food; they can be given scraps from your kitchen and garden which can all be bio-recycled and turned into compost with a little help from your feathered friends.

Stale bread, gone-off leftovers and mouldy vegetables may sound unappealing to us, but chickens love them. 

Feeding Chicken with Vegetable Compost
Feeding Chicken with Vegetable Compost

How Do Chickens Help?

How does this work? The chickens consume some food scraps, while the rest is covered in a deep mulching area. 

The manure is then combined with high-carbon compost which prevents waste going straight into the trash – In fact, it never has to leave your property!

That is not to say that a family flock’s diet should be solely scraps as this can lead to nutritional deficiencies. They need mealworms and feed, among other things.

Chicken’s will need to be given specific bird feed to ensure they have a balanced and well-rounded diet. 

Chicken Manure

Now it is time to talk about poop.

Did you know that chicken poop is among the richest of all animal manure?

This is because it has; nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium at a ratio of roughly

By combining the chicken manure “green” nitrogen to the yard carbon “browns”, you are left with the 1 to 50 ratio you need for creating compost. 

How Much Can be Saved? 

To figure out how much money can be potentially saved by employing chickens, you will need to find out the expenses for solid waste management.

This is something your city manager will know.

Once you have the total cost of solid waste management per, divide the number by the amount of waste managed (tons). You will be left with the cost per ton of waste.


Use the numbers for residential tons collected. Otherwise, use 25% of the total trash managed as a rough estimate.

In this example, it cost around $106 per ton for a city to collect, transport, transfer, and deposit trash to a landfill in 2009. 

Local Tipping Fees

Garbage Bags
Garbage Bags

Find out the price for your local tipping fees.

A tipping fee i.e. the cost per ton to dump garbage.

A landfill will charge a tipping fee to fund the cost of opening, maintaining, and eventually closing the site.


This fee is sometimes included in the total solid waste management budget, but not always.

Sample Tipping Fees Calculation

In the Northeast (2009), the typical tipping fee was around $53 per ton.

To calculate the total saved in tipping fees in our example, multiply the tipping fee ($53 per ton) by 504 tons.

The total saved is $26,700. And that is just from tipping fees!

By simply encouraging and allowing residents to keep family flocks a city could save over $81,000 per year.

To work out the total trash savings add the tipping fee and the solid waste management costs to give you a total savings 

  • Estimated chicken and compost generated savings from no trash collection = $54,424 per year (in our example).
  • Tipping fee savings = $26,700 per year.
  • Total = $81,124 taxpayer savings

Where Has Taken on Chickens?

Chicken Feeding on Compost
Chicken Feeding on Compost

In Flanders, Belgium, the city of Diest uses chickens to decrease their trash management budget.

They had a line-item expense in their budget that allowed them to provide laying hens to 2,000 households. 

City officials employ chickens as an economical solution to their costly trash management dilemma.

From the city manager’s perspective, the chickens’ production of eggs, topsoil, and fertilizer are irrelevant to their uses in the community.

They are simply benefits for the residents.

Vermont Compost Company

Another example is the Vermont Compost Company (VCC) located in the steep hillsides of Montpelier, Vermont.

The VCC receives around 750 tons of food waste from about 49 food residue producing institutions including schools, restaurants, and prisons.

They combine the food scraps with old hay, wood chips, and pretty much any source of carbon to create organic compost and potting soil.

Compost Workers

1,200 chickens are also employed as compost workers who clean the compost piles by scratching and removing bugs and varmints.

It is estimated that working chickens are worth around 5 tons of heavy, fuel-free machinery.

So, as you can see, employing chickens as bio-recyclers and zero waste partners is an excellent technological strategy for solid waste management. 

Not only does it greatly reduce the cost of collection, transportation, and disposal of trash, but it also ensures that the majority of biomass never reaches landfills in the first place.