The Best Composted Manure and How to Compost Manure at Home

compost manure
Chicken manure is one of the best fertilizers for soil, plants, and compost piles because it contains a wide range of minerals and nutrients. Rabbit manure is a close second to chicken manure as nearly a quarter of its composition is organic matter, which provides plenty of structure and substance to soil.

Read on to learn what other manures compost well and how to make composted manure easily at home.

What is composted manure?

Composted manure is animal manure that has decomposed. 

Gardeners can use it as a nutrient-rich soil amendment. It doesn’t smell anymore or contain dangerous pathogens.

Composted manure may be made from just manure, but it usually contains other composted materials like straw and sawdust.

Types of animal manure

  • Best: chicken manure
  • Second best: rabbit manure
  • Third best: horse manure
  • Fourth best: goat manure
  • Fifth best: cow manure

Manure compost is made from horses, cows, and chickens. You can also use manure from sheep, rabbits, goats, ducks, and llamas. 

Vegetable gardens love herbivore waste because they eat mostly hay and grass and aren’t prone to pathogens like pigs.

The best animal manure for composting is chicken manure because it’s high in organic matter. Nearly a third of its makeup is organic. Chickens scratch and feed on grass, bugs, seeds, and more, so their diet is rich in organic stuff.

Chicken manure is also high in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Most vegetable plants and flowers need these three nutrients to thrive.

The second best animal manure is rabbit manure, and it’s great for planting and nourishing soil. Like chicken manure, it’s got a lot of nutrients, including a lot of nitrogen.

Manure from rabbits is also easier to work with than most. Small, round droppings are easy to scoop up from cages and compost.

Horse manure has about 25% organic matter, so it’s another great choice for soil and plants. While it doesn’t have as much nitrogen as chicken or rabbit manure, it still adds plenty.

You can top dress your gardens in the fall with aged horse manure. Over the winter, horse dung breaks down quickly, adding structure, nutrients, and organic matter to the soil.

You’ll find goat manure has a high organic makeup and moisture content. When manure ages, it breaks down quickly, especially when added to a compost bin.

The popularity of home goat ownership has made goat manure more accessible than ever. The best part is it’s balanced manure that can re-energize soil and plants quickly when composted.

Regarding fresh manure, goat manure has one of the least odorous smells.

One of the easiest sources of manure is cow manure. While it has the least organic matter and nitrogen of the five featured today, it still has plenty of benefits for your soil.

Larger manures can add big amounts of organic materials to compost piles or soils because of their sheer mass and size.

Composted manure benefits

Composted manure is an efficient source of organic matter for your garden. 

Composted manure prosComposted manure cons
Provides primary nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassiumCost of site preparation and equipment
Increases sandy soil’s water-holding capacityTreatment takes a long time
It improves drainage in clay soilsIdentifying the final use for compost
Promotes the growth of beneficial organismsDust and odors are environmental issues
Runoff is reducedNot all manure should be composted

Manure vs. compost

Animal dung, or manure, is a by-product of livestock farming and is usually a mixture of feces and urine.

While compost can be made from a variety of materials, it is generally composed of grass clippings, kitchen waste, leaf litter, cardboard, and plant matter.

Improves soilSoil-feeding
CompostableImproved moisture retention
Prevents nutrient leachingIncreases disease resistance
It’s organicIt’s organic

Fresh vs. composted manure

Generally speaking, we tend to think that fresher is better when it comes to fertilizing with fresh manure, but this is not necessarily the case.

Even though composting manure may seem like a hassle, the process is essential for preventing human diseases. 

Composted manure breaks down more slowly than fresh manure. As a result, nitrogen is released rapidly from manure during the spring or summer and slowly during the winter.

It is not true that all manure contains nutrients for plants. In the process of breaking down, manure containing a great deal of bedding removes nitrogen from the soil.

USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) has developed rules and guidelines for the safe use of raw manures to prevent the spread of disease.

According to their regulations, if edibles come into contact with the soil, such as cucurbits and root vegetables, which tend to lie on the soil’s surface, you should apply raw manure to the garden at least 120 days before harvesting.

Vegetables such as tomatoes and peppers may come into contact with soil when splashing water or fruit drops fall on them.

In the case of edibles, such as sweet corn, which does not come into contact with soil, raw manure must still be applied at least 90 days before harvest.

How to compost manure: a step-by-step guide

  1. Add straw, sawdust, leaves, or wood chips to the manure. The microbial population needs enough carbon and nitrogen to survive. Depending on where the manure comes from, it might already be mixed. The suggested formula is three parts manure to two parts carbon source.
  2. Ensure the mixture is in a covered composting system – a plastic, wood, or metal box. Ensure the air can still circulate. It’s also possible to compost in an open pile, but it attracts rodents and bugs, emits a foul smell, and is hard to control moisture and temperature.
  3. Make sure it’s moist and turns regularly. Turning manure is important because it incorporates oxygen, homogenizes the pile, and breaks up clumps. Also, it lets microbes get closer to the manure.
  4. Once the pile cools, you can add the composted manure to your compost pile.

Composting pig manure isn’t recommended. Never use pig, dog, or cat feces in compost piles or gardens, especially if you’re growing food.

Is it safe to use animal manure in your veggie garden?

Manure can increase soil organic matter and alter soil structure in the home vegetable garden. 

Waste from pigs, dogs, cats, and humans should never be used in vegetable gardens. 

Manure from cows, horses, chickens, lambs, goats, and llamas is suitable for vegetable gardens.

Fresh manure could also contain bacteria, contaminate vegetables, and cause human illness.

Can you use composted manure as mulch?

Yes. As a slow-release fertilizer, composted manure keeps soil moisture constant and acts as an insulator.

Spread 2 to 3 inches of composted manure over the soil surface in the fall or early spring. Ensure it is at least 3 to 4 inches away from shrubs and tree trunks.

In the spring, worms, good bacteria, and new plants will benefit from rain and snow’s nutrients leached into the soil.

You should not use fresh manure as it contains excessive amounts of nitrogen and may cause the plants to burn. 

Moreover, some manure fertilizers contain urine, which is also high in nitrogen.

How much manure should you actually apply?

Composted manure should be spread in the fall or winter, depending on the severity of your winters.

 It is possible to simply add a few inches on top of your beds if your soil is already fairly good. 

Otherwise, you will need to thoroughly mix it into the existing soil, 4 to 8 inches deep.

Which plants do not like manure?

If the manure is composted, you can add it to the soil to provide nutrients to your plants.

However, fresh or uncomposted manure should not be added for vegetables that grow beneath the soil, such as:

  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes

And the ones that sit or lean on the ground, like:

  • Lettuce
  • Squash
  • Spinach
  • Cucumber

Fresh manure contains pathogens, diseases, and bacteria that pose a high risk of contamination. 

There is a possibility that the vegetables listed above may be susceptible to these disease-causing organisms. Before using fresh manure in your garden, it should be composted.

Furthermore, animal manure may contain herbicide residues that can damage your vegetable garden in addition to pathogens, diseases, and bacteria.

Even after passing through an animal’s digestive system and after composting, plants treated with herbicides can retain their herbicidal activity.

Vegetables sensitive to herbicide residue in manure include:

  • Beans
  • Lettuce
  • Tomato
  • Solanaceous crops
  • Strawberries
  • Grapes


Discovering composting as a way of life or even better, as nature’s way of recycling, Ana dedicates her time to trying out new methods of composting at home. Her goal is to share everything that she’s learned in the hopes that it will help others discover the amazing rewards of composting.

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