Rotary Drum Composting of Poultry Mortalities

Published on: 10/15/2020
Author/s : Tom Tabler, Ph.D., Extension Professor, Poultry Science, Mississippi State University; Jonathan R. Moyle, PhD, Extension Poultry Specialist, University of Maryland Extension; and Jessica Wells, PhD, Assistant Clinical/Extension Professor, Mississippi State University.

In general, composting poultry can be described as an all-natural, environmentally friendly method of mortality management, which minimizes water and air pollution by retaining nutrients, pathogens, and odors. Given the right conditions, microorganisms break down organic material (poultry mortalities, in this case) and carbon into a useful and valuable finished product. Composting also c...

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Dr. Ashraf Ali Qureshi Dr. Ashraf Ali Qureshi
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine
October 15, 2020

Hi Tom,
Thanks for sharing details of mortality composting by rotary drum. I have performed the process in static form using same recipe as you mentioned in your article. Temp raised to 140 F max and it took around 50 days. I have faced problem in ready compost that it contained bones which were not composted at all. Do you have any solution or what you think of happened with bones which were still in original state. Moreover, send me details of rotary composter drawings to know further working of machine. What happened to bones in rotary drum composter after 30 days of composting?


October 19, 2020
Dr. Ashraf Ali Qureshi
I think the daily turning and agitating helps to break up the bones in the rotary composter as long as the temperature and moisture levels are correct, more so than in a static bin or alleyway composter. The size of bird being composted may also play a role. However, we are composting 5 kg broilers at times and still do not see bones as long as we have the recipe right. However, if we have too low a temperature, compost that is too wet, or the wrong C:N ratio, we will see bones; even though the meat may have composted. It's a recipe and the recipe has to be right for the end product to turn out right. Hope this helps!

December 18, 2020
This is a little off topic but still involves composting. We have currently started a process of grinding our mortality with a mixture of sawdust sandwiched between layers of straw. So far the composting has been excellent with no bones. The final product actually composts further over the time it takes to fill a bin. Final moisture rate is around 30 percent.

The most advantageous result is that our the final product actually reduces bin space by more than fifty percent with no feathers or bones. There is little odor or negative aspects with the finished product and is ready for spreading at about 2-3 weeks depending on the application.

I would be glad to provide further information if anyone is interested.
January 4, 2021
Tim M. Asbridge
Howdy Tim,

I would be very interested in additional information on your grinding process. I've always thought that grinding the mortality would work and speed up the process. I'm interested in trying to get the grinding process to gain some traction in the broiler industry. Thanks!
January 4, 2021
Tom Tabler I will be glad to provide information on our grinding process. We have been experimenting for around six months at this point and we are still in the process of determining what our most efficient carbon sources are concerning the least amount of time required to complete the compost cycle. I will try to get you something together this week as far as cost and how we have set our system up.

Dr. Ashraf Ali Qureshi Dr. Ashraf Ali Qureshi
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine
December 29, 2020
Dear Tim
It looks good idea to reduce bin space and what about grinder design and adding cost to do the job. It would be interesting to know.

January 6, 2021
We use a wood chipper to break bones down quicker after mortalities have been through invessel composter. Makes for a nice compost/bonemeal for around our trees.
Hilario P. Perez Hilario P. Perez
March 20, 2021
Yes I am interested.
How would you make a rotary drum?
How much space needed for the unit?
How does it function? These are my initial questiins regarding the rotary drum. Thank you and I hope to get answers to my questions.
March 22, 2021
Hilario P. Perez
Our unit is made by Tri-Form Poly. They can be contacted at or 1-479-343-2540. The units are sized to the size of your operation.
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