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Pest control in the composting toilet

Composting toilet"Oh, no, honey, I'd never ask you to handle humanure," I reassured Mark when we came to the final stages of negotiation for our composting toilet.  I could tell he was seething over the term "humanure" (which he considers sneaky), so I went on.  "The system I'm thinking of is designed so you don't touch the human waste until it's had at least one solid year to compost.  It's really totally safe!"

With some grumbling, Mark gave in and let me have the composting toilet I'd been campaigning for.  So I expected some snide remarks when I came to him on Friday for help revising a flaw in the system.  The spaces between the wooden slats (which Mark had said were too far apart, but which I'd said needed distance for air flow) had allowed a raccoon to reach in and pull out some half-rotted chicken entrails, along with toilet paper and, um, humanure.

Fixing the composting toiletThere was no "I told you so," but only because Mark is a true gentleman (and a long-suffering husband).  I scooped up the debris to stuff back into the composting chamber while Mark screwed hardware cloth over the offending holes.

Word to the wise --- lots of carbon isn't sufficient to keep vermin out of your composting toilet chamber if you live out in the wilds.  The author of The Humanure Handbook doesn't mention this problem even though he threw all of his household food scraps down the hole, but I think he also lived in suburbia where pesky racoons are probably much less common.

One pest-control option would be to line the entire chamber with hardware cloth, but that might rust into a mess in a few years.  Another option would be to use more, smaller boards spaced closer together for the slats so you have just as much air flow but less space between each board.  We'll wait and see if filling in the most problematic holes with hardware cloth is sufficient, and I may go back to plan B, which keeps anything food-like out of the compost chamber.  I'll keep you posted.

Don't want to handle chicken waste either?  The Avian Aqua Miser is the POOP-free waterer for happy backyard chickens.

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Joe has his toilet indoors, and carries the buckets out. Perhaps having the bucket indoors longer means the delicious food scraps pickle in the liquids and taste more like s$%t? Maybe that is why the wildlife leaves it alone? I have a terrible problem with crows in my humanure though.
Comment by Eric in Japan Sun Dec 30 11:08:18 2012

We have bears. We still haven't set up a proper system, but have recently acquired a solar electric fencing unit for the purpose. A bear recently punctured (with teeth) the plastic gas tank on my woodchipper. And I hear stories from the locals that any tree fruit other than apples will succumb to bears when they try to climb the trees to get the fruit. So more electric fencing . . . But they do love the humanure!

Comment by Charity Sun Dec 30 11:26:57 2012
Interesting to hear you both had similar problems, even without the chicken entrails. Do you add food scraps, or are these animals really just that fond of humanure?
Comment by anna Sun Dec 30 15:59:03 2012
Looks like Mark needs to be long suffering......:o)
Comment by Edith Sun Dec 30 18:15:39 2012

I don't know to what extent it is just boredom and curiosity with the bears. They just rummage a bit. I know that bears are drawn by insect larvae, so I don't know if that influences the humanure rummaging. But nothing else is composted with the waste - and we use forest leaves as the main carbon mass cover (with a few fresh wood chips occasionally, when we need an air freshener.)

Food scraps mostly go into the poultry pen. We a compost heap with grasses, weeds, and poultry litter down by the garden that occasionally gets some vegetable waste. And the actual outhouse itself hasn't had any bear problems (the previous owner had bees for 5 years with no problems from bears - then one day a mother and cub came through and ended that venture. It wasn't electrified.) Definitely a learning curve, living with bears.

Comment by Charity Mon Dec 31 11:03:42 2012

One very unique homestead, $1,500 per acre, the opportunity of a lifetime