How To Set Up A Dog Poo Worm Farm
When my greyhound Hans moved into the house (in July 2016), it was important to me that I didn’t suddenly start using heaps of plastic, or begin sending stuff to landfill. There’s bedding, toys and food to consider – and also what to do with dog poo.
If a dog goes to the toilet twice a day, that’s potentially two plastic bags going to landfill every day also – not to mention the contents.
One of the first things I did was set up a dog poo worm farm. I’ve mentioned it before, but it is something that I get asked about often, so I wanted to take some time to explain the specifics.
I promise you, it isn’t hard. There’s actually very little to it!
Dog Poo Worm Farm Basics
Dog poo doesn’t go into the regular worm farm; it needs to go in a separate one. There are a couple of reasons for this.
One, if worms have the choice between dog poo and banana peels and avocado, they are not going to be choosing eating dog poo.
Two, whereas regular worm farm castings (the nutrient-rich compost left by the worms once they process the food) can be used to grow seedlings and added to the veggie patch, worm farm castings stay in the ground.
This is because faeces may contain parasites and bad bacteria, so spreading it over the lettuce seedlings isn’t a good idea from a health perspective.
Of course, it’s possible to position a dog poo worm farm underneath a fruit tree so that the tree gets the benefits of all the nutrients.
I like the dog poo worm farm set-up (as opposed to digging holes in the ground every time there is something to dispose of) because there is one spot where everything goes. It’s contained and easy to manage.
As someone with a small yard, it is the perfect solution for me.
Setting Up A Dog Poo Worm Farm
I’m a fan of the repurposed materials-and-no-cost approach. I’ve used a 20 litre plastic bucket that was donated to me by the bulk food store once the contents had been sold. It has a lid, which is very important.
I cut the bottom out of the bucket, and dug a hole in the garden big enough to bury the bucket so just an inch was exposed above the ground (enough to ensure the lid is secured).
I don’t bury the handle as it might be useful if I need to move the bin later.
Next, the worm farm needs a big old handful of composting worms. (These are different to earthworms in that composting worms are surface feeders.) The main types are Eisenia fetida, Eisenia Andrei and Lumbricus rubellus but what is actually available depends on where you live.
I just grabbed a handful from my regular worm farm. If you don’t have any to start with, check out community gardens, Buy Nothing groups, Gumtree or good garden centres.
The worms aren’t trapped in the worm farm as the bottom is cut out, so they are free to come and go, as are any other critters looking for some lunch.
The other thing that worm farms need is carbon. I add this by picking up dog poo using old toilet paper wrappers (conveniently ready-cut the the exact size I need) or newspaper. If you use some kind of scoop to pick up, just throwing in a few handfuls of leaves, or some paper or cardboard would be fine.
This bucket holds 20 litres, so eventually fills up. I’ve also seen these worm farms made with old flip-lid wheelie bins which are much larger (often it is possible to purchase broken or damaged ones – contact your local council to find out if they offer this service.)
When the bin reaches capacity, cover the top with soil, then pull out the bucket and replace elsewhere.
As the freshest and least composted poo will be at the top, consider setting up a second whilst leaving the first to continue decomposing. It will make for a more pleasant experience when removing and replacing the bucket.
Dog Poo Worm Farm – Do’s and Don’ts
Something really important to remember is that a worm farm contains worms, and worming tablets kill worms. If your dog has taken worming tablets, do not put dog poo in the worm farm for a couple of weeks.
I don’t regularly give my dog worming tablets (on the advice of my vet), and he gets a yearly heartworm injection (rather than tablets) which lasts for 12 months.
Personally, I’d avoid putting dog poo in the worm farm in compostable plastic bags. Even the ones that are certified home compostable take 6 months to compost, and that is in a regular compost bin, not a worm farm.
If you’d still like to give it a try, I’d suggest ripping the bags open before adding them to the worm farm, and be prepared to leave it “brewing” for several months once it is full.
Something else to bear in mind: composting worms will die in freezing temperatures (they are surface dwellers, unlike their cousins the earthworms, who will burrow for warmth). The eggs should survive. If you live in a country where it freezes in winter, bear in mind that your worm farm might need to be seasonal.
Thoughts About Cat Poo Worm Farms
I don’t have a cat, but I have several friends that do, and whom compost their cat litter. The main thing to be aware of is that cat poo commonly carries a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii, which cause toxoplasmosis in humans.
This means cat faeces needs to be handled even more carefully than dog poo.
Cat litter can be found made of newspaper pellets, wood shavings, which would both work great in a worm farm.
The volumes will be bigger so a 20 litre bucket might fill up fairly fast.
Can I Flush Dog and Cat Poo Down the Loo?
From what I’ve read the consensus seems to be that it is okay to flush dog poo down the toilet, but not cat poo (because of the Toxoplasma gondii parasite). However, the best thing would be to phone your local water treatment facility and ask them whether they are happy for you to do so, or not.
That way, you’ll know for sure – and if not, they should be able to tell you why not.
Whilst I know that dog poo worm farms might not be for everyone, they have been a great success for me. The smell is minimal (as opposed to the bins at dog parks, which reek), I have it placed in a convenient spot, and it is no extra hassle at all – except, perhaps, when it needs moving.
Now I’d love to hear from you! Do you have a pet – and what do you do with their waste? Have you set up a pet poo worm farm, are you game to try – or is it definitely a no-go for you?! What have your experiences been? Are there any other ways you try to reduce their waste footprint? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
Good article, but should compost worms be put in a bucket without a bottom in it or should it just have holes put in the bottom and sides, because they don’t do well in a garden, what do you think, I don’t have a dog but my son does and I’d like him to use less plastic
I’ve been using this system and it works fine, Helen, so I intend to keep doing it this way. I like that plants can find the bottom of the bucket (which of course is bottomless) and take all the nutrients to help them grow. I also wonder with holes whether they’d get blocked. I’m sure that method you suggest would also work well, there’s rarely one way to do anything! The best thing would be to set up both side by side and compare! But that might be taking it a little too far :/
Thanks for sharing this! At the moment we just throw the poo to the back of the garden, occasionally covering it with dirt, and let it break down …. this would be a much neater and cleaner idea. Interesting that your vet doesn’t advise worming tablets – would you mind sharing the why? (I don’t give my dog worming tablets unless she actually needs them – once in 8years thus far. Nor do I give her any toxic flea treatments and have had no problems…)
Hi Sharron, yes my thoughts too regarding keeping it all in one spot! My vet doesn’t say never, she just says it is unnecessary to use them routinely. Many people here give them to their dog once a month, I’m not sure that many chemicals is good for them. And my vet said not to, but to keep an eye on symptoms – itchyness, losing weight etc.
As a vet nurse I’m gonna give my two cents, most worming tablets can be given every 3 months once your dog/cat is an adult, and if your cat is indoors then you can skip it entirely. Def do it when they’re infants tho, and for a few months if they’re rescues, because their history may be unknown. Because a lot of flea treatments are monthly, I think people can end up worming monthly too. There are definitely problem areas, such as rural locations because more wild/agricultural animals = more fun for parasites. I don’t bother with heartworm because I’ve never seen or heard of it it in my city, and my dog never goes bush. Same for ticks.
Ooops sorry for the essay. I’m really keen to try this for our doggy poop, even if it’s just for the ones she does at home. I didn’t realise I could use the same worms as regular worm farms tho! I thought they had to be a special kind. I think I’ll have to just start doing it and not tell my boyfriend, cos he’d be super grossed out, even tho I’m the one that would actually do it :P. I read an article on offbeathome years ago where someone in the USA ordered some dung beetles online and let them loose in their yard, and they took care of a lot of the pet poop. That would have been so much fun to watch.
Thanks for the article! Stoked to find a Perth person doing a blog like this.
And : yay for greyhounds :) our girl is snoozing next to me now.
Hi Janey, thanks for sharing your thoughts :) That advice all sounds sensible! I’m in an urban area, not much bush around and I’m careful to look out for signs of worms fleas etc. I’d rather not overload my little guy with chemicals if he doesn’t need them.
They have dung beetles in the ground in Margaret River and you are right – it IS fascinating (albeit also a little bit weird) to watch!
Interesting idea! I don’t have a big enough yard for this yet (actually not a yard at all, just concrete but I added a raised garden for our dog to use) but I’m bookmarking this for later.
Hi Kathryn, I am sure the opportunity will present itself sometime :)
Great post. I am definitely going to try this. Thanks Lindsay!
Yay! One more convert ;) Let me know how you get on Gin!
Interesting to know – even without the dog. I think, in Germany it actually makes quite sense to flush the dog poo down the toilet since the sludge water treatment plants burn the sludge and win the contained phosphate from the sludge ash for agriculture. Which seems quite sustainable and more safe than using the soil. But it of course depends on your communities/countries practices.
I agree, always interesting to learn about these things. I am sure you’ll come across someone with a dog sometime who says to you “ah but what about dog poo?” and you can say “well actually, I have some ideas!”
When we take our dog fir a walk we take a trowel and just dig a hole when she does a poo. Is that okay, do you think? Might be hard in a city… and we don’t dig up people’s gardens!
Hi Michele, I think that’s fine and actually, if my dog goes on the bit of scrubby land far enough from he path where I walk him then I do that too (the mulch is very thick and the soil is soft enough to get a big old hole going). I guess the thing is, if every single dog owner did that then we’d have a problem! But they don’t, and I utilise mother nature when I can :)
Thanks for the post. We used to have a worm farm set up specifically for dog poo but we are going to give this a go with two set up for a rotational system. We live on acreage so normally throw it down the back like Sharron but I think this will be a better option.
I do think it’s good to keep it in one (or two) spots Deb – at least that way you don’t step in it or the dog doesn’t step or roll in it and bring it into the house!
Not only that if you or your dog steps in the dog poop it could transmit all sorts of parasites and germs. There is a type of worm (hook worm larvae I think) dogs get infected with that can enter the skin and encapsulate in the tissue. Some nasties can be transferred to the soil and continue to exist for a while afterwards if the poo is just left to break down and not removed.
I found this online a few weeks ago: https://www.bokashi.com.au/shop/EnsoPet/EnsoPet+Kit+-+20+discount+for+International+Compost+Awareness+Week.html
It’s a pet waste composter. I’ve been looking for ideas for my cats because they are one of the top waste producers in my house. I love your idea of using the paper from TP as the courier of the feces – much better than my idea of just using store bought paper bags! I might still have to supplement though. My cats’ boxes require a lot of maintenance.
Anyways, I would hate to buy a new product when something could be done easily without the product – I’m just not sure if it’s safe to compost cat waste. Also, since I use the litter box with clumping (wheat) litter, do you think it would be ok to compost to urine as well?
It’s about time I tackle the mess that I’ve been avoiding.
Just a question when you are walking your dog out of your own garden, what do you do about any poo that occurs?
Hi Jill, my dog NEVER goes in the yard! (He is a total snob about that.) I use the wrappers from my WGAC toilet paper, or otherwise newspaper, and carry it home half wondering what the passing traffic or neighbours must think – but I do it regardless!
i came across a suggestion to use one of those cheap drawstring toilet bags to put your newspaper poo parcel in. They wash and dry really quickly. That might save the stares but they do tend to be lined with plastic though but are re useable? Other wise I have these mini dry bags that I use though again puvc lining on nylon, hoever, around 20 years old now and may as well use them a chuck them.
Hi Sara, yes I’ve seen these for sale. The green plastic thing could easily be made out of a bucket, the main difference is that they have bokashi bran to use with it (they sell it separately). If smell is an issue or you want it to break down faster then it could be an idea :) I know it designed for cats and dogs so I would say, skip the green thing but get the bran. Then down the track you could decide if the bran was worth it. Let me know how you get on!
Thanks for the idea regarding dog’ s poo decomposting. I am doing the same thing since i have 2 dogs. A have 2 x4 meters area for biodegradable waste. I learned from your methods using plastic pale. My practice is to dig hole for the poo and cover with some leaves and soil. I have seem lots of worms in the area .
Great post. This is a friendly tips for us. Thanks for sharing.
That seems like quite an air tight bucket you’re using. Do you keep the lid tightly closed or half closed or just loosely sitting?
BTW I have a greyhound too :) How often do you find the bucket filling up? Have you found alternating between 2 x 20L buckets sufficient for one greyhound?
Hi Victor! Yes I keep the lid loose, otherwise I’d never get it off again! Ahhh, greyhounds are the best. The bucket takes a while to fill because he often goes to the bathroom in a rather neglected patch of overgrown bushes, well away from the footpath, where the ground is soft and I am able to dig it in. So I rotate between the two. Honestly, bigger would be better and eventually it will fill up and need to be moved :(
Id love to try this as i hate putting our dog poo in bags in the bin. So you have this set up in a garden bed that has nothing edible in it?
Hi Emma, it would be fine under a fruit tree I think, but mine are in the garden where there are only ornamentals and non-edible things yes :)
I was thinking about a wormery to provide food for our bird visitors in winter. ( Southern Germany, can reach -18c., rarely but it does happen). Can I put both types of worms in one wormery. Accept that the top feeders may / will die and flush the poo during the winter months? We live in the middle of the country opposite a wood, but my neighbors dog jumps the fence to avail himself of the facilities offered by my insect friendly “ Lawn”.
Hi Catherine, thank for your comment! Worm farms are not designed for below ground worms but I have no idea if they would be happy living there or not! No reason not to try ;)
I live in a very sandy area, and a have a dog poo composter (basically a metre tall plastic cylinder with an open bottom and a lid on top). All I’ve done is drop the poo in the composter and added worms and from time to time added water). I’ve noticed that plants near to the composter have become very lush since the composter was installed.
Hi Michael, yes I notice the same thing! The plants close by took off!
Great article! Thank you for sharing your ideas here. But, the problem is I’m afraid of worms. I have never seen my dog pooped with worm or anything gross. We can decompose the poop for our flowering plants or flushed it using biodegradable bags this is to avoid any risk or contamination. Here’s an interesting article your readers might also like https://ultimatepetnutrition.com/worms-dog-poop/. Thanks
Thanks Aaron. I definitely wouldn’t want my dog to get worms, but have discussed the risks with my vet and they are low – and I’m aware of the symptoms to look for. I’m not a fan of routine doses of chemicals, but I do get the yearly heartworm vaccination because that is fatal and a serious one…
I use Faith by Augustine Approved for my two little dogs as it is an natural dewormer and Pet Protector which is a non-chemical tick and flea prevention tag. Used for more than 4 years, now and my dogs have not had ticks, fleas or worms once. I also use a chemical heart worm prevention, because it is quite a big risk where I used to live (Singapore,) and like you say, it can be fatal and also hard on the dog’s health, even when caught and treated early.
Thanks for your information and knowledge. I am just looking to set up a worm farm for my dog but am looking at using old tyres. With your bucket technique when the bucket if full and you pull it out to replace, how do you bring the worms along to the new site?
Hi Mel! I have a regular worm farm for food scraps too, so I just grab a handful and pop them in. If I didn’t have that, I’d ask friends or gardening groups or online Buy Nothing groups for some. Hope that helps!
Regarding the dewormers… We use natural products (herbs, seeds, diachtomeous earth, etc). Would this still be a problem in the worm bin? I imagine it won’t be, but just want to check.
Hi Jeanne-Marie, I think diatomaceous earth would kill the worms, so do a google of that before you try!
Diatomaceous earth will cut into the soft body of the worms that is why it is used for pest control.
Hi Simone, actually I discovered just the other day that diatomaceous earth does not harm earthworms or warm blooded worms (but parasitic worms, yes!). I was surprised, but I read a lot about it and spoke to people who use it – yes, in their worm farm – and so I’ve been proven wrong!
We have a 50-pound pit bull and have been composting his waste for about five years now. I cut the bottom off an old 30-gallon garbage can — it was about to come off anyway — and planted it in the ground at the back of our yard. Even after five years, the bin has yet to reach capacity. With the appetite of the worms, the work of some dung beetles, and of course the activity of mold, the bin reached a point of equilibrium about seven or eight inches from the top of the bin.
Sooner or later our dog will pass on and I’ll cap the vermicomposter with soil and some shade-heavy plants, but in the meanwhile it’s just an enormously rich soil amendment we don’t use and almost never tell anyone about.
Haha, I think you must tell everybody about it! As you say, enormously rich soil, returning nutrients to the earth, no plastic bags in landfill, what a perfect solution! :)
Thanks for this! I and my partner have a senior and special needs dog refuge in Uruguay. We just bought 3.5 acres to build on and expand, and with the two dozen we have already the “poo problem” is ever present. Looking forward to instituting something like this!
I would love to set up my own kennel/shelter in the future and plan to build a large-scale composter (perhaps made from a second-hand IBC tote,) located uphill from an ornamental garden bed, so that the contents flow down and fertilize the bed. I would also plan to, providing the set-up worked well, expand the set-up so I had many garden beds and allow the community to dispose of the dog waste, here. I might even begin the sell the cut flowers from the garden beds back to the community.
Hi. I need some info and help. Want to set up a Dog Poo recycling project for my children for a school project.
Hi Inalize, let me know how I can help!
Excellent idea. Thanks for sharing. Am weighing up the burial method (love the idea of never having to handle it again) with having a separate wormery to another one on the go.
Hello. Found this looking for a way to do this again. I had picked up a doo doo loo when I lived in QLD. It was a wooden box with a door at the bottom to scoop earth out. I, too, have greyhounds, and whilst I was in QLD, I had my plus those I fostered. I also used a burlap bag (coffee roasters have some if you ask) and that kept the odour at bay. I like this idea. No one moves a doo doo loo overseas. I have the bucket and had no idea what I could repurpose it for. I also like the idea of just fertilising a non-food plant or tree, thus sparing me from getting down and digging out from the bottom.
Thank you for posting your experience in worm composting dog waste. I heard from a colleague that her friend in California was doing this and was intrigued. I, however, live in the Sonoran Desert in Tucson, Arizona. Tucson’s temperatures can be regularly 110- 115 degrees Fahrenheit (43 to 46 degrees Celcius) for an extended period of time in the summer. I know some people here keep worms inside (not personal acquaintances though), but am not sure about doing this with fecal matter. I also don’t know if burying the bucket will be enough. I am only somewhat at the beginning of research and so maybe I will find something more. I realize you live in Perth, Australia, however, areas of Australia I understand have perhaps similar conditions. Do you know anyone who is doing worm composting with pet waste from similar areas? Or further resources? Any help is appreciated. And if not, thank you for your time.
Hi Courtney, I live in Ipswich , Qld, Australia. We are not as extreme as you but do get summer temps in the high 40s and black frosts in winter. Our worm farm does fine against a wall, under the house (it is a Queenslander on 2.5 metre posts) where direct sun never reaches it. So, perhaps a similarly sheltered spot would be ok? We also have a buried compost as Lindsay describes. It is doing ok but has been colonised by other creatures, dung beetles and other things. I dont know whether there are any worms left, but it is in a deeply shaded area and only gets a little sun in winter, so maybe? Good luck with whatever you decide to try!
Hi, This is a great idea, would the bin have to have sides, or would it work in a natural type linen basket/wicker basket type thing..rather than solid sides to container..obv biodegradable material. Thanks Theresa! Its great!!!
Hello Lindsay (and everyone), I think this dog poop worm composting idea is great. I have a question: is it a definite no-no to position a 15ltr bucket (to take both puppy waste and indoor kitten waste), right in the middle of our raised fruit and vegetable patch?? It REALLY is the easiest position to locate it and over the years we’ve had neighbours cats and local foxes wee poop all over the place and we’ve still washed and eaten our produce; though I appreciate this is a far more concentrated amount … but then we have the worms….. Thoughts please! Thanks a million.
Hi Helen, I would be happy to put it under a fruit tree, but not in a raised veggie bed. If there are any pathogens or parasites, they could easily get into the soil and it would be too easy to get into contact with something you eat. I would think it was too much of a health risk, unless you were prepared to leave the bed empty for a couple of years (which I guess you’re not!) That’s my opinion.
Hello! Thanks a lot for the post, also reading the comments has been very helpful. I want to set up a wormery for my dog’s poo and I was wondering if it is possible/advisable to do it on a patio, so not buried?. Also, have you had problems with flies? Were we live (near Barcelona) there are lots of house flies in summer, so I want to avoid getting those in my wormery! I already have a wooden wormery in a shaded patio that is doing great so I wanted to put the poo one in the same place.
I wanted to have a go at addressing deposits from our dogs when not at home.
My partner helped me create a poop scoop carrier. I am on to prototype II.
I have a pic I could share – not sure how!
It is a jug with clip on lid. A hole drilled in lid to put a scoop handle through, then sealed off with silicone.
This means the scoop is inside the jug when the lid is sealed, and the handle stays outside nice and clean.
Then the contents go in the compost bin when I get home. Saves us up to 8 bags a day!
I carry it in a little cloth bag on my back, so tend to forget it is there.
It doesn’t smell, and especially great for longer walks, when not near home!
I live on the southern end of Lake Macquarie, NSW/
Great information. I can supply you with Red Wiggler composting worms. http://www.RedWigglersFarm.com
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Thanks for this post! This was clear & concise, and the comments left by other readers are wicked helpful. I’ll be trying this for our dogs’ poop.
We have a little menagerie. I can easily compost the rabbit, guinea pig, and various bird poops. Our turtle and fish poop in their enclosure and I reuse the water on my flowers during water changes.
I was at a loss for the other pets until now. I am so excited to try this! I’m going to build one of these this weekend for the dog, cat, and snake poop.
Has anyone tried this in a cold climate? Any tips for keeping things going in winter?
Interesting, thanks for sharing