Gone are the days of digging pits for your birds' mortality. While most states in the U.S. prohibit digging new pits for mortality, Georgia may be the last state to grandfather in some pits. Today there are composting drums, freezers, incinerators and other various strategies to deal with dead birds as efficiently and responsibly as possible. The Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other organizations are pushing integrators and growers to use stackhouses. Many times these mandates are issued but left up to the grower on how to implement.
In this video, we wanted to share some particulars of why and how to effectively use a stackhouse.
Stackhouses are one of the most environmentally friendly ways to dispose of your dead birds. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is responsible for deciding the details of design and construction of these structures to fit the specific needs of your property. That means if you are looking to put up a stackhouse, the first step is to contact your local NRCS office. They will come out to your farm, take a look at your property, ask all the important questions-- how many houses, what size birds, etc.-- and determine what size house or houses you will need.
Stackhouses rely on a natural process called composting to rid your property of carcasses due to daily mortality. Composting is a natural, biological process by which organic material is broken down and decomposed into a stable end product. The composting process is carried out by bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms that digest the organic material and reduce it to humus. Proper mortality composting in a stackhouse consists of three layers: a base, the carcass layer and a cover.
The base layer serves as a foundation and should be around a foot thick for carcasses less than 50 pounds. The carcass layer comes next. This should consist of a single layer of carcasses laying next to one another touching but not overlapping. The carcasses should be centered on the pile and leave a 6 to 8 inch border of uncovered base layer.
Finally, a cover layer can be applied twice as deep as the carcasses beneath. This should be sprayed lightly with water before adding the next layer of carcasses. Alternate the carcass and cover layers for the remainder of the stack or until it is 5 to 6 feet high. The final cover layer serves as a cap and should be 10 to 12 inches deep. This layer acts as a biofilter to control the smell and retain heat and moisture. Remember, if you can smell it, you probably didn't cover it.
As the composting progresses, there are a couple of things to pay attention to. First, MOISTURE! Without the correct moisture content, high composting temperatures cannot be achieved. Well watered compost, when squeezed into a ball, should hold its shape and not drip. CARBON to NITROGEN ratios are vital when composting. When using poultry litter, the ideal carbon to nitrogen ratio normally comes from mixing 2 to 3 parts litter with 1 part mortality. TEMPERATURE is the final component of an efficient compost. Ideal internal temperatures range from 130 to 150 degrees inside of the stack. These temperatures help to break down the carcass and kill spoilage bacteria. If you begin to see leakage, flies, or scavenging animals, one or more of these factors may be out of balance.
If you begin to experience the smells and you have done everything like the experts suggest, you can also try Southland Organics Compost Ignition. This is a bioremediation product that is high in activated carbon as well as additional bacteria strains and fulvic acids. This combination will not only reduce the smell but will also accelerate the decomposition process.