compost heater


10 Years
Aug 18, 2009
West Rutland, VT
I've noticed a few threads about solar heaters for coops and water and thought I would throw this idea out there. Instead of hijacking a post, I'll just make one on its own. I've never built one, but I know they exist.
Unlike solar heaters, they work at night too. It takes the heat from a carefully built compost pile. I've read an article about someone who heated their green house with one in the early spring. The basic idea is to create a large and perfectly built compost pile with some hose buried inside it. The hose goes from the compost pile to what ever you need heated. A small pump might be necessary, but would use less electricity than a heater. Try doing an internet search for "compost heater". I found a few links.
Yeah, well, Vermont Compost has these gigantic industrial-sized piles, of course *they* can produce long-term usable heat

With heat from manure for gardening applications, it is short-lived and thus the manure has to be replaced every month or two, and needs to be above freezing initially to heat up in the first place.

If a person has a *very large* pile right next to their coop (without rot issues) some useful heat can be provided... but the practicability for most people is limited IMO.

"If a person has a *very large* pile right next to their coop (without rot issues) some useful heat can be provided... but the practicability for most people is limited IMO."

The article I did read had a pile that was enclosed with chicken wire and covered in plastic. So no rot issues. Such an enclosure could easily be built next to your run. The average home with trees and a source for manure and a few chickens could probably do it. My wife and I could probably pull it off if we emptied our compost pile into the "furnace" pile every fall. Not a lot of heat, but all we would be doing is preventing water from freezing. Would it be practical? It sure would be cool if you could pull it off though. More practical than solar.
Food for thought.
The thing is, manure that's been sitting around all year is not going to heat up especially well, and even a big load of fresh manure *all at once* (which is really how these piles should be made) will not give you heat for that long, like a month or two for a 1-2 cubic yard pile (a cubic yard is *big*, btw, and involves a *lot* of manure)

Your best bet would be if you have a decent number of horses or cattle, from whom you can collect a couple cubic yards of *fresh* manure every month or two to start a new pile. It may have to be adjacent to the original one if you have winters like we do up here (manure piles freeze undiggably hard unless very actively heating).

I think if you were going to do it, what you'd want is to have a sort of 'stand' for the waterer, on the coop wall nearest the manure pile, that was well insulated on the sides and the waterer sits directly on top, and a piece of stovepipe or 4-6" drainpipe runs vertically through the stand to supply hot air rising from the compost pile, with an exit vent on the top back of the stand so the pile air vents outdoors not into the coop. Thus you would basically have a warm-air chamber, its air never mixing with the coop air, that the waterer sits on and is hopefully kept thawed by.

Good luck, have fun,


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