DIY – How to Build a Compost Bin Out of Wood Pallets

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How to Build a Compost Bin Out of Wood Pallets

Today, I decided to make a compost bin out of wood pallets.  Since I’m going double or nothing and trying to grow 4000 lbs. of fresh produce this year, I figured I better get serious about making every effort to keep the soil healthy.  Plus, composting is FREE, and once you have the spot for it, pretty much a piece of cake {an old rotting piece of cake, ha!}

clean wood pallet

I chose to make it out of wood pallets because they are so easy to come by.  In order to make one, you will need:

  • 4 – Wood Pallets {5 if  you are going to build a floor/bottom, instead of just using the ground}
  • 14 Gauge Wire
  • 2 – Hinges
  • 1 – Latch
  • 2 – Landscape Pole or Long Stick of Wood

You can pass on the last two, and just use the wire if  you want a square box, but it might making getting to the compost a little trickier {read:  a big fat pain}.

14 gauge galvanized wire

First, you want to configure your pallets.  You’ll need to decide if you want to set the pallets long ways or short ways–one will give you a smaller deeper bin, while the other will give you a larger more shallow bin.  You can also mix and match, making the sides long and front and back short.  It’s completely up to you and how much space you have.

galvanized wire

Second, cut the 14 gauge wire into segments, approximately 18″ long.  Strap the sides to the back of the pallet by wrapping the wire through both pallets and twisting tight {Don’t twist too tight or the wire might break}.  Two lengths per corner should do it.

How to Build a Compost Bin Out of Wood Pallets DIY

Third, hammer a landscape pole into the ground about 12″ deep on the hinge side corner of the box {on the inside}.  This will help support the swinging weight of the compost gate.

screwdriver

Finally, add the hinges.  Before screwing the front gate onto the hinges, you can add a spacer on the bottom using scrap wood or a leftover piece of the landscaping pole to provide some ventilation for the bottom of your compost pile.

DIY How to Build a Compost Bin Out of Wood Pallets

That’s it!  Easy, cheap and effective.  If only everything in life could be that way!

~Mavis

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Comments

  1. If you have chickens, I highly recommend giving your chickens your compost pile and skipping the pallets! They do the work of turning your pile, and create ready to use compost much faster. I utilize the chickens to turn my goat and rabbit (and their own) bedding when it’s spent. I am fortunate enough to have access to hay in trade for my eggs. I feed that hay to my milking goats, but there is waste hay that ends up as bedding for them, the rabbits and the chickens. Then I turn it out into the “pile” beneath the rabbit hutches, where the chickens scratch through, and eat out what seed is left in the hay, and break everything down even further. Then, when I need to fertilize, mulch, or otherwise aid the garden, everything is ready to go! I toss my composting scraps out there as well, and anything the chickens don’t eat gets turned into the compost that is already there.

    • If my girls had a permanent location I would agree with Rachel, but my girls use a chicken tractor that I move around the yard daily. Each day I then rake up the droppings and put them in my composter. Before anything goes in the composter though, it goes through the birds first :)

      • I guess I should have said… the chickens don’t help with my compost in their area… they free range, and the pile is outside their coop. (I can see how my system wouldn’t work with tractors as easily)

  2. Nice Job! I’ll be on the look out for pallets now! Love your raised beds — what are the dimensions of each one?

  3. I’ve seen lots of uses for “old pallets” on Pinterest, but I’m curious… Where is everyone getting all these old pallets from???? ;-)
    Also, for compost, will it not fall out the open sides…?
    Thanks!!

    • Where to get pallets: Look in dumpsters. I was driving by a pool supply store and their dumpsters were full. Dear husband went and got them for me. 14 in all. I made a compost bin today and used Zip ties today to put them together rather than wire. No door because I am hoping to get chickens and will have the 3-sided, open bin in the chicken yard.

      • Thanks! I’ll have to start keeping my eye out!

        So the compost doesn’t fall through the open parts of the pallet?

    • Jennifer Muha says:

      Craig’s List Free! We found a source in Northern Colorado by checking the free section several times that had more pallets then one could ever hope for! We took a truck bed full and they asked if we would come back an take more. But 15 was plenty for several projects.

    • Yes, the compost falls out the open sides and gets “stuck” inside the pallet itself. In my experience this method is not very workable and after failure it was a real mess to clean up.

      • We had this same problem plus magpies and other critters scattering the stuff we put in. I lined the inside with some chicken wire and we used some to cover the top. Some compost still gets out, but not nearly as much as before.

    • Jana:

      Use chicken wire on the inside of your compost bin, and that will allow air while helping to keep your scraps in and the chickens out while it “finishes.”

    • Darrell Miller says:

      Pallets are a super easy find. Almost any factory in your area will have them. Also check your local craigslist. I see them for free all the time, I am excited to see this use for them because I have stacks of them I use for bonfires, but seeing this use for them I am going to go rake all my fall leaves and build a compost bin from pallets to toss them in. Next spring I will have a decent start on worms AND compost for my garden lol. Good luck in your pallet search

  4. I have a 3 sided pallet compost bin and my chickens love it.

    I haven’t done it just yet, but you can also put plants in the pallets, just the way you would any other pallet (i think you had a post on building a pallet planter some time ago) and have yourself a pallet planter/compost bin.

    [IMG]http://i49.photobucket.com/albums/f260/diet069/chickencompost.jpg[/IMG]

    http://i49.photobucket.com/albums/f260/diet069/chickencompost.jpg

  5. Dear Mavis,

    Do you think it would be possible to use the walls of the compost bin as a veriticle veggie garden?

  6. Thats wonderfull… And keep in mind that if you don’t use chemicals and fertilizers on your yard… That mowing, provides copious amounts of “green manure” every week! And in fall, you can round up all the leaves from neighbors on trash day… I can’t believe how many people rake up and through away those wonderfull tree leafs!! You can fill a bin in a morning drive to town! Your doing great, I love your site!

  7. Mavis- This references “Big Fat Pain” but there is no link and I can’t seem to find it… do you have a link to that?
    Thanks!

  8. i have a couple of raspberry plants that have been planted for about 3 years, first couple of years they didnt produce anything, maybe a couple of berries only, this year they had heaps of flowers and started setting the fruit.
    after a while i noticed that they were not growing and started to dry out. i ended up getting about 20 berries but i was dissapointed that i never got a larger amount.
    some of the berries started to grow but then looked deformed and stopped growing.
    i am not sure if its my location, i am in adelaide south australia.
    we have a temperate climate, average winter temps around 15 deg down to 3 to 4 deg at night, summer time we can get days up 40 deg but probably average around 28 deg in summer, celsius that is by the way.
    do you think its a bit hot for growing raspberries or do my plants still need to establish a good root system.
    cheers fergi
    south australia

    • Raspberries like an acid ground to grow in. Put a layer of pine needles around them and they will decompose and add acid to the soil; or work in the pellets that acidify the soil you can get from garden stores–One thing to remember, work it in good and put wire or plastic fencing around the area if you have chickens because you do not want them to scratch up the pellets and eat them.

    • Fergi, you mentioned that the plants started to dry out and the berries were looking deformed. Are they getting enough water? Last year I got too busy and neglected to water my previously burgeoning raspberry canes and at some point they just started to shrivel up. Once that happens say goodbye to harvest for the year. The berries that were already on the canes didn’t ripen properly because the water wasn’t getting through the too-dry canes. Another error I made last year was allowing the canes to be too crowded. There were too many canes competing for the inadequate water. My bad. I live on an island in the state of Washington which is temperate climate with maritime influence but virtually NO rain for 60 days or so. Converting celsius to fahrenheit, your summer temps range from approx. 82 to 104 F (28 to 40 C) degrees which IS hot for raspberries. I’ve heard of using shade cloth to give plants a little relief, though never had to do it here where temps range from abut 67 to 95 (20 to 35 celsius). Better luck this year.

  9. thanks for the reply Carolyn, didnt really expect an answer as i am down in australia but thanks again for taking the time to reply. i will try and acidify the ground a bit more with pellets.
    I found your website quite interesting.
    thanks fergi

  10. The comments are helping to rethink my plans for spring.
    Think I’m going to relocate my mulch area over by the hens instead of by the garden.
    Can’t have the girls too close to the garden, they just fly over and feast !!! LOL

  11. lol I just picked up 20 free pallets from Lumber Liquidators, they had an ad on craigslist.
    I’m building a 3 compartment compost system as described in the Humanure Handbook.
    Cool post btw :)

  12. wonderful idea! I’m gonna build such one -:)
    best wishes from Europe

  13. How long does it take for the material to turn into compost using this style of compost bin?

  14. I also used my pallets to make the potato box.

  15. Chris N says:

    Yep, Just built one of these in about an hour. Awesome! Thanks, Mavis!

  16. Pallet finding… I work at a drug store and every week on our water deliveries we have pallets. Might be worth talking to a manager about taking them. We also have tons when we build new stores. You can always talk to the construction guy to take them.

  17. AngelesDog says:

    I’m going to make these, but staple/nail 1/2″ galvanized mesh wire to the inside to hold in the contents while allowing ventilation. The pallets will just support the wire walls and allow me to stack the compost deeper than my current pile that the chickens flatten out every time they go to town on it.

  18. Hi Mavis,

    For the past 2 years I have been cold composting right on the ground, but I am not getting enough compost and really want to step up my composting so I am going to build a bin out of some extra pallets that I have left over from the fence I just built:) I have a good source for wood shavings from a cabinet maker in town, what is your feeling on using wood shavings in your compost and how long does it take to break down so I can use it in my veggie garden. Thanks

  19. Mavis! Just found your site. :) Nice to see the more foodie/farmer side of you! I have a compost set up very similar to this. I have chosen to have a four-sided coop. The chickens can still get into it a little by sticking their necks through…I am going to stop this ASAP with hardwire cloth which is very cheap. There are things in my compost that I don’t want my chickens eating, like egg shells that still look like eggs (eating whole egg shells encourages egg eating) and my red wiggler worms. These worms are great for composting. Plus if your chickens are always in your compost, you will have to still eventually separate that compost to use on your garden. Fresh chicken poo I think isn’t good for your garden.

    • My chickens eat whole (cracked eggs) all the time, and they don’t eat the eggs they lay. Putting a golf ball in the nesting boxes helps with this (my hens were eating eggs BEFORE I started feeding them to them) and also encourages free rangers to lay IN the nests.

      • Heather @ A Nurse's Wildflowers says:

        That’s good to know it helped your egg eating habits. I’ve read a lot of different stuff…seems like it really depends on your flock. I had a major problem when I introduced a new batch of hens to my group….I startled one of the new hens and she dropped an egg right out of her rear at my feet…it hit the ground with a plop and every chicken in the area went nuts over it and the shell. I had never had a problem before this. For about a week after, I had no eggs….someone was eating them all :( I did many things included throwing about twenty golf balls in to the coop and nesting boxes. Now I don’t have an issue but I’ve been very protective and doing lots of preventative things because normally this is a very hard habit to break. I’m a little skittish now about those darn shells. I will probably end up grinding mine up to give them when I run out of oyster shell.

  20. I also don’t separate my compost when I put it into the garden. The little amount of fresh chicken poo that is in it doesn’t burn the plants.

  21. One thing I would suggest with a build like this is to substitute zip ties for the wire. Much easier to tighten up and they won’t corrode because believe me, “rust resistant” is just that, *resistant* and will inevitably rust. You can get a pack of a hundred 15 inchers from Harbor Freight for eight bucks, or the 24″ heavy duty ties in a pack of 10 for $2.00. On zip ties if you’ve got a spot where you find it just doesn’t quite reach, two can be joined together.

  22. Eddie Jordan says:

    Hi Mavis, I already have my pallets I just have to get the wire and hinges. I have a small compost bin from grass cuttings and kitchen scrap. When the leaves start falling I will use them and all the garden waste. GOD BLESS and have fun composting

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