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Chickens, eggs, feces and E.coli

Andrew Aff

Joined: Apr 16, 2012
Posts: 1
In true Derrick Jensen style, I squatted and lightly buried my feces in the backyard chicken coop. A few days later the hole was undug and the feces totally gone, the chickens must have found this scrumptious gift and indulged. And I collected eggs and also indulged. A great exchange. I finally told the rest of my housemates, and the issue of E.coli seemed to concern everybody but me. Any thoughts? Or some resources?
Craig Dobbelyu

Joined: Dec 22, 2011
Posts: 1188
Location: Maine (zone 5)
In my opinion human waste should be fully composted before being available to any animal or plant that you consider eating. (minimum of a year, preferably two) It's just not worth the risk. Also, whomever consumed those eggs should be made aware of everything the birds eat BEFORE consuming the eggs. If I was fed eggs that came from a bird that recently ate fresh human feces, and wasn't told first, I'd NEVER eat anything that person gave me ever again. It's a trust issue. Yo owe it to you housemates to be honest and upfront.

"You may never know what results come of your action, but if you do nothing there will be no result”


- Compost in training
Leila Rich

Joined: May 24, 2010
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
Welcome to permies Andrew.
I know nothing of Derrick Jensen, but I'd be very wary of fresh human faeces' potential for contaminating the food-chain.
My big worry would be not so much 'chickens eat shit and lay e-coli eggs', although that may be an issue;
I'd be concerned about 'chickens scratch up shit, stand on eggs, people collect eggs...'
Tyler Ludens

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5737
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
I would also personally want to run the human poo through a worm composting system or other composting system for a good long time. I have a pretty high poo tolerance, but, as Leila points out, the chickens can physically move the human poo around in an unsafe manner. Though I think Fear Of Poo is sometimes extreme in modern society, it's best not to risk disease by being too casual about it, in my opinion. Being casual about your own poo in the privacy of your own individual life and personal risk is one thing, but involving other folks is a whole other level of responsibility.

People often recommend the "Humanure Handbook" as the bible of dealing with human poo.

Idle dreamer

Jay Green

Joined: Feb 03, 2012
Posts: 587
E.coli is present in every mammal's bowels...even a chicken. Yours processing through a chicken's bowels is not going to enter the oviduct nor contaminate the surface or interior of the egg any more than the chicken's e.coli does. In the cases where you read about massive contamination of commercially produced eggs, those birds have e.coli bacteria in their blood stream, likely from ulcerated bowel tissues/ongoing infections, etc.

Free range chickens eat a variety of, cat, cows, horses, pigs and their own. There is no magical, evil contaminate in human manure that makes it any different than any other omnivore's poop.

Just irrational fears running rampant. The same people who fear these things will gladly have a house pet with their unwashed anus on the couch, table, countertops, carpet, etc. and not think a thing about all the worm eggs and bacteria present on that anus that is sitting smack dab in their own laps.
Craig Dobbelyu

Joined: Dec 22, 2011
Posts: 1188
Location: Maine (zone 5)
When we talk about feces we have to remember that we're talking about a lot of different pathogen and waste products combined together. It's not just e coli, but a host of things from bacteria and viruses to parasites and toxins. Feces are also fed upon by many other bacteria and fungus once excreted. Many of these things are species specific, so just passing from one animal to another may kill it or render it harmless. However, this is not the case for ALL potential pathogens. Some cross the species barriers just fine and then of course people get sick ( bird flu, swine flu etc.) This problem becomes even more acute when you introduce human feces into the system as you more likely to make other humans sick with your pathogens.

I think we all realize that we eat some critter poo from time to time. A little bug poo on some fruit or a small drop of bird poo deep in the crevice of a kale leave. Sure, this happens. And people almost never get sick from it. But I don't think any of us would be ok with eating anything with our neighbor's fresh feces on it if we were knowingly doing so.

Of course I realize that most of these pathogen outbreak issues are related to large feed lot and egg producers who mismanage and abuse animals. I understand that. But there are cases of people becoming sick from their own backyard animals. And in most cases it's due to sanitation issues. These cases are almost never reported, so we rarely hear about them.

Simply being a small backyard farmer, doesn't eliminate your risk for illness. Especially when you are introducing fresh human waste into an area from which you, yourself are going to eat from. Perhaps the eggs from that chicken would be ok. But what about the greens or tomatoes that were spattered with your "deposit" when the chickens scratched it apart? Once you release those pathogens into your environment, they can remain for a long time. They get in water supplies, feed sacks, mice and other critters carry it back into your house and to your neighbors. These are the reasons why we have sanitation practices. It's not a matter of IF it will happen, it's a matter of WHEN and HOW BAD.

I'm all for processing waste on-site and I commend the thought and consideration of those who do. However, doing so in a safe and sanitary way is surely better for all those involved. Animals, people, and soil.

Sorry if that was too much of a rant. I just want everyone to be safe so that communities like this can thrive.

As a general rule of thumb: Don't Eat Your Poop.
subject: Chickens, eggs, feces and E.coli