Build a Horse Manure Composting System

Use these drawings and step-by-step instructions to build a simple manure composting bin.

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Use these drawings to help build a simple manure composting bin. | Image: Horses for Clean Water

Summer is the perfect time for construction projects and a key management component for horse properties is having something useful to do with horse manure. Composting is my favorite technique and while there are many bin designs and ideas for how to compost, here is one low-tech option, best suited for small properties with one to three horses.

Look for a high, level area on your property — don’t put your composter in a low-lying area or it will turn into a soggy mess. Remember you must locate your composter far away from creeks, ditches, wetlands or other water bodies — you can check with local authorities for specific regulations on this. Choose a location that’s convenient to your stall and paddock areas to make the chore of cleaning up easier and less time consuming.

1. Select a site

You will need at least two bins, maybe a third for convenience. A two-bin system works by piling manure and stall wastes in one bin. When that bin is full allow it to compost and start filling the second bin. Once the first bin is done composting you can start using the finished compost material. For convenience or if you have several horses you may want to consider going to three bins. This allows one bin for the daily stall wastes, another bin that is full and in the composting stage, and a third bin for the finished compost to be removed and used at your leisure.

2. Figure out how many bins you need

A list of materials and tools needed is included. It costs about $300 per bin for materials depending on the type of wood you use and the cost in your area. Feel free to improvise and experiment by choosing materials available in your area, which will work for you and your situation.

3. Purchase materials

Use the drawing here as a guide but feel free to experiment or improvise on plans or materials. Two people can build this compost bin system in a weekend.

For three adjacent 8-foot x 8-foot x 4-foot bins, the following supplies and equipment are needed:


  • 8 – 8′ x 6″x 6″ treated posts
  • 110 – 8′ landscape timbers (or similar wood)
  • 160 – 3″ deck screws
  • Tarp (or plastic sheet) to cover top of each bin
  • Heavy items or straps to attach tarp to bins


  • Drill with screwdriver head and drill bit
  • 25′ tape measure
  • Drill with screwdriver head and drill bit
  • Chain saw or hand saw
  • Carpenter’s level
  • Post hole digger
  • Tamping rod or similar tool


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Written by:

Alayne Blickle, a lifelong equestrian and ranch riding competitor, is the creator/director of Horses for Clean Water, an award-winning, internationally acclaimed environmental education program for horse owners. Well-known for her enthusiastic, down-to-earth approach, Blickle is an educator and photojournalist who has worked with horse and livestock owners since 1990 teaching manure composting, pasture management, mud and dust control, water conservation, chemical use reduction, firewise, and wildlife enhancement. She teaches and travels North America and writes for horse publications. Blickle and her husband raise and train their mustangs and quarter horses at their eco-sensitive guest ranch, Sweet Pepper Ranch, in sunny Nampa, Idaho.

4 Responses

  1. re: Build a Horse Manure Composting System

    This is ‘way more complicated than it needs to be unless you like the looks. I’ve found that I can get a 50’ roll of chicken wire and just unroll it to stand in about a rectangle. If I make the bin too small, I leave the rest of the chicken wire rolled

  2. re: Build a Horse Manure Composting System

    Perfect mix for lovely soil= horse manure & used sawdust + leaf compost. Turn frequently, we use for landscaping business.

  3. re: Build a Horse Manure Composting System

    You can also do this using wooden pallets (usually free) that you just wire or nail together.

  4. re: Build a Horse Manure Composting System

    You can also do this using wooden pallets (usually free) that you just wire or nail together.

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