How to Compost Without Attracting Unwanted Pests

How to Compost Without Attracting Unwanted Pests

How to Compost Without Attracting Unwanted Pests


Composting is a great way to reduce waste and create nutrient-rich soil for your garden. However, compost can also attract unwanted pests like flies, rodents, and raccoons if not managed properly. The key is taking some simple precautions to keep pests away and make your compost inhospitable to them. With a few tweaks to your compost system, I can compost without issues and enjoy the benefits of compost while avoiding a pest problem.

Choose the Right Location

The location of your compost pile or bin can make a big difference in whether pests become an issue. Here are some tips on siting your compost to avoid pests:

  • Place the compost away from the house and any structures. At least 10-20 feet away is ideal. This prevents odors from wafting into your house and keeps pests farther away as well.

  • Choose a dry, shady spot. Damp, humid areas are more attractive to pests. Opt for a spot that gets some sun but also has some shade coverage.

  • Avoid locating near dense brush or woodpiles. These types of areas harbor rodents who may be attracted to your compost. An open, clear area is better.

  • Consider elevating enclosed compost bins. Elevating them on blocks or bricks reduces access by burrowing rodents and discourage skunks.

Maintain Proper Moisture

Keeping your compost at the right moisture level deters pests:

  • Avoid overly wet conditions that can cause foul odors and attract flies and rodents looking for water.

  • If your compost is soggy, add dry “brown” materials like leaves, straw, or sawdust.

  • Turn the pile to aerate it which helps dry excess moisture.

  • Covering the pile can also help retain heat to aid decomposition while keeping rain out.

  • Conversely, don’t let your compost dry out completely as this slows the composting process. Add water occasionally if conditions are very dry.

Turn and Mix the Compost Regularly

Turning or stirring the compost pile helps control pests in a few ways:

  • Turning distributes moisture and oxygen which speeds decomposition. Pests are less likely to inhabit an active, hot compost pile.

  • Turning will expose any pests like flies, grubs, or rodents that may have migrated into the pile, discouraging them from taking up residence.

  • Mixing allows you to break up and bury food scraps, which are attractive to pests. Blending scraps into the compost makes it less accessible.

  • Try to turn compost 1-2 times per week. More frequent turning yields faster decomposition and better pest control.

Bury Food Waste in the Pile

Food scraps like fruit and vegetable peels or leftovers can attract pests when added to an open compost bin. Here are some tips to compost food waste safely:

  • Bury food scraps under 8-12 inches of compost, leaves, straw or sawdust. This makes it harder for pests to detect.

  • Wrap food waste in newspaper or paper bags before adding to the pile.

Or add food scraps:

  • Into the center of the pile rather than on top or outer edges.

  • Right after turning the compost when contents are well mixed.

  • If using enclosed bins, to the bottom layers so odors don’t escape.

Use Animal-Proof Compost Bins

The right compost bin or enclosure can go a long way in pest prevention:

  • Closed bins prevent access by animals from all directions and contain odors.

  • Tumbler-style composters also fully seal out pests.

  • Chicken wire wrapped around bins keeps out larger pests.

  • Vermin-proof bins have wood frames and hardware cloth or wire mesh panels to exclude entry by rodents while allowing air flow.

Manage Other Pest Attractants

Besides the compost itself, be diligent in removing other pest attractions from the area:

  • Eliminate accessible food waste like open trash cans or fallen fruit/berries.

  • Remove pet food after your animals eat.

  • Clear away hiding spots like dense vegetation or woodpiles bordering the compost area.

  • Fix any gaps or holes on nearby structures so rodents and skunks don’t take up residence.


Following these tips, I can successfully compost in my backyard without issue. A well-sited, properly maintained compost pile with correct moisture, frequent turning, and burying of food waste is far less likely to attract nuisance pests. Coupled with animal-proof bins and managing adjoining areas, I can reap the soil benefits of composting without unwanted furry friends trying to share! With some attention and effort spent on the front end, composting without pests is easily achievable.