Hay—Your Miracle Material For Composting

We’re almost inclined to start this post with… “HAY there!

I think we just did.

We’d like to share how hay has been a miracle material in our composting journey. When we first started composting at the doorstep of our tiny high-rise apartment, we did a major boo-boo.

We gamely tried to compost leftover fried fish—yup, skin, bones, eye balls and all—in one of our compost bins. The result was…


Under an hour, there was a horrid stench and several small flies were wafting in and out of our bin. At that time, all we could think was, “Thank God our neighbours aren’t around!”

Immediately, we went searching online for an answer and chanced upon Humanure by Joseph Jenkins.

Guess what, he composts his family’s wastes (faeces, urine…) which he collects in buckets and dumps them outfield to turn into rich fertilizer for his crops. (Yes, he grows and consume those plants without a second thought.)

So how does he contain those smells coming from… you-know-where?

That’s right. He uses hay.

With that, we rushed to a nearest pet shop and got ourselves a big bag of hay. Although it was beautifully packaged for well-deserving, adorable pets such as guinea pigs and rabbits, we found ourselves dumping it on our compost pile instead.

WITHIN SECONDS, all unpleasant smells were gone! The only scent in the air was the pleasant aroma of nature. Hay actually smells really good.

I was pretty tempted to drag out a chair and sip a nice cuppa ice-cold drink decorated with a tiny paper umbrella beside the bin. Maybe even chew a straw.

This experience was quite eye-opening (nose-opening, perhaps?) And that’s why we’re highly recommending hay as the quickest and most effective solution to odors. (Disclaimer: It doesn’t work on armpits, not that we tried.)

If you’re a little curious about the science or reason behind this solution, hay is actually a natural biofilter. In other words, it’s able to filter odors naturally.

For example, you can have a school of dead fish on one side of a thick wall of hay, and you can be on the opposite side feeling as if you’re picnicking in the midst of a glorious, golden field.

That’s why we’re recommending hay as the topmost layer of your compost pile, instead of newspaper or cardboard.

With this, funky stuff may be happening in your bin (especially if you’re doing composting all wrong), but your nose would be unlikely to tell and so would your neighbors.

Using hay as the topmost layer also allows your compost pile to be well aerated. This is simply because air is able to pass through hay, thereby ensuring enough oxygen in your pile and quickening the composting process. Having sufficient air in your pile also keeps it from smelling bad in the first place.

One last thing: You can allow rainwater to enter your bin and your compost pile will remain relatively dry at the top. This is because wet hay dries off pretty easily. This deters flies and pests from laying eggs in your bin as they generally look for moist places to do so.

In summary, for a hassle-free, odor-free, pest-free, and well-aerated compost pile, we highly recommend using hay as the topmost layer.

Now, this begs the question: Where can I get hay?

If you’re living near tall grass and fields, hay should be well in abundance. If you’re living in a built environment like we are, here are a couple of options:

  • Move overseas (just kidding)
  • Get some online and have them shipped directly to your doorstep
  • Check out tall grass and fields near you and start collecting hay, which is essentially dried, straw-like grass
  • Get some from a zoo
  • Get some from a turf club
  • Get some from a golf club
  • Buy some from a local pet store near you (which can be quite expensive)

We hope this post opens up new perspectives about composting, and how hay can play an important and effective role. Do hit us with a question or comment. We’d love to hear from you!

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