DIY Doggie Septic System With Natural Starter

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Introduction: DIY Doggie Septic System With Natural Starter

About: Hello! My name is Jennifer and I love to cook. Baking, grilling, smoking, and frying interest me. Creating my own recipe is even better!

Six days ago, we adopted our sweet boy, Watson, from the animal shelter. It has already been such an adventure having a five month old puppy around. He’s high energy and super loving. I wish I had as much energy as he does.
Since it has been a long time since we have had a dog, we needed to make some adjustments and some purchases. We have purchased dog food, a collar, a leash, chew toys, and a crate among other things.
We even purchased the bags for picking up doggy waste. It’s pretty gross but I have always appreciated it when other people were kind and removed their pet’s mess from my yard. Nobody wants to step on that stuff! Ewwwww!
Our dog also uses our backyard as his personal toilet. So far, he has been very observant of my garden and flowers. I guess I just got lucky. Woo hoo!
We have been bagging the tiny land mines and placing them in the dumpster in plastic bags. But, I felt like I wanted to approach the issue a different way. Many people have septic systems for their homes; it is a fairly simple concept. All of the hard work is done by bacteria. I decided that I needed that type of system but on a much smaller scale for my little fur ball.
I wanted to make a system out of a bucket with some sort of lid that was fairly secure. It should have holes for drainage. Septic systems have three layers to them. Solid waste goes to the bottom, liquids, are in the middle, and fats are on top in a scum layer. As bacteria breaks down waste, the waste moves through the layers. Liquids and fats can move out of the system through holes and then are further broken down by aerobic bacteria in the dirt.
I had an idea in mind for the containment system but I did some research to find a septic starter that would be fairly safe in my backyard.
I went to the big box hardware store and looked at their septic system starters. A septic system starter has bacteria and enzymes in it. Some of them had various chemicals in them. ALL of them had warnings on them about being harmful to people with allergies. They also had warnings about being irritants and not to use around pets or children.
Well, that wasn’t going to work for me. I have allergies, children and a pet! Mr. Internet had just what I needed: a recipe for a natural starter that has kitchen ingredients such as yeast, cornmeal, powdered sugar and water. Yeast, as a fungus, works great to break down starches. I was a little concerned about the sugar because I live in Texas and ants are an everyday occurrence but I also know that cornmeal is a natural ant killer. They eat it and their stomachs rupture! Cool. I was in business.
I also knew that there was plenty of bacteria, anerobic and aerobic, in our soil. Yea for nature!
I set to work to design and implement my puppy poopy system and here’s what happened:

Step 1: Gather Your Supplies- Part 1

For this lovely project, I used a variety of supplies:
5 gallon bucket
Screw top lid
Drill
3/8 inch drill bit
Jigsaw
Needle nose pliers
Safety glasses
Shovel (not pictured above)
I was so excited to find a bucket that had a lid attachment with a screw on portion. You snap the rim in place and then the center part will screw in and out. I liked that idea because my dog is smart but I don’t think he can unscrew a lid.
It also meant changing temperatures wouldn’t pop off the lid nor would wind or rain remove the lid. Sweet!

Step 2: Cutting Off the Bottom of Your Bucket

In order to prepare the bucket, I had to cut a large hole in the bottom. After putting on my safety glasses, I used a drill with a 3/8 inch drill bit to drill a hole. Next, I inserted the blade of my jigsaw in this hole to cut a very large hole in the bottom of the bucket. I wanted to cut nearly the entire bottom off so I ended up cutting out a circle with approximately 6 inch diameter.
Note: The circle does not have to be perfect or look pretty. You are going to put this in the ground and put dog mess on it. Save your energy for picking up dog piles.

Step 3: Drilling Holes in the Bucket

Using your drill with the 3/8 inch drill bit, drill about 12 holes 5 inches from the base of the bucket. These holes will allow liquids to disperse into the ground space around the system.

Step 4: Removing the Handle

Use the needle nose pliers to remove the handle from the bucket. You probably could save it and use it for another project.

Step 5: Preparing the Ground

Get ready to work. If your soil is anything like mine, you are going to work up a sweat. Get a shovel and dig a hole big enough for your bucket plus another 3 inches all the way around. Make sure your hole is not near your flower/ vegetable garden or a compost bin. Dog waste is not good for either of these locations.
Also, make sure the top of the bucket is about 2-3 inches above ground level.
My pup was very curious at this point. I wonder if I could train him to just go in the bucket. Ha ha!

Step 6: Filling In

At this point, you will want to put gravel or small rocks in the hole around your bucket. I was fortunate because I found a bunch of rocks in my yard that I used. You may have to purchase some depending on where you live.
This step will help to keep dirt and mud from entering your system so you probably don’t want to skip this step.
Once you add the gravel to the top of the holes on the side, you can fill in the rest of the space with dirt.

Step 7: Gathering the Supplies-Part 2

The hardest part of this project is now over and it is time to create your natural septic starter. For this part, you will need:
Yeast (like you use for baking)
Powdered sugar
Cornmeal
Water

Step 8: Making the Septic Starter

In a medium bowl, add 2 tablespoons of yeast.

Step 9: Making the Septic Starter

Add 1 cup of cornmeal to the yeast.

Step 10: Making the Septic Starter

Add 2 cups of powdered sugar to the bowl.

Step 11: Making the Septic Starter

Finally, add 2 cups of lukewarm water (about 110 degrees Fahrenheit). Whisk until combined and allow to sit for 30 minutes until it is bubbly. This will allow the yeast to bloom.

Step 12: Let’s Get Rid of Poop!

Gather some poop with a shovel or a pooper scooper. There’s no other way to say it. The good news is that the mess is going bye bye. Drop it in the septic system and pour your starter over it.
I also got some leaves with my scoop but that’s probably better for the picture; nobody really needs to see the waste to get the idea.

Step 13: Let’s Get Rid of Poop!

Almost done! Get your garden hose and add water to your system to just below the holes on the sides. Once, a week add more water to the system.
Look at my little helper. He is fascinated by this new oddity to our yard.
Go ahead and put the lid on your system and screw it in place.

Step 14: The Final Outcome

Wow! I can honestly say I never expected to be posting a project of this nature but this was something I really needed at my house. I thought, “why not”, maybe you can use this too.
After I closed the lid on the system, I went back out to yard about two hours later and opened it up. There was no smell at all! I was very happy about that because I didn’t know what to expect especially after I had added 5 piles of waste at once. Super! No mess in the yard and no smell. The system is very low profile and it isn’t very obvious. Also, I only spent about $10 on this project. The other systems that you can purchase online are considerably more money.
The best part of all is that I have a clean yard and I feel safe about my solution. Woo hoo!

Note: My dog only weighs 15 pounds and I only have one dog. If you have a large dog or multiple dogs, you will want to buy a bigger bucket or even a large trash can.

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    24 Comments

    Watson is adorable. When you open the lid of your septic system, what does it smell like? At one point Wifey and I had 6 dogs plus two cats and a bird. I did Doody Patrol on a regular basis and collected it in a large Joint Compound bucket. Having been in construction they were readily available to me. But after a while the aroma when opening the lid to add more was -- well: breath taking to be polite.

    Below is Remy one of our dearly departed rescues whose ashes are always with me on the shelves in my office.

    Remy.jpgOFFICE SHELVES.JPG
    9 replies

    Beautiful dog. Looks like he was an older dog but he still enjoyed his toys.

    R.I.P. Remy

    I had gotten your last reply about the water covering the wonderful aroma. Are you still as lucky? I've got 3 dogs. If I go ahead and build one of these it would fill up fast. Let me know. Jezebel, Max and Pixie are also curious.

    Jezebel.jpgMax.jpgFNX91J8JHGJMFNT.jpeg

    Look at those sweet friends! Aren’t they adorable!
    Hi Kink!
    I checked the system last night and added three more “deposits”. The only smell that I could detect was a slightly fruity smell (fermentation). I’m still sooooo pleased. The water level was just below the drilled holes on the side so I didn’t need to add any more water.
    Jennifer

    Thanks for the update, Jennifer. this is more and more sounding like a good solution for my Doody Patrol Duty.

    KARL ON HOG.jpg

    I just knew somebody else could benefit from this system. I also knew there was someone out there who hated dog waste as much as I do! Lol
    Btw super great motorcycle! Love the color and the studding.

    Hi, Jennifer,

    Yes, I am now seriously thinking of doing this. You sold me. Wifey still has me concentrating on my TO DO list. This is our FINAL house we moved to on Halloween of last year and the TO DO list is dwindling but she keeps adding to it. And if I don't keep on top of things--well, that's Wifey's look for me. And, yes, that is Wifey for real -- so's that look.

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    Hi Kink! I hope you are having a great day!
    Thank you for your great question. When I opened the lid, there was no smell at all. Hesitantly, I took a big whiff and I couldn’t smell a thing. I really tried too because it was important to me. The waste was submerged underwater and with the natural starter.
    I’m going to check it again in a bit because we had a big rain this morning. If anything changes, I’ll reply again with updates.
    Thanks for sharing the picture of Remy; adorable!
    Jennifer

    Hi Kink! It’s been 24 hours and it is still not stinky. I really dislike the smell of dog waste so I’m pretty happy!
    Woo hoo!

    I just added three more “additions” to the system and still not stinky. I did have to add more water today. This is working out great.

    I Love this idea! We're moving but I will do this in our new place.

    I'm in Colorado too but S.E. It's Hot in Summer, mild in winter, We still get freezing temps. I'm concerned about how often you have to add water in Summer due to evaporation. If its frequently won't that dilute the starter faster, maybe having to add new starter every 2-3 weeks during the summer months? It would be interesting to find out.

    Great Job! Thank you so much.

    2 replies

    Thank you very much for your question. The starter is alive and will multiply. You don’t have to worry about dilution from adding water. Also, the water may evaporate but the yeast will stay behind.
    Good luck on your move. I hope everything goes great!

    Thank you so much that's good to know!

    I LOVE THIS PROJECT!!
    Especially the yeast.
    I have 4 dogs.
    Lots of poop!
    I'll make 2 of them.
    HOW OFTEN DO I ADD YEAST?
    Thank You!

    1 reply

    Thank you so much for looking. On a traditional septic system, I have read that you want to add starter every 3-4 months for maintenance.

    whereabouts in the country are you? should this system be buried deeper where there are freeze/thaw concerns in the winter? If so, maybe bury it below the freeze depth and pipe access down via something like a 4" (or bigger) PVC pipe w/ cap protruding above ground?

    4 replies

    Hi again! Where I live (Texas), I don’t worry about my soil freezing in the winter or otherwise. In fact, this week our high temperatures will all be in the 90s and 100s. I wouldn’t mind a little freezing weather, though. Ha ha!

    I see...I'm just a bit north of you (Colorado), but I'll have to look into freeze depth in my area. interesting concept, though....my 215 lbs of dog (1-mastiff & 1-pitbull) generate a pretty "solid" waste volume, and it would be nice to have an alternative to aass of baggies in the garbage can

    Wow! 215 pounds! Your dog weighs 200 more pounds than mine!!! You probably would benefit from a system. I love your idea about the pvc pipe. Good thinking!

    One is 143#, the other is 72#...the big one stands about 5'8"-5'9" when he's on his home legs