I have been looking for beautiful ways for the past year on how to “blend” my composting bin into the garden setting without it looking like an ugly eyesore. In many ways, I think the UK is much more ahead of us, with their thinking and I have discovered these gorgeous composting bins designed to look like beehives. I love the ones like in the picture above featured on grow4it.
The design is incredibly unique. For example, opening at the bottom, an individual would continue to stack another addition to the composter once it is full. Each level is entirely removable including the lid. However, the only downfall was that through my searches high and low, I never did locate any plans online or any places in the US where I could order one.
My search efforts were exhausting! Then, just as I was about to give up, I found an obscure website that mentioned there were plans inside of a book that was no longer published and out of print. I just had to get my hands on that book. Unbelievably, it was very easy to find in Amazon’s used books. Within days, a copy of Geoff Hamilton’s Cottage Gardens was in my hands!
Sure, enough, there on pages 67 and 68 were the simple plans. Today, I am going to share them with you. If you don’t already compost your shavings, kitchen scraps and chicken manure, you no longer have any excuses. These beauties make it easy to provide your garden with black gold.
Beehive Composter Instructions
Please note that these measurements are from the UK and converted from millimeters/centimeters to inches. You may need to improvise at the hardware store. Also, these directions have been converted from a sketch. Consequently, they may need some tinkering and adjustments.
drill-recommend pre-drilling your holes
paint-color of your choice
26″ long Feather edged fencing~ Quantity 7
wood screws and nails
4 metal angle brackets
4 metal corner brackets
26″ long hardwood moulding-for top of lid roof~ Quantity 1
1″x1″ timber- cut to 22 1/2″ long~Quantity 2
2″x1″ timber-cut to 22 1/2″ long~Quantity 3
4 1/2″ tall x1″wide timber 26″ long cut into piece as shown below~Quantity 2
The sides are angled upward
9″x1″ timber cut to top measuring across 20″/bottom measuring across 22″ with angled sides~Quantity 10
9″x1″ timber cut to top measuring across 22″/bottom measuring across 24″ with angled sides~Quantity 10
2″x2″ blocks for corners 7″ long ~Quantity 20
Cut all of your pieces out first.
Screw one of the 1″x1″ timber pieces to the bottom of the 2″x1″ timber piece. Repeat with other two pieces. (see below)
Stand the two 26″ side pieces parallel to each other and place the 2″x1″/1″x1″ piece that you just created in step one between the two sides. The 1″x1″ portion should be closest to the ground leaving a “ledge” above it. This should look like a square. Screw together one side.
Place the remaining 22 1/2″ piece of timber between the lid’s apex and screw that in using four corner brackets, one on each side.
Second complete the square by screwing together the last side. Next flip it over and for extra strength, screw a metal angle bracket into each corner.
Next adhere the feather edged fencing starting at the base of the lid on each side and work your way up. Top the roof off with the hardwood moulding.
Now take two 20″x22″ pieces and two 22″x24″ pieces. These will be assembled to make a square. The longer pieces will form the front and back and the two shorter pieces will become the sides.
Place one of the 2″x2″x7″ wooden pieces perpendicular in the corner. Keeping this piece flush with the top while leaving a 2″ gap at the bottom of the corner, screw 4 screws into the 2″x2″ piece. Repeat all the way around until you have a square.
After that, repeat this process until you have created 5 total squares. In the very bottom square, create an access panel, similar to the one in the photo below. This is to access the finished compost.
Stack the remaining four bases upon each other and top with the lid.
In addition, I suggest that you make two. Certainly these are too darling to stand alone. I have this on my summer to-do list! Are you going to add it to yours?
Photo Credits: headwaysshowgarden, hippyshopper, thecompostingpeople, grow4it, owenchubblandscapers, Tilly’s Nest
42 thoughts on “Stackable Beehive Composter”
Thank you. I love the look of the composters. I've also been looking for rainbarrels that don't look like rainbarrels and dont' cost an arm and a leg. I enjoy reading your blog.
Thank you so much DelilahJones, such kind words. I think a handy person can figure out how to make these beauties. If only a US company would carry them! That would make it much easier for some.
Oh, I hit enter too soon, I have seen some decent looking rainbarrels in the Gardener's Supply catalog. I will keep my eyes peeled for you.
I LOVE this idea. I have one compost bin and have been thinking about getting a second. The chickens are really helping to break down leaves and their waste in there really helps.
Sadly, I am not handy at all. But there is a full service lumber yard near me and I'll bet I could sweet talk them into cutting all the pieces so I just need to assemble it and paint it. I'm going to try it.
Oh, and we might all be on the news tonight. They are going to fog our neighborhood for mosquitos tonight cuz they found a few dead birds with West Nile Virus. But I'm very much against this. It's been hot lately and I resent having my home sprayed with chemicals. But I think my girls stole the show. The video man took tons of footage of them doing their chicken thing. I'll be sure to blog and post the video if it runs.
How awesome about the news crew Flock Mistress! Sorry to hear about the spraying! I agree, I don't care for that either. Take care and good luck with the composter 🙂
I love this post! I would love to do this! I always feel a little guilty throwing away chicken poo as i know it makes for excellent compost. Does it smell much?? I have a VERY small backyard that already has 3 chickens and some small containers with plants. My husband already says it smells….would this make it worse??
Hi Georgia~ If you compost correctly it should not smell. I would recommend checking out some books on composting at your local library and researching to see if it is right for you and your flock. It is easy once you start!
Great idea for composting… I'm off to find that book! Sounds right up my garden alley!
Cluck cluck! This would make a nice entry on the farmgirl Friday hop today! I think my readers would love it!
Do you have rain today too?
Hi Deb, I will link this one up for Farmgirl Friday! So thoughtful of you. Yes, we have rain, much needed I must say, but the chickens probably would disagree! I have the book too, happy to share it with you when you visit me 🙂
Oh, how pretty !!! Now on my honey to do list !! Thank you.
I bet it wouldn't be too difficult to build a "faux" hive shape to hide a rain barrel. The top might have to be adjusted a bit… but it would be a heck of a lot prettier in the garden than one of those ugly plastic fake barrels.
What a neat idea! I bet it could certainly be done.
Doesn't compost need air? how does it get air with this?
Thanks for the great question! No not all composting systems require air. This composter is not air tight and I would consider it a semi-closed system. Closed composting works well too. Here is some information on that technique. Hope this helps to answer some of your questions.
I well into finishing composting beehive style but I have come up to a problem, which is, is the 2"x1".Does the 2"x1"stand up or the 2"lying flat and is the Beehive composter standing on a foundation
Hi Art! Thanks for the question. I will add a sketch to the post to help clarify. The composter can sit directly on the ground, placed on a few leveled patio squares or the like. Thank you for the comment on how to improve the post. I really appreciate and I hope you love the composter.
Tilly, just found you in a round about way through Pinterest. How nice to see Geoffrey Hamilton's ideas alive and well. He had a weekend gardening programme on the BBC and was always demonstrating how we could have lovely gardens more cheaply than buying ready made things from the garden centre. Unfortunately he died from a heart attack. He would have loved to have known that his ideas crossed the atlantic. You have inspired me to replace my horrible old plastic composter, thank you.
Thank you Thelma for such a lovely comment and so glad you found us. He had lovely ideas and his book is just amazing. It would be so nice for them to put it back in print. I would have loved to see his show and it is so sad that he passed away. I would hope that his spirit lives on in his gardens.
I would really love to compost. I never have but the more I read the more confused I get. The design of this compost bin is exactly what I am looking for but everything I've read says you need to stir the compost. Not meaning to sound stupid, but how do you do this in a box?
In the beginning, to stir the compost in this box add on a couple of extra boxes and stir away. When done remove the boxes down to the level of the compost and replace the lid. If the composter is full, remove some compost from the bottom via the base piece. Once the compost is removed, the pile should sink deeper into the composter. At this point, stir the compost once there is room up above.
A good substitute for the 9"x1" timber if you can't get sawn (planed is extremely expensive) is 7" heavy duty feather board (normally used for walling barns, not garden fencing). It was a 5th the price of planed 9"x1".
Good to know. Thank you so much for the comment and suggestions. I'm sure folks will find this very helpful.
Could this be made out of regular lumber, like re-purposed cedar fence pickets?
Thank you so much for posting this! I've been looking for a cute but functional wood compost bin design for awhile now — this is perfect. I already bought a copy of Cottage Gardens and saved your directions. 🙂
I have questions. 1.Do you "turn" the pile from time to time and, if you do, is it difficult to do? 2.When you retrieve the finished product, do you just open the door and shovel out the dirt? Does the pressure of the rest of the pile left inside make it difficult to close the door when you are finished? 3.Do you need to keep the lid off at times so water can get in? 4.What wood do you use? I'm thinking cedar but it may be cost prohibitive. What about pressure treated? 5.Do you use an all natural process or will I have to use a commercially sold compost additive to make this work? 6.About how long does it take to get a batch of finished compost ready to use? 7.Is there anything you don't care for or would change in the design of the Beehive Composter? Thanks so very much .
All great questions. No this pile is not turned. Yes you open the little door on the bottom and take what you need. No closing the door is not difficult as the finished compost can be clumped together. You can remove the lid from time to time when it rains to add water. You can use cedar but I recommend non-pressure treated pine. The finished compost time depends on where you situate the composter (sun vs. shade), and your outdoor temperatures. It can take weeks to months based on those parameters. I would recommend you check out a composting book. I find this hive similar to plastic ones sold a Gardener's Supply.
Thanks for answering my questions. I have built, and successfully used, a cement block composter in the past but this design was a bit unusual so I thought I should find out as much about it as possible. Thanks to your excellent blog, I now have a Beehive Composter (built by a friend here in Florida) that I started to fill about two weeks ago. My friend liked the design so much she built one for herself! Thanks so much.
Hello, I would love to make this but all the feather edge boards I’ve seen so far are of very rough wood, is there a particular type of wood that’s good smooth quality or do I just sand the wood myself (obviously I know nothing about wood)
Hi! We are living in St Malo in France and would love to build this in our tiny garden. We are beekeepers, so this really caught our eye 🙂 I saw you mentionned the original plans were in cm. Could you please share those ? Have a lovely WE.
Hello! I will email them to you. Thanks so much for your interest!
I found this post looking for beehive composter instructions after searching for a while. I have one (1) single gardening book, Geoff Hamilton’s Cottage Gardens. I can’t believe it’s in there! Using both sets of guidelines. Thanks!
Oh I am so happy to hear this. Enjoy!
Hello Melissa! This is fantastic! Could you please send me the plans in cm. I too live in France and this will be a great addition to the garden.
Sure, please give me your email address. You can also convert the inches to centimeters easily. One inch equals 2.2 centimeters.
Your conversion factor is wrong. 1 inch = 2.54 cm. If most British gardeners are anything to go by, his plans would have been converted from feet and inches to metric by the BBC.
John, I am relying closely on the conversion and measurements that were provided in the book. The book provides both metric and US conversions. This book was published by the BBC in 1995 if that helps with any confusion that you are experiencing. As I noted, in a disclaimer prior to the instructions some measurements may not be exact.
Sorry, if converting from millimetres to inches, divide the dimension in mm by 25.4 to get inches.
The weird thing is that when Britain “went metric” the sizes of our standard lumber were initially simply standard lumber specified in inches converted into millimetres.
As time went by and the British frog was slowly swallowed over 43 years by the EU snake, the widths and thicknesses of standard sizes of lumber changed slightly so that they were rounded to the nearest convenient European standards. Interestingly, however, the lengths remained virtually unchanged. Although specified in mm, they approximated to integer feet – e.g., 1800 mm approx = 6 ft.
Hello! What do you use to hold it together? Brad nails, deck screws, finish nails?
Best to use screws.
Thanks for sharing but think your measurements may be a little out …….. Take two 20″x22″ pieces and two 22″x24″ pieces – if you made 5 of these the bin would be huge have I misread ?
I believe you have mis-read, the final composter is approximately a 2 foot square.