Q: I’ve heard that tossing a whole, dead chicken into my septic tank lessens the need to have the tank pumped because the bacterial action created by the rotting carcass is effective at breaking down sewage. True?
A: Like the Jersey Devil and other urban myths, this theory seems to have taken on a life of its own. I first learned of it in the late ’80s from readers who said they knew people who’d been using the technique for decades. I’ve also heard about people throwing in rotting hamburger meat or roadkill. Then or now, adding anything to your septic tank to stimulate decomposition is liable to have the opposite effect.
I suspect that there are still people who fervently believe in the chicken hypothesis, swearing that they haven’t had to pump their tank in years, if ever. Really, all they’re doing is contributing to groundwater pollution by sending bacteria-laden filth out of an over-burdened tank into the system’s leaching field (the buried pipes that receive the outflow, known as effluent, from the septic tank). For further study, the has a wealth of information on maintaining residential septic systems.
Until evidence suggests otherwise, the center advises against using septic additives. Instead, have your septic tank inspected yearly and pumped as needed, depending on variables such as the number of people who live in the home, the size of the tank, the system’s age, and soil conditions.
The average system should be inspected yearly and pumped every three to five years. But to get more specific, you'll need the advice of a septic tank pumping company (and most are honest, in my experience). You can tell whether any service provider is trustworthy by subjecting his advice to common sense. In this case, the specific pumping interval would obviously depend on how big the tank is and how many people live in the house.