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worm farm

runningtrails
13 years ago

I have a friend who keeps wanting to give me red wrigglers but I have had no place to put them where they won't freeze in the winter or be in the house where they could escape.

I am considering building a rabbitry on one wall of the chicken house with hanging cages. The house has an old raised wooden floor. I can fence that area off from the chickens and put red wrigglers underneath. Do you think they would stay there and multiply? If any escape they'd be gobbled up and I'm ok with that too. That would be an added benefit, I think.

Will they stay on the wooden floor in the rabbit poop or should I put them in buckets underneath. I can get all the very large plastic buckets I want that have just had soap in them. I will put in the moist shredded paper, etc for the worms and leave the buckets open under the rabbit cages. Should I use wider rubbermaid containers or not use any containers and just leave them it all on the floor?

This is a new idea and I haven't given it a lot of thought yet.

Comments (29)

  • fancifowl
    13 years ago

    I do them beneath the rabbit hutches on a wooden floor. They will stay put as long as they like the conditions.

  • msjay2u
    13 years ago

    are you talking about doing a compost bin type of deal under the cages? That might make them stay. I would think you throw in a little food once in a while with the worms and the rabbit poop. I am assuming also you are going to keep the chickens away? I only say that because of all the stories I hear about that disease chickens get from earth worms.

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  • runningtrails
    Original Author
    13 years ago

    I thought earth worms were good for chickens. Don't the free ranging chickens eat lots of them? Are red wrigglers earthworms?

    I am talking about doing a compost type bin under the rabbit cages and probably fencing off that area.

  • msjay2u
    13 years ago

    well I am kind of confused on the worm issue. I heard it carries blackhead disease. Maybe someone more knowledgeable can explain,

    I was under the impression that chickens should not have too much exposure to earthworms.

    Eisenia fetida, known under various common names, including redworms, brandling worms, "tiger worms" and red wiggler worms, is a species of earthworm adapted to the environment of decaying organic material. It thrives in rotting vegetation, compost, and manure, i.e. it is an epigeic worm. It is rarely found in soil, and instead, like Lumbricus rubellus, prefers conditions where other worms cannot survive. Its specific name arises because, when roughly handled, it exudes a pungent liquid. This is presumably a chemical defense mechanism, although there appears to be no direct confirmation in the scientific literature that it confers protection against predators. It is closely related to the sibling species Eisenia andrei, also referred to as E. fetida andrei. The only simple way of distinguishing them is that E. fetida is lighter in colour. Molecular analyses have confirmed their identity as separate species, and breeding experiments have shown that they do not produce hybrids.

    Here is a link that might be useful: more info on blackhead disease

  • runningtrails
    Original Author
    13 years ago

    Interesting info! I have heard about that before. Don't free chickens eat worms all the time? Mine don't free range much so I haven't seen them eating worms but they seem to eat anything else that moves.

    I have thought, this morning, that I cannot keep them in the chicken house for the same reason I can't keep them outside anywhere else. They will freeze. It's below freezing in there most of the winter. Oh well, I'll have to think of somewhere else to keep them that doesn't freeze and isn't in the house.

  • msjay2u
    13 years ago

    what about using a heat lamp or are you afraid of the hazards? I heard about a lady who put a heater or something in the pen with her newborn goats and they burned up. details sketchy, not sure what happened. I have a heat lamp in my coop now because of the pullets but I have the lamp clamped on wood and then the reflector cover resting on the cage so it can't fall.

  • runningtrails
    Original Author
    13 years ago

    I have a heat limp in there attached to the ceiling, for the chickens. It's on whenever the temps get below zero F to help prevent frost bite. It is still below freezing in the coop, just not cold enough for frostbite. The poop and bedding freezes hard. I have the waterer heated or it would be frozen solid in there too. I don't think the worms would survive in there. I suppose I could set up another one over the worms or put the worms on a raised platform under the heat lamp that is there now. Something to think about...

  • msjay2u
    13 years ago

    When I read this I thought I had a brilliant idea to add some worms to my compost bin so that it could speed up the process and I can have compost by the spring. In reading the definition I posted above I was thinking red wrigglers will be perfect. well there was a lady selling them on craigslist for $22 per lbs. I wrote her an email and in it I stated that the bin is full of mostly manure and pine bedding with a little food thrown in and this is how she replied:

    I would be very careful with chicken manure, as it can heat up fast and cook your worms, depending on what kind of bin you are setting up. I don't know how well pine bedding would decompose and they could be too acidic.

    Talking about a bubble buster!! What are you guys thoughts on this? I thought pine shavings was perfect for compost bins and from what I read I thought only the red wrigglers could survive. what the..........???

  • msjay2u
    13 years ago

    no thoughts on this from anyone?

  • dethride
    13 years ago

    While red wigglers are also called "manure worms", chicken manure is very "hot" as compared to horse or cow. Pine shavings are high in carbon and need nitrogen to break them down and so chickie poop is good to get that going, but that combo would be too sketchy for worm raising. I'm setting up vermi-composting soon and will use shredded newspaper, cardboard, oak leaves, and kitchen leftovers, and a little pine shavings and other plant matter to add to the mix. $22 is a good price for the wigglers, but I gotta brag and say a friend has offered thousands for free from her compost pile! I'll trade her some Russian comfrey plants in return.
    Herbert

  • msjay2u
    13 years ago

    Since no one responded to my message I called the local AG extension office today. I told them I have 6 chickens and been putting the poop and bedding in the bin with some food. she said she has some concerns with this and that she was going to get me in contact with a compost specialist. She said the high content of nitrogen can be very dangerous. So the "specialist" emailed me and asked me specific questions. I have not heard from her as of yet. Now they have me worried. Is this the makings of a bomb? I can see it now. NYer tries to be a farmer and blows up her barn by accident with chicken poop. Worms were everywhere. LOL

    I thought that red wrigglers can survive in manure and in conditions normal worms would not survive in so I thought the heat was already taken into consideration. I guess not.

    I am new to the area and do not know anyone with extra worms. Heck I do not know anyone with worms period!

  • runningtrails
    Original Author
    13 years ago

    Wow! With red wrigglers selling at those prices, I think I'll come up with a place to raise them!

  • brendasue
    13 years ago

    The bedding and manure in a bin will probably get hot, I think it can get up to 160 degrees, maybe more if I'm not mistaken. I think if it is bigger than 3x3x3 it will start get hot, otherwise it composts the slow way.

    Chances are if you don't have worms in your existing bin, the environment is not correct-maybe not wet enough, maybe nothing to eat, maybe too cold, etc, or they just haven't had a enough time to establish themselves.

    We have loads of red wigglers under the horse manure-even in winter down under the frost. I'm thinking the manure keeps it warm enough and doesn't penetrate too far down.

    Why use a bin? I suggest just making a pile for your droppings and keep adding to it. You'll see the worms down near the ground first, eventually up through the pile. If it doesn't hit the magic size of 3x3x3, it won't get hot. If it does get hot the worms will come after the pile finishes, however it will never finish if you keep adding to it.

    Given the right environment, worms happen.
    Brendasue

  • Carol_from_ny
    13 years ago

    Go read the vermcomposting site here on the Gardenweb.It has good info about the needs of the redworms and how to do the composting properly.

  • runningtrails
    Original Author
    13 years ago

    Thanks Carol, I will do that.
    Jay, pls let us know what the Ag office says, if they ever get back to you.
    I'll deal with the worm farm later this summer. I can finally get a little work done outside now. I've been working a lot of extra hours, 11 hour days, at the office, filling in. Now that I can work outside, I'll just have to say "no".

  • brendan_of_bonsai
    13 years ago

    Worms work quickly in low heat compost systems, like a worm bin. The Nitrogen content in bird manure will make it easy for bacteria to produce proteins quickly and eat more quickly producing more heat. Manure and pine shavings is a great way to do this (pine shavings providing a carbon source, which the bacteria break down and make ATP with) because the bacteria like the heat and the acidity.

  • msjay2u
    13 years ago

    Hey ya'll. Did you miss me? I been on face book playing games and taking a break from GW. LOL\

    I did hear back from the lady at the Ag extension office and this is what she told me:
    Chicken manure may contain disease organisms that could contaminate root crops (carrots, beets, radishes) and lettuce, spinach, greens. So you need to be very careful about composting it properly. The problem with backyard composting systems is that they often do not reach the high temperatures
    needed to kill the disease organisms. That is why Cooperative Extension recommends that you only put vegetative food scraps in backyard composting bins and keep animal products and manures out.

    You asked if you should add worms to your compost bin to speed up the process. The answer is no. Worms will not tolerate high temperatures, and your goal is to reach temperatures in excess of 131 degrees Fahrenheit. If you are putting manure in your compost pile, the pile should maintain a temperature of 131 degrees F or more for 15 days while turning it 5 times during that period. If you are not reaching those temperatures, you are at risk for foodborne illnesses if you apply the compost to a vegetable garden.

    So I wrote back:
    Thank you for your reply. I just have a couple more questions:
    Is the pine added in the compost too acidic?
    Are there any issues with high nitrogen in the chicken manure that I should be concerned with?
    How would I take the temp to monitor the pile?
    How long should it take for the bin to finish cooking?

    She wrote back:
    Here is an internet link to a publication developed by an extension specialist in Seattle that tells how to compost chicken manure. This will answer many of your questions:
    http://www.seattletilth.org/learn/resources-1/city-chickens/compostingchickenmanure

    When your pile is finished composting, you should wait at least 60 days before using it.

    To take the temperature of your compost pile, you need to use a 3-foot composting thermometer. you need to stick the thermometer deep in your pile in several places to get a true reading of the temperature of the pile. The outer edges will be cooler and that's one reason why you need to turn the pile so the material on the outer edges get worked in to the middle where it is hot.

    A friend of mine who works at NCSU has been raising chickens for nine years and he composts. He will tell you of his personal experiences if you contact him at xxxxxxxxx@xxxxxx

    Here is a link that might be useful: the link she sent me. Has VG info!!

  • runningtrails
    Original Author
    13 years ago

    Lots of great info, Jay! Thank you very much. I don't know how dangerous it is to put chicken manure directly on the garden and till it in. I know people who do that.

    I've been reading about humanure and composting. I don't think I'll go there. Pee as a nitrogen boost sounds interesting - mixed with water 10 to 1.

    What do you do about dog poop in the garden? How dangerous is it tilled into the vegetables. My dog likes to use the garden... There's piles of old poop where I wanted to grow some winter squash.

  • runningtrails
    Original Author
    13 years ago

    No comments? lol! Is this just too weird a subject for most people? Google it. It's just too weird.

  • msjay2u
    13 years ago

    I don't think we will have cynical comments from that person any more.

    I googled the subject you mentioned and ugggh the thought of it is enough to make my stomach turn. It is like going back to the days of outhouses. I used to visit my family on the reservation and there was an outhouse only. My Aunt was getting up in years and did not have enough help to have it moved or whatever they do on a timely basis. I wanted to puke whenever I had to go in there, I also imagined getting bitten by a snake.

    We are beyond that stage now and for good reason. They make it seem like no problem just poop in a bucket and cover it with straw and when the bucket is full let it set for a year. Sounds easy but we all know flies find poop no matter what. I was just watching a movie this weekend called "The fastest Indian". In it Anthony Hopkins went out to the lemon tree every morning to urinate and fertilize it.

  • seamommy
    13 years ago

    You could have skipped most of this thread by going to vermicomposting thread first. But as far as using chicken poop in your home compost, you're not in much danger of having contaminants from a home flock. Unless they are being kept in filthy conditions, underfed, get only rainwater to drink and house garbage to eat. Most likely you keep their coop clean, feed and water them daily and provide fresh greens whenever possible. Most likely your hen yard is also clean and free of contamination. The suggestion to store the compost for 60 days before using it makes sense. After your compost is finished, you should sift it to separate out anything that is not finished and place it in covered containers and leave them in the sun. This heating will complete the cooking process without killing the good microbes in your compost.

    Your dog's poop is another issue. Dogs digestive systems have harmful disease micro organisms that you really don't want around your food crops. Some people over in the vermicomposting forum have a system to dispose of pet waste out in the yard. You cut the bottom out of a 4 gallon plastic can, dig a hole in the yard deep enough to set the can down into it with an inch or two above ground level. After Fido leaves you a gift you shovel it into the can and replace the lid. The earthworms will come up from the ground and dispose of the contents of the can. You may be able to use the same site for a year or more since much of the waste is carried down into the sourrounding soil by the worms action.

    Personally, I don't worry about the compost made from chicken manure, leaves, grass and kitchen waste. But I don't want my dog's poop in my garden or near my food.

    DH works for the health department and has a degree in chemistry and environmental health and he makes all our compost so I just don't worry about it. The composting process that we use is a slower method with 4' square bins. We have 8 of them and have most of them going at any one time. He turns the compost about every 6 weeks so it takes nearly a year for one load as each one travels down the row of bins. After it's finished and screened it's packed into clean barrels for storage until we are ready to use it. Cheryl

  • msjay2u
    13 years ago

    this thread definitely took a few turns BUT in response to you seamommy I did go to one of the composting forums, because I really wanted answers to my questions. I asked a lot of questions and got some of the same info that I got from the AG extension office, plus much more. I did not post any of the info from the other thread and the only reason I put the response from the AG office on here is because I was asked to.

    Anyone who wants detailed info on composting I too recommend heading over to one of the composting forums. They are awesome.

  • runningtrails
    Original Author
    13 years ago

    Is 60 days long enough for the chicken manure to age? It can go directly on crops after that and won't burn them?
    That would be great!

    I thought it needed the entire season to age.

  • msjay2u
    13 years ago

    Girl you know I don't know much about this composting stuff but I do know she said 60 days "after it finished composting" not 60 days total. I went to that web page I posted earlier and there are several links on the left side that are VERY interesting. I found it to be a wealth of info.

    I decided I am going to get some worms anyway because the pile has already heated up and I do not add enough poop on a daily basis to heat it up again. I think worms will knock it down quite a bit and make it compost fast. there is much more sawdust than poop anyway. and did you see my question to you about the shredded paper? (do your chickens eat the paper??)

  • kurtzinpa
    13 years ago

    As long as your compost system is big enough that the worms have options they will say in a safe zone while the hot section composts. They are pretty bright that way. I had a worm bin with rabbit po heat to about 120 degrees this winter and the red wigglers were right along side the manure section.

    Jeff

    Here is a link that might be useful: compostcritter.com

  • runningtrails
    Original Author
    13 years ago

    AH? OK, that makes more sense.
    Hi Jeff! I would like to keep them confined so they don't escape into the surrounding ground in the summer and I have access to them for selling.

  • jackjones
    12 years ago

    I actually hope that there would be a whole lot of many other sites like this : enlightening and practical at the same time.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Farming Worms

  • kenh2010
    12 years ago

    Just a thought on red worms liking soggy bedding. I pulled one unfortunate one out of my bin to see if my goldfish would like it to eat. It didn't and the worm sank to the bottom of the aquarium. When I was cleaning the aquarium 2 - 3 months later the worm was still alive and thriving. Out it went and back into the bin. Guess the bedding doesn't get much soggier than that.

  • troberts601
    8 years ago

    I am starting a worm farm with cotton gin trash what should I add to it and when do I know it is ready?

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