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Composting Worms Under Rabbit Cages

Here is a question from Jeff:

I have a rabbit colony that is on an area of my pool deck
over a tile floor and on about 6″ of grass hay. I want to put the
worms directly under them so they compost the rabbit manure and hay
continuously. The rabbit area is on a covered pool deck so it gets
some rain occasionally to keep them wet. I’m also in Florida where
it’s humid and warm all year long. Will the worms be able to survive
in JUST rabbit manure and hay?

Hi Jeff,
That’s a really interesting question! Let me start by saying ‘yes’, composting worms can certainly go under rabbit cages and feed on the rabbit droppings – but, it’s not traditionally done in the manner you’ve described.

Normally, the rabbit cages would be elevated up off the ground, positioned over beds where the waste materials would fall – the composting worms would be found in these beds. This is actually a great way to combine worm and rabbit farming as a mutually beneficial combo business.

Your case is a little different (if I am understanding you correctly) in that there is no space between the rabbit zone and the worm zone, other than the layer of straw. You mentioned the straw material getting wet underneath when it rains sometimes. If it DID stay relatively moist in this zone at all times, without the moisture pooling too much, I think worms would be very happy down there, especially if you ensured that there were plenty of rabbit droppings down in that zone as well.

You could assist the process by adding even more straw up top for the rabbits. This way you could probably get away with adding a little more moisture down below, and it would also help to cushion the worms a bit more – I suspect that the movement of the rabbits could disturb them a fair bit if the layer between them was too shallow.

One of the downsides of this approach is that it would probably be more of a pain to ‘harvest’ the compost and/or worms if you ever desired to do so. It might also get a little messy if there was ever a heavy rain fall, since this could potentially flush out a fair amount of the ‘dirty’ stuff down below (although I would imagine that must be the case now as well). You mentioned this being on a pool deck – hopefully you don’t have to worry about run-off into your pool!
:shock:

If I was going to do this I would probably only start with a small quantity of worms at first to see how they made out. The last thing you would want is to have a pound or two of worms crawling all over your pool deck if they don’t like conditions in the bed! Perhaps you could start up a separate ‘regular’ worm bin for most of the worms, and simply add 1/4 or 1/8 of a pound to the straw zone to see what happens. If it is how I’m imagining it, I suspect they would love this environment and would end up breeding very quickly.

Anyway – hope this helps
8)

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Written by Bentley on August 31st, 2009 with 12 comments.
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Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Nathan
#1. September 1st, 2009, at 2:24 PM.

Jeff,

There is a book on the worms and rabbits called Rasing Fishworms With Rabbits by Shields Publications at http://www.wormbooks.com.

Hope this helps,

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Christy Olson
#2. September 1st, 2009, at 7:47 PM.

I have worked with rabbits for years. You also have to consider the urine from the rabbits. Since you are not aging the rabbit droppings the ammonia levels would probably be too high for the worms to thrive. It would be better to precompost the droppings and hay too keep the levels lower. Also rabbit droppings are really high in fiber and tend to breakdown slower. You may not have as much readily avalable food for the worms as you think.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Duff in VT
#3. September 9th, 2009, at 11:28 PM.

I assume Guinea Pig poop is OK for the worms, too? I intend to get some Guinea pigs this Fall.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#4. September 10th, 2009, at 1:48 PM.

CHRISTY – Thanks for sharing – that’s really interesting. I’ve heard from others that Rabbit poop is one of the few manures that is ok basically fresh, but you are probably right – always best to err on the side of caution. Very good point about the urine as well – I completely forgot to address that issues in my reply. I’ve read that when you keep cages above worm beds, periodically you will need to flush out the beds with water, or remove the zones with high urine salt concentration (I guess rabbits typically pee in the same spot).

I would personally still try it out, Jeff! Seeing a very successful (and fat) population of red worms in my (compostable) kitty litter bin has made me realize these worms can be even more tolerant than I thought.
———————–

DUFF – Absolutely, guinea pigs (hamsters, gerbils etc etc) – it’s all good stuff.
8)

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com ToilingAnt
#5. September 11th, 2009, at 5:35 PM.

What about putting a worm bin below a small chicken coop? My husband and I are buying our first house and I am eager to raise some chickens, and fascinated by the idea of worms as well. I’m experienced with poultry but have never raised worms; could I try to combine the two, or should they remain separate endeavors?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#6. September 11th, 2009, at 6:59 PM.

Poultry manure is a LOT more potent than rabbit, and can contain lots of inorganic salts and nitrogen. You would definitely not want to feed it directly to composting worms. That being said, if you had a thick enough habitat zone that consisted of straw with perhaps some peat moss or coco fiber (and this lower zone was kept moist), maybe it could work – especially if you also added some food scraps as well. I suspect the chickens would go on a feeding frenzy once they realized there were worms under their feet – not sure how/if this would impact the population.

Alternatively, you might just want to remove the bedded poultry manure and compost it for awhile outside before feeding it to a worm composting system.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com ToilingAnt
#7. September 11th, 2009, at 8:11 PM.

Sounds like I’d do best to keep them separate. Thanks for the feedback!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com attie mathee
#8. October 8th, 2009, at 8:41 AM.

hi there
i am from south africa and got hold off 6 rabbits,3 newzeeland whites and 3 reds and black, 2 bucks and 4 does, they are not the same age.the withs are raedy to made and the others are 3 mounths old.
my plan is to build them cages as everyone do but i still need to work out the best way to do so, i bought 10 cages from a friend to start off but with all the space i got its seems not right to put them in such a small place,can`t i put them together, or just the does then till there is enought to start farming with them and i worked out all the layout and best spot and so on
is it possible to for exsample put 10 does in 1 pen,when its time to mate them just take them out 1 by 1 to the buck,before the new babys are born i can just take the older ones out and put them all together in a pen next to there mothers, this would make the cleaning and feeding so much cheaper and the housing cost low, i think??????

i don`t want to spent much money in the begining on my rabbits because i don`t know if anyone will buy the rabbits,there are no rabbitfarms here to learn from

any advise will help
thanx
attie

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com ryu
#9. March 26th, 2010, at 7:34 AM.

hi i have a 25 rabbits + worm. my first plan was feeding my worm with rabbit poop directly but it didn’t go out well my worm keep running away due to ammonia and to much heat from the nitrogen i think. so i am now planning to build a bio mass generator to pre compost the rabbit waste. is it ok ? and does rabbit poop a good source for methane gas? and well the rabbit waste reduce its nutrients after it goes to the digester?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Chris McLaughlin
#10. December 31st, 2010, at 11:18 PM.

Just wanted to throw out there that I’ve been raising rabbits for many years and while worms truly don’t like urine build up…you can simply rake the concentrated urine area into the rest of the waste once a week. I also add some newspaper strips to help soak it up. I know several rabbit breeders that have great luck with their worms staying right under the cages.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com michael bates
#11. September 5th, 2011, at 10:40 AM.

Hi Attie Mathee. 10 points for your english. I am farming rabbits in Cape Town, SA. If you need help with your farming have a look at http://www.coniglio.webs.com. They are based in Somerset West and do training courses on rabbit farming.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Donald
#12. May 25th, 2013, at 1:25 PM.

Not sure if this is still active, but want to take a shot…
What about building wooden boxes under the rabbit pens? Each would be 24″ wide, 32″ long, and about 12″ deep. Each would have only 2 Mini Rex rabbits above it.

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