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Rabbit Manure & Bedding & Baking Soda, Oh My!

Here is a good question from Jillian:

We use a rabbit bedding made from recycled newsprint and it
contains some baking soda. I was thinking about saving the used
bedding, manure and all, to feed our worms. During the summer months
I could hot compost outside, though in the winter it isn’t really
possible. Do you think that the baking soda used for deodorizing the
rabbit’s bedding would cause problems with the ph in the worm bin?
Thank you!

Hi Jillian,
Rabbit cage bedding (containing manure) would be an excellent ‘worm food’ – it’s the baking soda that makes me a tad nervous. I’ve faced the same dilemma myself with my compostable cat litter – I was thinking about adding some baking soda to help with odor reduction, but then it suddenly dawned on me – baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) contains a LOT of sodium.

I just grabbed a box of it from the back of my fridge for reference purposes. This “pure baking soda” contains 164 mg of sodium per 0.6 g (600 mg). A quick calculation tells me that this material is basically 27% sodium by weight. So, say you decide to add 50 grams of the powder to your bedding – that would be 13.5 grams of sodium.

In all honesty, I’m not exactly sure what effect sodium itself has on worms, and wasn’t able to track any more information down. As I told you via email, worms tend to be extremely sensitive to inorganic salts – so for example, it definitely would never be a good idea to add inorganic fertilizer to a worm composting system (if you were trying to boost nitrogen or something like that).

Even if the sodium doesn’t harm the worms (which I still suspect it will), it is definitely known to be harmful to plants when present in high enough concentrations, so the castings you end up producing might not be all that great for growing anything.

If you are really keen to vermicompost your rabbit bedding (again, highly recommended) perhaps you can try something like peat moss as an additive to help reduce ammonia odors, rather than the baking soda.

NOTE: I just noticed that you mentioned that the bedding already contains baking soda, so I guess the first thing to do is determine how much there is in the material, and perhaps think about trying a different bedding material (again, if you are really interested in vermicomposting with it).

Hope this helps!
8)

Written by Bentley on November 8th, 2009 with 15 comments.
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15 comments

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Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Duff in VT
#1. November 10th, 2009, at 3:24 PM.

I have guinea pigs and, although I use fleece and towels for bedding, I have much of their food waste -hay, grain pellets and vegetables in addition to the considerable amount of poop they produce. I put the whole mess in the worm bins and the worms go NUTS. Do try to figure out some other bedding (shavings? or anybedding without the baking soda) as you are missing out on a wonderful source of food for the worms. Do be aware that in quantity, it heats up quite a bit. This is helpful to me in my now cool New England basement, but in warmer climates you’d want to go easy, especially if it is a mixture containing hay.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Jillian
#2. November 11th, 2009, at 7:33 AM.

I’ll have to make a trip to the pet store to see what might work in the worm bin. That or switch to a cage with a wire bottom and give her a bedding box to sit in. That one rabbit produces so many pellets that I may need to upgrade and get another bin going if I decide to compost all of it.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Jillian
#3. November 14th, 2009, at 8:59 PM.

I wonder how this bedding would work (link below). Rabbits are very sensitive, so if it is safe for rabbits as well as birds and every other animal, I think it might work for the worms. So far, I smell no urine in the rabbits cage after two days. Normally I would smell it by now if I got close, even with baking soda in the bedding.

http://www.petco.com/product/10515/Green-Pet-Aspen-Supreme-Pellets-Pet-and-Bird-All-Natural-Litter-or-Bedding.aspx?CoreCat=OnSiteSearch

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Jillian
#4. November 14th, 2009, at 9:05 PM.

I wanted to add that the company also makes a corn cob bedding, though I haven’t tried it yet. The green in the aspen bedding is just added so that you can tell the aspen from the corn cob bedding.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Duff in VT
#5. November 14th, 2009, at 9:37 PM.

It should work just fine. My guinea pigs came with aspen shavings bedding and I used it before I switched to fleece/towels. The combination of bedding, manure, left-over hay and vegetables was loaded with worms within just a day of adding it to the worm bin.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Jillian
#6. November 15th, 2009, at 7:00 PM.

Thank you, Duff! So far there is still no urine smell in the bedding, so even paying a little more I’m more than happy with this bedding. Bunny poo makes awesome fertilizer, so I’d love to get it in the worm bin and make it even better.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#7. November 20th, 2009, at 3:31 AM.

Sounds great, Jillian – please keep us posted on your progress!
:-)

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com scott
#8. March 20th, 2010, at 8:54 PM.

Rabbits…… my boys both had to have a dutch dwarf bunny….. of course dad wasn’t opposed…I got a hungry worm farm… my question is whether or not the waste, both pellets and aspen bedding should be burried or left on top? The over heating is my concern…. also…. if a hutch is placed over a worm bin… wouldn’t it raise the concern of direct injection of the amonia from their urine onto the worms….. keep in mind please that I utilize a plastic 20 gal rubbermaid indoors…. any input is appreciated…

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#9. March 22nd, 2010, at 1:36 AM.

Hi Scott,
Layering the materials on top should be fine – more important to bury in the case of food wastes.
With a relatively small plastic tub system like that I definitely wouldn’t put a cage directly over top – your concerns are definitely valid. Urine is definitely the thing to watch out for. With big beds and hanging cages, generally the zones where the rabbits are urinating the most will get dug out periodically (and I would imagine the worms will avoid these areas as well)

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Scott
#10. March 27th, 2010, at 6:12 PM.

Many thanks Bently…. this site has been great! I really enjoy the many questions answered , and experiments along with the results, posted. The rabbits have been a boon of resources for the bins…. suddenly I have enough for two bins… our feed consist of timothy hay and pellets for the bunnies… bedding is aspen shavings…. which I believe to be safer for the worms than cedar.Is it possible to use this mix on euro’s also?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Doug
#11. May 17th, 2010, at 10:50 AM.

As for the baking soda possibly being harmful to worms: Well, I learned as a boy that sprinkling salt on a slug would almost instantly evaporate the slug (i.e., dehydrate it in short order); I have to admit I have verified this empirically. I would imagine that something along the same lines might happen to other slimy creatures, such as worms or amphibians, and I feel it would be a shame to harm these guys. (No remorse over the slugs, though.)

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Melissa
#12. May 20th, 2010, at 5:55 AM.

For the rabbit owner:
Please do not use baking soda for the rabbits litter box. I presume you think it is safe, (it’s probably advertised like that) when in fact it is not. The baking soda itself is toxic to the rabbit in large amounts, and when ingested in small amounts will cause severe digestive issues.
There is a lot of mis-information out on the internet, and ESPECIALLY in petstores. Be sure to use http://www.rabbit.org as your source for anything rabbit-related. Any other website, unless recommended by the National House Rabbit Society, could be misleading or post the wrong information.

Use Yesterday’s News for your bunny. It’s made of paper, and nothing else, and it’s not pricey. The paper does a way better job of masking odors anyway.

Get rid of that baking soda!
Thanks,

-Loving rabbit owner.
http://www.rabbit.org
National House Rabbit Society

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Organic Worm Farm
#13. September 7th, 2010, at 10:04 PM.

Tips For Using Rabbit Manure…

First off the urine from rabbits can be very strong. I suggest separating the urine from the manure. We use wire cages with a flat run off running the length of our cages. The urine finally falls through a screen to a drain while the manure rolls down the screen to a collection area. This keeps the manure drier and prevents it from soaking in the urine.

Another added benefit is when it comes to cleaning the cages. The run off area with a drain works great!

Another tip as the manure tends to dry quickly and become hard on the outside, is to shred it prior to feeding worms and mixing in some Worm Chow or other food supplement. You will find your worms will devour it overnight and fatten up quickly.

Good Luck!

Bruce

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Sue White
#14. November 15th, 2010, at 9:45 PM.

Organic Worm Farm: you suggested shredding rabbit manure as it becomes hard. What is an easy way to shred it? I had noticed that it does not break down easily. I only have one dwarf bunny so can’t justify buying a commercial shredder just for him. LOL!

I did use my old blender the other day and poured that on the plants direclty and a little bit into the worm bin. Would you recommend that?

Aloha from Hawaii,
Sue

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Organic Worm Farm
#15. November 17th, 2010, at 5:55 PM.

Sue

The blender should work however I use a large type food processor. I actually had a small one which was old and not getting any use which I tried first and it also worked well :-)

Bruce

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