I wanted to post a fairly quick follow-up to my “Poultry Manure Vermicomposting” post.
As I expected would be the case, the worms were quite slow to process the pigeon manure I added. But they DID seem to process most of it after about 17 days.
Although it’s a bit hard to see it in the two images below, there was really only a small amount of the original deposit left sitting on the surface.
What’s interesting is that the springtails were into the material almost instantly. I’m guessing they have a higher tolerance for ammonia and/or salts. I’d be curious to know how much of the material they (springtails) actually processed on their own. Perhaps it was a two step process whereby the springtails consumed the manure, and then the worms consumed their wastes.
At no time did I actually find worms up in the pigeon manure – they seemed to be hanging out just down below the surface.
It was also interesting to see that most of the worms in the vicinity of the manure were very young. I’ve read that very young worms can adapt to a hazardous environment better than adults – so that might have something to do with it.
As for the original bin of manure…
I ended up accidentally leaving it out in a rain storm and then kinda forgetting about it (doh!), so it became somewhat anaerobic and smelly. Just to see what would happen, I dumped it out on the ground beside an outdoor trench bed that is loaded with Red Worms.
I covered it up with hay, and have left it to sit for the better part of 2 weeks now. The only sign of life in it seems to be large numbers of some sort of tiny gnat.
I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s at least another couple of weeks before the worms start venturing in!
The long and the short of it (from my perspective) is that while avian manures CAN certainly be used for worm composting, considerable caution is warranted. I would make sure to mix them with lots of bulky, carbon rich bedding material (and ideally some “living material“), soak the mix down with plenty of water (and allow to drain) then either compost or age separately for quite some time before attempting to feed.
When feeding with these materials, always add at the end of a bed (in the case of something like a windrow or trench), or add a very thin layer on top (never cover entire surface) – and only in well-ventilated systems.
I am hoping to get my hands on some actual chicken or turkey manure so I can see how they compare to the pigeon manure.