Question from Lisa:
My 7 yr old put his hamster bedding in the bin, not sure if that is good for them due to the urine and poop, is it going to kill them?
This is a good question – and it’s great that you are considering some of the potential hazards as well! In a nutshell, YES you should be able to use hamster bedding but – depending on the concentration of urine – there’s a decent chance it will require some pre-treatment.
Urine is the main concern since it contains salts and has the greatest potential for ammonia release (urea converts to ammonia quite readily) – both of these are very dangerous for worms.
If you are looking for a low-effort approach, and don’t mind waiting for a period of time, simply heap up the used bedding in some sort of outdoor bed (preferably exposed to the elements) and leave it to age/compost. If you don’t want to wait, a much faster approach would simply be to run some water through the mix before adding it to the bin (an old sieve/strainer, or even a fabric bag could work well for this).
Whatever approach you settle on, make sure your bin has plenty of ventilation, and only start out with a small amount initially. If the worms show an interest fairly quickly, you should be ok to add more. Otherwise, just leave it to sit for longer before increasing the amount in the bin.
NOTE: The advice I’ve provided here should work equally well for other rodents (guinea pigs, gerbils, rabbits etc) – and really, most herbivorous mammals in general. Bedding/wastes from other animals, such as birds and reptiles and carnivorous mammals, may require more pre-treatment (longer aging periods, or rinsing plus additional aging). Always err on the side of caution by starting with very small amounts and providing as much ventilation as you can.