Horse Manure For High-Yield Vermicomposting
Interesting email from Andreas:
Big fan. Love the info!
I have chickens and i want to try breeding a motherload of worms to feed Them. I have a Big pile of horse manure and Wood shavings that is fairly Brown and Well aged. Do you Think it would work to seed the pile With worms in spring, let Them breed and Chow all summer, and then feed the chickens With a shovel full a Day of compost and Worms in the Fall? My question is basically: Will the Worms breed a lot in just aged manure and shavings, or do They need other Stuff AS Well to be really harpy?
Thanks in advance Andreas
Thanks for the kind words!
You are in luck! Aged horse manure can be a fantastic material for breeding a “motherload” of Red Worms. To this day, likely the most amazing Red Worm “systems” (if you can call them that) I have seen have simply been old horse manure piles sitting outdoors, exposed to the elements.
The habitat manure should be somewhat “earthy” in smell (NO strong manure/ammonia smell) – but still have some food value (should not just look like soil/compost). Fresher material can be layered on top, or continually added to one side of the initial heap – creating what is known as a “wedge system” or “walking windrow”.
When you first set up the bed, make sure to monitor temps regularly. Obviously, you need to be careful about the manure heating up too much. Another good reason for using aged material is that it has less of a tendency to heat up. Once temps seem to be staying below say 86 F (ish) consistently you should be fine to add your initial stock of worms.
(NOTE: The above advice mostly applies to others setting up a similar bed – I’m sure your aged heap will have PLENTY of safe habitat zone already)
Depending on your location (both in terms of geography and where the bed is sitting), you may need to water it down fairly regularly. It is imporant to keep the habitat nice and moist, especially during the hot dry periods in the summer. That said, I am assuming that the material will be sitting on the ground, on a concrete pad, or in some form of structure that allows for drainage. You will want to avoid swampy anaerobic conditions down in the lower zones of the heap/bed, if at all possible.
Supplementation is not vitally important (Red Worms will do very well in manure/bedding alone) – but if you want to take things to the next level, you might try adding shredded cardboard along with food wastes, and maybe even an occasional bit of rock dust.
Anyway – hope this helps! Feel free to add some follow-up questions in the comments section.