Welcome to yet another exploration of worm farms — there are umpteen on the web.
As usual I’m not just trying to get rid of our bulk food waste but also turn it into natural chicken protein. But getting the chickens to actually eat redworms is another issue. They seem to only enjoy them only after the worms have been allowed to range on natural soil for a while, rather than coming straight out of the worm tubs — maybe there’s a lesson in that!
Mind you, my escaped redworms have been a favourite food of some of the hens (the more adventurous?) for a while now, so I’m going to persevere.
Here are my two worm farms, one more copious than the other:
And here are the stars of the show, er, the worms…
And in close up:
It’s ugly to look at, no doubt about that, but I do seem to be growing a fair bit of protein using only whatever we toss out. Not bad for a free system.
However I keep wondering if there’s a better way? These plastic tubs are reasonable shelter against vermin like mice and rats (and, here, little mouse-shaped carnivores called antechinus, which love to eat insects), but the whole system is fiddly and not very easy to harvest from. Or maybe I’m just squeamish and don’t like dipping into a vat full of mucky scraps to have something to toss the birds? Yeah, there’s that.
On a thread over at Natural Chicken Keeping, there was mention of laying mulch on the ground to encourage worms and keep them from digging deep during North America’s severe winters. I think if you had a thick blanket of some sort (e.g. old carpet — hosed down first in case of pesticides/chemicals), you could develop a worm farm that’s on the ground — you know how worms always appear just below whatever’s lying on the soil? Daily scrap feeding of the layer below the blanket would build up a compost layer and the whole system could eventually be moved by shifting the membrane to a new position and letting the chickens onto the old patch.
I haven’t thought this through completely — carpet has a habit of turning to a horrible, tangly mess when left on the ground for any length of time — and it would perhaps be best to use a straw layer instead. Secondly there’s the vermin issue — mice and rats (and antechinus) will probably eat both scraps and worms if they can get at them. On the other hand it would be easy enough to roll out a layer of bird wire over the whole lot, lifting this and the membrane/carpet layer back daily to add more scraps.
When we move to our new place I’ll experiment a bit more, and keep you posted.