Lately for the last several months I have been studying behaviors of worms and earthworms and have found some interesting facts. Take for instance feeding them whole rabbit manure. In the past I thought there might be a hierarchy to worm environments however found more recently that larger worms are more parasitic hence why they congregate around smaller worms in certain circumstances.
This makes more sense when hanging rabbit cages over worm bins, first since the ammonia chases worms away from some areas and secondly the hard outer shell of rabbit manure is actually only penetrable by the smaller worms .
What actually occurs is the smaller newly hatched worms of a 1/16th of an inch or smaller penetrate the rabbit manure’s harder outer shell by slithering into crevices of the manure and begin to break down the individual pieces of manure. The larger worms congregate to feed on the scraps once the little worms have broken down the manure to mouth size particles for the larger ones, hence making them more of a parasite in these situations.
At the same time this made more sense to those offering worms raised under rabbit cages since they offer smaller worms. I know of one company for which offers 1 pound of African Nightcrawlers which run 1,000-1,200 worms per pound. In essence red wigglers run 800 to 1,000 per pound making the African’s they sell even smaller than red wigglers. This is because of two reasons, first being the small worms have access to more readily available feed. Secondly over time, a worm bin under rabbit cages will usually become crowded with small worms hence stunting there growth until they are thinned out and given time to grow.
The reason I began to get hooked on the rabbit manure is the fact that dried rabbit manure contains 20% crude protein, is pH neutral and is a source for numerous minerals…
I have tried shredding rabbit manure from under the cages, however ran into a main issue with the ammonia and how it reacts with the shredded manure. The solution was to build a separator which would enable me to harvest clean rabbit manure while allowing the urine to run outside the building.
Even though rabbit manure is considered cold manure, once shredded it will heat up to approximately 100 degrees Fahrenheit if piled 5” high over a 3 to 4 day period. The higher the pile the warmer the manure gets. By limiting the heat to 97-100 degrees I allow for the desired microbes to flourish.
After 5 to 7 days the material has lowered back down to 85 degrees give or take and actually has a fresh earthy smell to it even though it still looks like shredded rabbit manure with a little lighter coloring to it. This is when I have fed to the worms covering the beds with 1” or more of the feed.
The worms will migrate and live while devouring this food material and growing faster. At the same time since they are eating so much food at this rate, the accumulation of worm castings sped up dramatically.
I have played with one additional step to this method which has even sped up the worm’s growth that much more, however am still working out the details.