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                    RABBITS AND VERMICOMPOSTING

                                A Near Perfect Solution
                                  by Renee' Barefoot
                           Barefoot's Rabbitry & Worm Farm

Vermicomposting allows nature to work at its best, even on a small scale. Worms
recycle organic waste back into a useful soil additive. Castings (used up worm bedding)
are undoubtedly the best organic soil conditioner there is.

Worms thrive in manure-rich bedding; they are the best little garbage disposals. Rabbit
manure is perfect for the red worm (Eisenia Foetida). Rabbit manure does not go through
a heating stage like other manures. Well tended worm beds either under the rabbit cages
or in another location will keep the odor and flies to a minimum. Gardens will benefit
from worms and castings in ways of increased moisture retention, better aerated soil,
increase in soil fertility and helps to break up clay soil.

Tests performed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture say that soil worked by worms is
ten times richer in plant nutrients than soil that was not worked by worms.

Worm Soil Nutrients % Increase Than Non-Worm Soil

          Nitrate of Nitrogen      500
          Available Phosphorous       700
          Exchangeable Potassium 1200
          Exchangeable Calcium        150
          Organic Carbon        200
The castings are used in our greenhouse, garden and flower beds. For the castings to be
sterile and weed-free, it has to be heated to a temperature of 160 F. Unfortunately, this
will kill any remaining worms and egg capsules. It may be more beneficial to pull a few
weeds and keep the worms doing their job. Castings can be applied on top of the ground
around the plants or mixed into the soil. For potted plants, mix ½ castings with your
favorite potting soil.

Getting back to rabbits and worms, rabbits and red worms are a near perfect
combination. For the rabbit and worm grower, not enough emphasis can be put on the
fact that good management of the worm bed is the only way that Vermicomposting will
work to its greatest potential. Even if a grower never sells one worm, the rabbitry will
benefit greatly with this natural combination.

What has been done at the Barefoot Rabbitry and Worm Farm is to build frames in the
rabbitry to support each row of rabbit cages. Some rabbitries have the cages hanging
from the ceiling. Either way works. Under each row of cages, a 1" x 2" wood board
placed 6" wider than the support frame will ensure catching all of the waste and including
strewed rabbit food. Between the rows of cages and worm beds is a cement walk. The
worm beds were started with peat moss, grass clippings, raked leaves, soiled rabbit and
horse hay, shredded newspaper and waste from the garden.

A better description would be to simply start with anything "organic" to help keep the
cost down. Do not use any meats, fried or greasy food or dairy products, which will
cause problems that are explained later in this article. With easy access to two nearby
cotton plants, we have access to all the cotton balls anyone could ever need. Cotton balls
are a great worm bedding and are usually free for the asking. Cotton is very difficult to
completely saturate; it needs to be wet frequently at first until moist enough for the
worms to live in.

All of the worm beddings are changed out once a year. This is done in February when
the weather is cold. The worms are less active and there is fewer loss of any unhatched
capsules and small worms. The use of bright lights will also help to drive the worms
deeper into the ground. The castings are stored for later use in the spring.

To start a new bed, place the bedding material inside the worm bed frame and taking care
not to fill the worm bed more than half way to ensure enough room for mixing the
bedding. If the bedding material is "green" (fresh), it needs to be wetted thoroughly and
allowed to go through a heating stage before introducing worms to it. This heating will
take at least a week. There also needs to be room for the rabbit manure. The worms will
compost the manure, but the volume is still there. After the bedding material is in the
worm frame and mixed, thoroughly wet the bedding material, mix again and wet, again.
Allow it to set overnight and repeat this procedure every day for one week. This will
ensure an even dampness and comfortable home for the red worms.

On the beginning day of starting the worm bed and following up once a month thereafter,
apply one quart of dolomatic lime to every two square foot of surface bedding, taking
care to wet down the lime after each application to keep the dust down to a minimum.
Prolonged exposure to lime dust has been known to cause respiratory problems, which
rabbits are susceptible to. Lime is safe for the rabbits only if the dust cloud is kept
down. Lime will not hurt the worms in any way. Lime keeps the worm bedding PH level
neutral, or at level 7. The worms cannot and will not live in acidic soil. The lime also
helps to keep foul odors and flies to a minimum.

Later on, a place in the worm bed may be noticed where the rabbits have urinated
frequently and is lacking worms in that spot ("hot spots"). The bedding in that spot is too
acidic and needs to be removed to a compost pile where it can properly break down. Do
not discard this part of the bedding as it is very rich in calcium. These urine spots will
more than likely be where a buck urinates. Buck urine is much higher in ammonia than
doe urine and creating a higher concentration of acid in one spot. The bedding
underneath a cage of a weaned litter of rabbits will also be higher in acid. An extra
application of dolomatic lime to these spots will help with the high acid content.
The bedding is completely aerated every two weeks by turning or mixing the bedding
material. The red worm only lives in the top 6-8 inches of bedding; there is no need to
mix the bedding under 8 inches until it is time to clean out the worm bed and start over.
It is crucial for the bedding to stay moist, but not soggy. Red worms travel better and
reproduce better in bedding that is not overly wet. However, the red worm will be much
larger if the bedding, or at least some part of it, is very wet. The rabbits do not need to be
where the humidity is very high, which wet worm beds will cause. Separate worms beds
with a higher moisture content for "fattening" the worms may be kept. Rabbit cages with
pull-out sliding trays may be regularly emptied into separate worm beds that have no
rabbits over them.

The waste that is used on these other beds is used only on certain beds for research
purposes, such as the use of guinea pig waste emptied into its own worm bed. For all the
cavy lovers with more poop than you know what to do with, here is the ideal use. Red
worms love the waste from guinea pigs. If cedar shavings are used, it takes a little longer
for the worm to compost it. Otherwise, treat the bed just like a regular vermicost bed.

Only after everything is ready can the red worm be introduced into its new home.
Worms can either be dug or purchased from an already established worm farm. There
will be a need for about two pounds of worms for every four square foot of surface
bedding. Bed run red worms are recommended to start with since you get more worms
for the money and they adapt much better than mature breeders. With Bed run red
worms, you will receive large and small worms, egg capsules and any very small just-
hatched out worms. Go with what you can afford and nature will help you with the rest.
Just remember that quality is better than quantity. Be very wary of the so-called "buy-
back" plans or the "superworms." Ask for and check references; you may come out much
better off by doing this. Barefoot Rabbitry and Worm Farm takes pride in having built
and still building a business on quality and honesty.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Happy Vermicomposting!

                                  WORM FARMING

                          Vermicomposting, A Simple Overview
                                  by Renee Barefoot

Here at Barefoot Rabbitry and Worm Farm, we have been vermicomposting for 30 years.
Twenty of those years we never knew that there was an exact name for it. We do know,
as my grandparents knew, that vermicomposting and composting produce superior
quality plants and vegetables.

For those of you who don't know what vermicomposting is, don't feel bad --- a lot of
people don't. Vermicomposting is simply composting with worms. It is a very rewarding
feeling knowing that you have done a part to help the earths growing waste problems.
Vermiculture is not a total solution to waste reduction, but, as more people become aware
of the worms' mighty composting power, the earth will be a cleaner, greener place to live.
Something so worthwhile is very simple to do. The first thing that needs to be decided on
is what kind of container to use, what size and where to keep it. Many people start out
with 10-gallon plastic containers. They are kept in kitchens, laundry rooms, garages,
basements and any place where there is easy access to.

 The easiest material needed is the organic waste, which all of us have plenty of. There
will be a need for organic bedding material. This can be peat moss, leaves, grass
clippings, shredded newspaper, etc. Whatever you use, it needs to be 100% organic.
Don't fill the bin up; keep it at ½ to 3/4 full. Waste will be gradually added to the bin and
there needs to be room to aerate the bedding. The bedding needs to be moist and turned
every day for at least one week before introducing any worms or waste into it. This will
ensure an even dampness and the bedding will have gone through a heat stage if the
material used was green when put into the bin.

 Next comes the fun part --- digging or purchasing the worms (source provided at the end
of this article). The best worm for the job is the Eisenia foetida, commonly known as the
Red Worm. A good way to tell how many worms to start with is to weigh your food
waste for a couple of days and excluding any and all meats, fried foods and dairy
products. You will need 2 lbs. Of worms for every pound of food waste. For example, if
there is a food waste of one lb. per day, then there is a need of 2 lbs. of worms or
approximately 2,000 worms to start with.

 The worms will need a few days to adjust to their new home, so don't become alarmed if
they seem not to be eating. Wait about two days after introducing the worms to the fin to
feed them. Be sure to completely bury the food wast in a new location every time. Keep
the bedding moist, but not soggy. Do not overload the bin with food waste. Either of
these will create a foul smell and attract rodents, flies and other insects.

  The PH level needs to be kept at around 7 or neutral. To achieve this, apply about one
quart of domestic lime to a 10-gallon bin. Mix thoroughly and keep it moist. Do this
once a month and there should be no problems unless the bins becomes overloaded with
waste. The lime will not, in any way, hurt the worms. Worms prefer darkness and any
light to them is like a sunburn to us. Laying a few layers of newspaper on top of the
bedding will achieve enough darkness to keep the worms happy and composting.

As the worms multiply, they can be used to create new vermicompost bins. Larger,
outside beds work on the same concept as the smaller ones. If there is no desire to create
new beds, why not share your new worms with a neighbor and teach someone else the art
of vermicomposting?

Every 6 months, the worms will need to be removed from the old bedding and started
back in fresh bedding. This used up bedding is called "castings." Castings are very dark
and rich in nutrients and make a wonderful organic fertilizer for all types of flowers and
vegetables.
Even if there is an abundance of worms, they will live in flower beds, potted plants,
gardens, pastures, lawns, etc., provided that all is organic. During extreme hot or cold
weather, the worm will burrow down into the ground until it is comfortable. Here is a
tip: you know the worms are happy if they don't leave!

These are the basics to vermicomposting. We hope you enjoyed it; any questions or
comments, please feel free to contact me.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Happy vermicomposting!

Barefoot Rabbitry and Worm Farm
Att.: Renee Barefoot
570 Mamie Rd.
Bensen, N.C. 27504
(919) 894-3990

barefoots@usa.net


                   Introduction: What is Commercial: Show Rabbits: Pet Rabbits:
                     Meat Rabbits: Fur/Wool: Laboratory: Equipment: Supplies:
                       Fertilizer: Vermiculture: Services: Alternative Markets:
                       Feed: Animal Rights Activists: Rabbits & Magic: Links

				
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