Chicken or rabbit manure harmful to worms?

aetherswiftJuly 8, 2013

I'm a complete noob when it comes to gardening, so please forgive me if this is a really stupid question.

I'm planning out my chicken and rabbit cages and am wondering if it would work to have worm bins under my rabbit and/or chicken cages (which would have mesh bottoms to allow the manure to fall through directly to the worm bin).

I know that rabbit manure is "cold" but chicken manure is "hot" and must be composted. Would either manure applied to a worm bin like that be harmful to my worms?

Thanks for your help!

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People have successfully put worm bins under rabbit cages. I think the biggest problem you would have is the salts in the urine. Chicken cages might be a different matter. It may depend in part on how much manure is being dropped into the bin. With enough bedding, you might be OK with a worm bin under chickens.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 5:02PM
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Back in the old days of my posting on this and other forums (fora?), I had a tag-line that was...and still absolute conviction as to how to manage worm bins.

It is the total truth about this thing we do, and if you follow it, you'll never have a failure, or disaster, or uh-oh. .

It is: Diversity, Moderation, Patience.

If you adhere to these principles, worming is a snap.


Diversity, Moderation, Patience

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 8:34PM
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I hope "it would work to have worm bins under my rabbit and/or chicken" because that is where I want to get to. You do not mention if this is in a building or outside. Air flow would be the consideration. The points I see to control are adding browns or carbon material. Good fresh air for the chickens as any bit of ammonia smell I have read is not good for their breathing. The rabbit manure is probably not an issue but the rabbit urine is a big deal that will have to be thought about how to handle.

Are the rabbits and chickens side by side in your plan?

You might want to do a trial run on a smaller scale to test how things will all work together before putting big money on a large system.

Can you identify a brown or carbon source that is in plentiful, inexpensive supply nearby to add?

    Bookmark   July 9, 2013 at 12:46AM
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Interesting idea... I have chickens and rabbits - could I just add some manure from the pens to the worm inn before its composted?

    Bookmark   July 9, 2013 at 9:40AM
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Melissa: The best way to find out is to put a small amount in the corner of the bin and see how the worms respond.

My guess is the rabbit manure will do well, the chicken manure less well, unless you have a lot of bedding to offset the nitrogen. I can't find the C:N ratio for rabbit droppings, but I suspect you will need a lot of bedding to offset the nitrogen in rabbit droppings as well.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2013 at 10:50AM
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Considering everyone's advice, I think it would be best to not place the chickens above the worms, but to only do the rabbits for now. I'll get a chicken tractor for the birds and take them out of the equation.

My new plan, then, is to have the rabbits in a hutch under shade trees. The floor of the cages would be a strong wire mesh to allow the manure to fall directly to a couple of large metal troughs underneath, which would contain my compost and worms.

@equinoxequinox: A good source of brown carbons would be the wooded acre behind my house. Since I'm in the Bastrop area, we have no shortage of burned, dying, and dead trees.

As for the rabbit urine, I'm wondering how I could control that? I've heard people say they generally prefer to pee in the same area, but that hasn't been true for my two cottontails...

This post was edited by aetherswift on Thu, Jul 18, 13 at 16:08

    Bookmark   July 18, 2013 at 4:05PM
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Kazuko Smith used to be a regular on the composting forums. She raised worms under her rabbit cages. I found this article that she wrote.

As for chicken manure, I can't find a definitive article on the subject, but the consensus seems to be that it needs to be composted for a long time before it can be fed to worms. It also has a lot of salt in it, which will need to be leached out

    Bookmark   July 19, 2013 at 1:34PM
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sbryce: ""Kazuko Smith used to be a regular on the composting forums. She raised worms under her rabbit cages. I found this article that she wrote.""

I admire you for searching through old posts to find an answer. When ever I did that, it could take hours of my time. Thank you for doing that.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2013 at 1:50PM
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Actually, I googled to see if Kazuko was still on line anywhere. I couldn't find her, but I found the article she wrote on the Happy D site.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2013 at 6:02PM
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Hi. I have experience with outdoor worms and manure as feed-stock, I have chickens and a horse.

I believe you could put both chicken and rabbit cages above worm beds. Worms are quite tolerant of fresh manure. As long as you don't stir up the bed, your worms should stay below the heat and be fine. I find native wigglers working in chicken manure below my coop. I also mix chicken and horse manure fresh and top feed my beds. My squirm is quite happy! Rabbit poop is said to be worm candy

A few suggestions.

  1. Do NOT put a solid bottom on the bed. Use wire mesh hardware-cloth for a bottom to protect from burrowing critters, such as gophers, moles, and voles. Don't worry about worms leaving. They will only leave if the bin conditions are bad, but will return when things improve. You may need something to keep out birds and such.

  2. start small with a simple worm bin and work your way up. The knowledge you gain from raising a pound of worms and expanding the herd is invaluable. You also will save money.

Chickens and worms are a great pairing. My chickens free-range and make sure that no worms leave their resorts.... free chicken food! They are also skilled at de-clumping my castings. They line up and follow me and my tusty wheelbarrow as I bring horse-poop to add to my beds. It is quite the scene

Good luck and let us know how it goes. Pete.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2013 at 12:07AM
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Hi I've been worm composting for about 18 years now and found that worms can be fed nearly anything that has ever been alive and is now dead.

Rabbit manure is actually excellent for worms, but with chicken manure one has to be careful. It contains a lot of salt and ammonia which can harm your worms. So it is vital that the manure does not get washed or mixed into the worm bedding and that it has lots of air contact so the ammonia can disappear.

If the bedding of the worms is save they will feed on the chicken manure when they feel it is safe and then retreat into their bedding.

All the best and happy worming


Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   November 10, 2014 at 9:04AM
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Stephan's post is self advertising in help clothing.
Clever boy to revive a year+ old post.

FORTUNATELY I get to read Pete's post.

When I had two (2) chickens but no worms, my chickens risked their necks to get the worms exposed by a shovel.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2014 at 10:59AM
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I just got some aged and fresh Chicken manure premixed with wood shavings. I will soak them , drain and let them sit for a week and do a test run in one of my outside bins. I let you know about the result.
Let me know if you have any suggestions.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2014 at 4:34PM
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nexev - Zone 8b

The OP on this thread is pretty old but I hope he did go with the tractor for the chooks. Chickens dont so much like livin on wire as they really want to scratch around and explore, with a tractor they can get this and you can move it giving them new ground so they dont completely destroy it.

I wish we could just free range as Pete mentions he does, suppose we could but then they might be a bit of a pain in the garden. We are still learning on this and one of my thoughts is to use electric fence to keep them out of the garden.

Rabbits on the other hand seem to be more accustomed to living on wire and I remember as a kid an old family friend who raised worms under rabbits 40 or so years ago.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2014 at 7:38PM
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