I first read about vermicomposting after reading Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-scale Permaculture, a fantastic book by Toby Hemenway, full of wonderful illustration of living in harmony with our garden. The drawing of a rabbit hutch full of bunnies and a worm bin below that captured all the rabbit dropping and turned them into rich compost, seemingly without effort, was compelling. After imagining this scenario in my own backyard for well over a year, I finally adopted two English Spot rabbits from the Yolo SPCA, a mother and daughter named Bonnie Whey and Honey Bunny. I didn’t have the hutch yet, but Bob had collected off the Web a few rabbit hutch construction plans, which didn’t look that difficult to build. He had the tools and building material and was already working on a prototype.
When I was closing the adoption deal with the SPCA, I learned that rabbits do not like living aloft in hutches and prefer the ground where they can dig tunnels. This was especially true for my English Spots, who had been abandoned in a barn and were semi-feral. I also learned rabbits could die when the temperature hit over ninety degrees, and if frightened, could drop dead. This didn’t bode well for an outdoor rabbit habitat in Yolo County where ninety degrees is sometimes referred to as a cool spell. Also, I live by a levee, and fox and coyote are part of our native fauna.
But I really wanted these bunnies, and I thought once I got them home I’d figure out what to do next. The first night they went in the chicken coop, which is fairly large with a nice dirt floor. Over the next few days they got out numerous times, digging escape tunnels below the six inches of chicken wire embedded into the floor. Bob and I spent hours chasing around the barn, herding them back in. By then, I knew these rabbits would never be happy in an elevated hutch, so we secured the coop perimeter with straw bales and rocks. They now seem content, having built elaborate tunnels under the bales, and they have yet to escape.
So, I decided I needed to change the master plan and hand-transport the rabbit dropping from the coop into the worm bin.
I ordered my worms from Blue Belly Farm, which has great instructions for making a worm bin on their site. I built the worm bin using a 15 gallon plastic tub that costs about six bucks at WalMart and modified the plans for the smaller size (visual progress below). I have not yet added in the rabbit droppings, as I await the worms to settle in.
June 20 update. Week two.
A couple of thoughts: I wish I’d used the 30 gallon tub. I don’t feel there’s enough room to add all our vegetable scraps. I also need to add more dirt. I plan to use peat moss. We had a couple of really hot windy days and the bin dried out quickly. I keep a mister by the bin and mist daily, but I’ve needed to dump a cup or two of water in each day to keep worms moist and happy. Butternut squash plants are growing in the bin, and this morning I transplanted a few seedlings to the garden to see if they’ll grow. What a wonderful cycle: eat, feed worms and soil, grow plants, harvest and eat… (Note: seedlings didn’t survive 24 hours. Possibly the heat. 105 degrees. Possibly seeds germinated in a dark worm bin, aren’t acclimated to light…