Earthworm Care and Feeding

If you have made the decision or are contemplating ordering earthworms, it is easy to feed, care and maintain them for long periods of time.

Equipment and Supplies

The materials needed to start a worm bin are simple and inexpensive. All you will need are a bin, bedding, water, earthworms and food.

Worm Bin. A suitable bin can be a plastic container. Most stores sell containers that are sufficient. Since earthworms prefer darkness, a box that isn’t clear or translucent is preferred. The container should be thoroughly washed and rinsed before the earthworms and bedding are added. The bin size depends on the number of earthworms you plan to keep. The “rule of thumb” is approximately one square foot of surface area for 2,000 Red Wigglers or 1,000 European Nightcrawlers. The reason for this is that the earthworms require oxygen which is introduced from the surface. Many state that it is the volume of the bin that determines the quantity of worms that can be maintained, however this is not true.

A 5-gallon bucket like to those used for spackle, pickles or similar items can also be used. Many fast-food restaurants get items in them and would probably give you one if asked. You need one with a top.

After you have your bin, you should drill small holes (approximately 1/16 inch) around the sides, just below the top edge for aeration.

Bedding. The most readily available material for use as earthworm bedding is peat moss. It can be purchased at any gardening supply center. The first step is to thoroughly soak it. Place it in a large container and add water while mixing it. You will find that peat can be quite difficult to soak. Be sure that you soak all of the peat, as it doesn’t easily absorb water. It is preferable to let the peat soak at least overnight before moving to the next step.

An increasingly popular alternative to peat moss is coir bedding. Coir is coconut fiber. It is sold dry in most pet shops as reptile bedding. Sometimes it is available in brick form, sometimes packaged, always dry. Soak it as you would soak your peat moss bedding.

The ideal moisture content for earthworm bedding is approximately 60%. To achieve this, take hands full of your soaked peat or coir and “wring” it out by squeezing it. When only a couple drops of water is coming out, it is ready to add to your bin. Crumble it into the bin so that you don’t end up with large “clumps”. Continue until you have the bedding a depth of 6 to 7 inches. You are now ready to introduce your earthworms. It is advisable to have this done before you receive your worms. As soon as the earthworms are placed on the bedding, they will usually start to burrow to get away from the light.

Food and Feeding. Healthy, fat earthworms are the result of feeding them a good diet. If your plans are to use them as food for fish or herps, it is of even more importance. The most convenient food is chicken mash, either chick starter or laying mash. Generally, the laying mash has a higher protein content. You can purchase it in small quantities at most feed stores or larger pet shops. Do not buy what is called “crumbles”. What you need is the finest ground mash available.

Lightly sprinkle the mash on the top of the bedding. It is far better to put too little food than too much. You will soon learn what your earthworms will eat in a 24 hour period. Do not add additional food until what is there is completely gone. After feeding, lightly spray the food, which will allow your earthworms to easily consume it.

Some words of caution: If you plan to harvest some earthworms, do so before you feed. Never mix food into the bedding. It will cause a condition known as “protein poisoning” which is a build-up of acid within the bedding caused by the decomposition of the food. If you notice your earthworms dying, it will be a result of this condition. If you notice your earthworms dying, immediately remove them from the bedding and start with new. This will not be a problem if you underfeed rather than overfeed your earthworms and don’t attempt to harvest with food in your bin.

General Maintenance

Do not keep your worm bin in direct sunlight. Although the earthworms can stand heat, this will cause excessive heat. Ideal locations are in your basement, closet or under your kitchen sink.

Every week or two, you should lightly toss the bedding, allowing the bedding at the bottom of your bin to be on the top. Since earthworms absorb oxygen through their bodies, this process allows sufficient oxygen to be throughout the bedding. If the earthworm bedding appears to be getting dry, lightly spray it.

You will soon discover that earthworms are extremely easy keepers and provide a endless supply of fishing bait or highly nutritional food for your herps, pond or aquarium fish.

New York Worms Nightcrawlers and Red Wiggler earthworms
are farm grown and available 12 months a year!

Can you make money raising earthworms? Learn the answers to that and other questions in our article: There is Pleasure and Profit in Raising Earthworms.

Want more information regarding the breeding, feeding, care and business of earthworms?

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