Earthworm production

JimWhatever would prompt a sane person to grow earthworms ?. Well, my own interest stems from raising chickens and rabbits in the garden. Chickens need plenty of protein in their diet and they love worms. Worms will quickly reduce both the byproducts from the rabbits and chickens to fertile compost you can use in the garden or sell. You may even be able to sell worms to anglers and to people with compost stacks in their gardens.

Earthworm production is an enterprise that could be suitable for many small farms. An operation with one or two worm beds requires only minimal set-up costs, maintenance, and can easily be handled by the kids. Most of the material required for constructing the worm beds and feeding the worms may already be available on the farm.

Growing worns, as you can see, yields a lot for a very small initial investment and with little or no operating costs.

Growing Earthworms

Earthworms can be grown in any container with adequate organic matter and drainage. Bedding materials must be deep enough to keep the earthworms cool and moist. During dry periods, you may have to periodically sprinkle the bed with small amounts of water. In high rainfall areas, some protection from heavy rains may be necessary because too much water can cause worms to escape from the bed or drown. Use of gravel, sand, and a perforated septic tank drainage line in the base of the bed will help prevent flooding.

A variety of materials can be used to construct a worm bed. Two options are a permanent wooden structure or an expandable cinder block bed. For easy access during harvest, the bed should be around 80 to 120 cm wide. The structure should preferably be set into the ground to frost-free depth (about 75 cm in Danmark) and covered during the winter to prevent freezing.

The bedding material should be approximately two-thirds topsoil and one-third decayed organic matter. The stocking rate for red worms is 1000 to 5000 worms per square meter of bed area. The initial stocking rate, along with the amount and frequency of feeding, will greatly influence the size of the mature worms. Overstocking and underfeeding will result in few worms of sufficient market size. Depending on growing conditions, worms may take up to six months to attain full size. The worms hatch from eggs after a three-to-five week incubation period. Young worms grow rapidly and are ready to reproduce in about one month. An actively growing worm bed will yield 20 to 25 kg of worms per square meter of bed space per year.

Worms may be fed a variety of organic matter, including fresh manure, kitchen- & garden waste, and ground livestock feeds. Feeds containing 10 to 12 percent protein (on a dry-matter basis) are best for good growth and reproduction. Manure should be mixed with water and poured on the bed. Dry feeds should be sprinkled on the bed and watered in. Feeding is required every three to five days in vigorously growing worm beds. Overfeeding must be avoided as it can lead to excessive fermentation in the bed and cause an acidic environment that can cause worms to shrink and eventually die. In addition, overfeeding can attract mites, which compete with worms for food.


During the growing season, worms feed at night near the bed surface. The best time for harvesting is in the early morning before the worms move deeper into the bed. Remove the top 5 or 8 cm of bedding material, separate the marketable worms, and return the bedding material to the bed. You can easily separate worms by hand using a sorting screen. Harvest only as many worms as you need for a few days and store worms excess in moist bedding material or in peat moss. You can keep worms in the freezer for feeding to the chickens during winter (but PLEASE do clear it with your spouse before you do).

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Updated 00-12-17 at 16:39