To deal with food and wastes more efficiently ,and because it seems like fun, I'm building a worm bin from a salvaged refrigerator,layed on its back.
I intend to feed my chickens their scraps inside the open fridge.
It will be built with a water reservoir and wicking soil as if it were a sub irrigated planter.
Cut down inverted buckets will form the reservoir, peat moss with some lime will be our wicking soil.
I might add a layer of mesh to keep chickens from scratching too deep.
With the biological activity and the insulation, it should be plenty warm, but I might add a length of gutter heater.
To avoid anaerobic conditions, I might use an aerator pump, fountain, or circulating pump.
I have had no time for physical progress on the worm bin, but that has given me time to reflect.
This was perhaps the first idea I ever brought to permies to share, about 8 years ago, and it still looks mostly the same.
I think I will use only 4 inverted buckets for the reservoir.
This will allow a 1 foot thick layer of material between the reservoir and the freezer compartment.
The freezer compartment will be where I aerate , pump or heat the water, as necessary, and as such it will be separated from the main compartment by mesh.
I hope to spike the bin with King Stropharia spawn and allow it to establish, before moving the worms in.
I'm not seeking a crop of mushrooms, but I do want the compost to be infused with spores.
I will include a slotted drain pipe down the center of the fridge compartment, and out end of the fridge where the compressor once was.
The other end will penetrate the wall between the fridge and freezer, where it will be capped with a threaded fitting.
The fitting will be there so I can attach a filter, air line adapter, or whatever else I chose.
Higher up in the fridge section, there will be a second slotted drain pipe.
This pipe will be at about 8" high, and act as an over flow.
Where both drain lines leave the compressor end of the bin, a clear vinyl hose will connect the two , and act as a sight glass or water gauge.
The lower drain pipe will have an inline shut off valve before it it again connects with the upper drain pipe, and both connect to a garden hose threaded drain spout.
If the worms and the fungus are processing the incoming waste easily and well, I will add a gold fish to the freezer department.
If it dies , I will add an air pump and try again.
if that one dies, I will just add duck weed, and maybe a light.
If any of them live I will add more till there are 10 at most.
If they breed, I will probably feed the excess to the chooks.
I might already have a light in the freezer compartment, just to add heat to the system.
I would regulate it with a Rainbird or other, even more basic controller.
LED rope lights are tempting because they are ready for wet locations, unfortunately they emit very little heat.
An immersion heater is probably a better choice, and I don't think it will be on very often.
If heating is necessary at all, a heated bucket at the drain end could house a circulating pump.
By circulating the heated water through the system, the pump would allow the heated bucket to water the chickens and heat the worm bin at the same time.
More energy use, and more devices purchased is not a goal.
Perhaps a bucket of warm water could be manually cycled through the system each day.
Would it be safe to water the chickens and dog with?
I let the animals decide what they will drink, and usually they choose funky rain water over fresh tap water, and are none the worse for wear.
I will be moving this further from the house, if I wan the chooks to still be able to feed them selves from it.
My wife has finally tired of poop on the walk way, so I be fencing them into the perimeter of the yard, and out of our way.
This might be very good, as I can raise it up to create more chicken habitat.
They always come out of the coop, even in the worst weather, but a dry spot under a table etc, is very desired.
Fresh chicken poop is said to be too hot for worms, but I am tempted to build an mesh bottom coop right over the worm bin, and see how the worms handle it.
I better test this idea by feeding them fresh chicken poop b fore i go for it.
Maybe If I get another fridge , I could test out a deep bedding bin with hissing cock roaches.
If I include a self serve escape hatch leading to a bucket, my chickens could eat their own janitors!
I Have seen systems like this described for raising meal worms and solider flies but meal worms are kinda particular and despite reports to the contrary solider flies stink like nothing else.
Anyway, office hours are over now, time to do some show work.
If you add bedding regularly to the worm bin to dilute the chicken shit, it may not be a problem. I don't think that Noisy Duck shit is quite as powerful as chicken shit, but if I did down in their mulch, I normally find worms less than two inches down.
What you're building sounds complicated - I'm not sure what it's going to look like, so I'm hoping you'll post more pictures - but it sounds like you want to use heated water to keep the worms warm? Just by having the heated water in the freezer compartment and the worms in the fridge section? Or by actually circulating the water through the fridge like in-floor heating?
Sounds interesting. We've got a dead fridge that hubby insists he's going to fix, but I'd rather bury it on three sides, add extra insulation to the doors, and make it a mini-cold cellar. We get freezing and near freezing weather in the winter, but rarely excessive or long. I like the idea of using something that would otherwise go to landfill and extending its life for other purposes.
Jay, I'm really hoping to complete this project AND take pictures to share.
The ideas for keeping the bin warm are examples of my crazy noodling.
The biological activity and the insulation will probably be enough.
Your root cellar idea sounds great.
I would probably berm it rather than bury to avoid groundwater issues.
Maybe keep it upright to ease of access, and include holes in the bottom for condensation.
Water bottles for thermal mass, a fan for air circulation and a light bulb to keep things above freezing could keep things at at perfect temperature.
If there is room inside and unheated portion of your house, you could even pipe cold air into the fridge.
William, I really hope you'll make some posts when winter comes - I have no indoor space to keep worms in the winter, although some of my outdoor composts manage to stay warm enough that the wild worms congregate and party. Giving me some data on outdoor temp, in-bin temp, and worm activity as it gets colder would be really helpful in me decided to take the plunge! Pretty please?