Beginner’s Guide to Getting Started with Red Worms

Written by Matthew on December 8th, 2009

Well I just had a couple cups of coffee so lets see if I can type without rambling to much. I tend to get real jittery.

In this blog I am going to teach how to set up a “worm bin.” Anyone can learn how to do this and its great fun for children so have them help also.

This is intended for the beginner starting with common red worms.

Worms Etc Worm Kit

Worms Etc Worm Farm Kit

First thing you will need is a home for the worms. This can be a bucket, a plastic “rubbermaid®” box, a used aluminum foil turkey pan or any other sort of container that will not get soft when exposed to water. If you do not have anything like this you can just go and buy a rubbermaid container.

Once you pick out a home for the worms you need to add “bedding” to it.

What is bedding? Bedding is the stuff the worms live in.

  • Shredded paper
  • shredded cardboard
  • peat moss
  • dead leaves
  • old compost
  • aged manure (do not used fresh manure for bedding)
  • coconut coir
  • Dirt / soil from the yard is NOT bedding. Adding a little is ok but no more than a hand-full
  • Mixing several different types of bedding together is fine and great

The bedding needs to be damp. Get a container and put some water in it. Then take a hand-full of your bedding and place it in the water letting it soak  for a few seconds. Then squeeze out the excess water just like you were squeezing out a sponge. That is all that is needed to dampen the bedding.

Now take that hand-full of damp bedding and place it into the bottom of the worm home. Repeat this until you have about 4 inches of bedding in the bottom. You are now done adding bedding.

Just an interesting note here that worms can live in damp bedding alone. The problem being a lack of food so overtime they would not multiply or grow much.

Worms and scrap apples

Worms and scrap apples

Next step is to add a small amount of food by placing it on top of the bedding. Small amount means about a cup full.

An optional step is to cover this food with a little bedding to keep flies and smells away.

– What is food? Worms are not picky eaters so just about any fruit, vegetable, nut or bean will work. This includes coffee and filters, egg shells, bread, and even meat and cheese. The problem from meat and cheese is that they can stink like crazy so don’t add them unless you want stinky worms.

You are now done preparing the worm’s home. Any worm would be happy and cozy in there.

Worm Bin Farm Kit

Worms Etc Red Worm Farm Starter Kit

Now to add the worms just place them on top of the bedding. It may take them a day or two to move into their new home because they need a little time to adjust to the new conditions. Think of it kind of like when you get fish for an aquarium, it is best to let them adjust slowly to the new conditions.

After two days they should be settled into their new homes. In another day or two you should see some worms gathered around the food that you added. This is a good sign that every thing is well.

Wait until most of that food is gone before adding more. Slowly the worms will be able to eat food faster. Just do not stir uneaten food into the bedding because worms do best with separate areas of food and bedding.

That is all there is to it!

Well the coffee is running down so I guess its time to wrap this one up.

The worms love it when I drink coffee, they get the grounds.

Thanks for reading,

Matthew Wilson

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98 Comments so far ↓

  1. Matthew says:

    Yes our weather hear has been rather unstable and strange. Record level snow fall just two weeks ago and now its near 70. We only sell the euros as adults right now. We sell them by the pound and get our worms as clean as spaghetti noodles before weighing them. When you order a pound of worms from us you get a pound of actual worms.

    Adult euros are about 350 per pound and yes they can climb the containers. They are remarkable climbers, however they rarely try escaping if bin conditions are right.

  2. Doyle says:

    Wow, I’m impressed with the speed of your response. I like this site. I can see now this is my place of daily surfing to get answers for my newly elected venture (Worm Farming).
    Concidering the weather problem Matt. How do you protect your livestock (Worms) from this crazy up and down weather we are having. Also, me being a newbie to this worm farming, is it safe for me to order my worms now since I have not yet mastered the weather protection methods?

  3. Doyle says:

    Hey again Matt:
    My goal is to raise Euro N Crawlers to supply a good bait worm. I’m not sure about the rest of the country, but here in N E Texas there is a big need of a larger worm that does NOT need to be refrigerated to have a long shelf life and one that will stay alive in salt water. What ya think ??
    How long from my start with one lb. of worms til I can safely start wholesaleing or retailing my stock?

  4. Matthew says:

    Hey Doyle,
    Worms do really well in cooler weather, but they cannot tolerate freezing. They don’t multiply well in the heat so getting them in late February would be about right for my climate (zone 7). If your beds are on the ground and over 8″ or so deep you should be safe otherwise you may want to wait just a little.

  5. Matthew says:

    Well, you can ruffly say that it takes about 90 days for the worm mass to double. That is an extremely rough estimate. It can be much more than that or sometimes less. They will not reproduce if the temperature is really high. The euros do good in salt water and keep good without refrigeration. One pound of worms will fill about 16 bait cups, so maybe you can do some figuring from that. I cannot give more detail than that because everyone’s situation will vary.

  6. Doyle says:

    Thanks a bunch for your response Matt. Right now we’ve got a week or so to be below freezing and at night some single digits. I think I’ll wait til it warms up a little.

  7. Doyle says:

    Thanks a bunch for your response Matt. Right now we’ve got a week or so to be below freezing and at night some single digits. I think I’ll wait til it warms up a little.

    By the way I have a bed prepared of about 40% rabbit manure, 40% peat moss 10% dirt and 10% shredded paper. Will that make Euro night crawlers happy. Also would it be good to use rabbit manure for feed? I have a good sourse for it.

  8. Rhapsody says:

    Hello there,
    I bought worms from you on ebay. They arrived fine. I added them to my bin hoping the would eat their little hearts out! My bin has a problem I do not seem able to fix. I have what I think are mites. My bin is reddish brown. They look white on the bin but look red on a white paper towel. I have little flies that look like termites (red wings) and gnats.
    I try to dry it out a bit but the little buggers wont go! My worms are not as active as they were when I got them from you. Please advise!

  9. Matthew says:

    I am guessing that the worms are a little overfed. Try adding more paper or cardboard like stuff and not feeding them food scraps for a while. It take the worms a few weeks to get started eating good.

  10. Matthew says:

    Well, sorry for the delay in responding, for some reason the comment was caught in the spam filter.

    I am not real familiar with extreme colds, but I know that worms are successfully kept even in Canada. The main thing is to keep the worms from freezing. Have the worm beds deeper than the frost line should keep them safe.

  11. Doyle says:

    I have a question or tou, the worm expert. I have in my yard a worm that looks like a red wiggler but lives in hard packed earth. It leaves little piles of castings above the ground and grows to be about a foot long and about big around as a lead pincil. I have used them for fish bait and been very successful. I get them to come above ground by using a 20 X 80 mix of bleach and water poured on the casting mound. Can you tell me what they are called and if they can be raised in a bin. If so please give the bin mix, I would like to give them a try.

  12. Diana says:

    Also, one more question, you mention you can feed them bread. What if the bread is moldy?

  13. Matthew says:

    Yes moldy bread is OK. I never feed to much bread at once though.

  14. Sheri says:

    I bought some euro reds and they do fine staying in their bin during the day, but at night the try to escape. How do I keep my worms in there bin without a light?

  15. Matthew says:

    The worms will not usually crawl unless its to moist or more unlikely to dry. Try reducing the moisture a little.

  16. Jeanette says:

    What was the outcome of the mites or tiny bugs. Will they hurt my worms?

  17. Mike says:

    Matthew
    Just getting ready for worms, I have a compost bin. It is a round cylinder about 3 1/2 feet in diameter, on a frame with a handle to rotate it. To me it seems ideal for a worm bed, what’s your opinion? Also what worms are best? I don’t want the tiny red wigglers, too little to put on a hook.
    Mike

  18. Larry says:

    Matthew,
    I enjoy your website. I have a 18 gallon worm bin and would like to get a start of night crawlers to raise and put in our daylily beds.
    What kind and how many worms would I need to get a good start, also about how long would it take for these worms to double in numbers.
    Thanks, Larry in Texas

  19. KR says:

    Hi, we picked up the worms at the post office yesterday, and they were fine. I prepared a bed of torn newspaper and Wal-Mart peat moss (seemed rich) and added 1 cup of banana to a corner of the box. I added a little bit of coffee grounds this morning. There were a dozen dead worms on the cement this morning. What should I do? Many thanks!

  20. Matthew says:

    Sounds like you provably just need to put a light over them for just a day or to till they get settled in to their new home.

  21. Matthew says:

    Hey Larry,

    They should reproduce well and you could have lots of baby worms in 90 days. I would start with 2-3 pounds of worms.

  22. wayne mitchell says:

    I got my worms and put them in my be.My bed is 6ft long,3ft wide and 20in deep.I put 2 lbs of worms in there.How long will it take before I start seeing little ones. Will the worms go to the bottom of my bed or will they stay around the top?

  23. Matthew says:

    You should start seeing new worms in 45 or so days. It all just depends upon a ton of factors. They will feed on top, but go down to avoid adverse conditions.

  24. John Wayne says:

    I am raising red wiggler worms in two separate bins in my storage building. The worms are eating nd I’m harvesting castings on a regular basis. I have been thinking about raising some European nightcrawlers and wondered if they could be grown in the same bins for awhile until I have more room for growing cleared/ Thanks from Versailles, Kentucky

  25. Matthew says:

    Hey John Wayne,
    Yes they can be grown in the same bin and they will not harm each other. They will not interbreed either. However they would be difficult to separate in the future if you ever wanted to make a bin of one strain. Otherwise no problems.

  26. M.E. says:

    Hi Matt I had a thriving worm farm for about 3 years but last year, here in Fl. was almost a record year for cold temps. Well, I went to feed my worms, 1 day and found a hole gnawed in the top of my worm bin and I HAD NO WORMS LEFT!!!! Is it possible that a rat ate my worms????? TYVM, M.E.

  27. Matthew says:

    Its hard to say, I guess it would be possible. Moles like worms, but I don’t see a mole gnawing a hole. In any case there should be some eggs left that should be hatching soon, can you tell if they are many eggs or baby worms?

  28. William says:

    Hey Matt,
    I am looking into buying some red worms and some European worms about a pound of each how big of a worm bed do I need. I would like to raise them in separate beds

  29. MICHAEL says:

    Do you ship worms this time of year? Will they freeze in shipping?

  30. Matthew says:

    Yes we ship year round. I am even shipping into Canada currently, so it is not an issue.

  31. Matthew says:

    It will not hurt them to have them in the same bed, but if you will ever want to separate them it will be impossible. lol

  32. Faye says:

    I just found your site, I am just starting. to collect casting, a firt timeer. I am trying to find out as much about it as I can so I have happy worms.
    I know people that have cattle, an I go an dig in the manure an collect worms red wigglers for in my bins that I have all set up. I just want to try this on a small scale, for my own personal use. That way I know my fertilizer is all organic.
    You have a great site

  33. peggy says:

    Thinking about raising worms for bait, but am concerned about all the ants we have here in AL. Will they hurt the worms and what can I do to keep them out?

  34. Matthew says:

    Hey Peggy,
    The ants i know can get into the beds to get food, but the will not build a nest inside the beds as they are kept to wet for ants to bed in. So you only have to build a perimeter around the beds to keep the ants out. I personally have never had any problems with ants in my worm beds.

  35. Sarah says:

    I am building a terrarium type project for Honors Bio, and we have to make an ecosystem in a closed off bottle. I’m putting worms in a large glass jar with newpaper, peat moss and some soil with flowers planted in it. Will this work? Will my worms survive?

  36. Matthew says:

    I am not sure but I think its a possibility that they will. Sounds like a very neat project.

  37. chad says:

    Im just starting the prossess into composting with worms as well as using some tor fishing. With having a family of six we may go through 3-4 pounds of fruits and veg. A wk. Going to begin with a 15 gal rubber maid. Would u suggest the European night crawlers? How many pounds should I start off with? Final question is how fast do they reproduce? By the way I love how u have ur web site set up

  38. Marcus Gibson says:

    Hey Matt,I’m new to worm farming and I”m considering raising Red Worms.I live in West Tn and there’s not many Worm Farms in my area.I was wondering how many cups would a pound of Red worms fill?

  39. Matthew says:

    a pound of worms should fill 20-30 cups depending upon how many you place in a cup. Everyone does it a little differently.

  40. Debbie Horton says:

    Hi Matt

    What do the worm can eat I just bought some and have no Idea what to do I’ve read different articles on what they can eat and what they can’t eat. Can you help me.

  41. Matthew says:

    Worms are not picky eaters so just about any fruit, vegetable, nut or bean will work. This includes coffee and filters, egg shells, bread, lettuce, other vegetable and fruits.

  42. Michael says:

    Hello Matt,
    Another SC native here. One of the founders of the Generous Garden was telling me about your facility. Did not realize you guys were in Greer. I have a question about what to do with the worm bins in the winter? Will the worms survive through a winter in Greenville, SC outside in the cold? I read your comment about keeping them deeper than the freeze line? How can that be accomplished?

  43. Johnnie says:

    Enjoyed your Beginner’s Guide to Worm Farming.

  44. Johnnie says:

    Can coconut hanging basket plant liners be used for worm farming?

  45. Matthew says:

    Thanks, and I am not really sure. I would guess so. How are you suggesting to use them?

  46. Jordan says:

    I liked Micheals question and i don’t see an answer to it. I’ve read all the comments just to get the best understanding possible but didn’t 100% comprehend the whole thing about keeping them under the freeze line. How deep would that be in any container? And is there any other possible ways to keep them alive and reproducing properly in cold temperatures without dying?

  47. Jordan says:

    And sorry to bother you with another comment (i just thought about it after i submitted) about how many worms would you say you’d put to a small rubbermade container? Or better yet approx. how many per square feet or square inch? so basically about how much space would one worm in itself need to grow and reproduce at the fastest and healthiest rate?

  48. Brian says:

    Hey Matthew, I am a beginner. What temperature should I set for worm bin of Night Crawlers? Do I need keep them in the refrigerator?

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