Sunday, November 13, 2011

Integration of Concepts and Ideas: The Chicken, Black Soldier Fly, Earthworm Composter

Permaculture can be continually and infinitely expanded on the developments of systems and the combinations of systems.

I've been recently reading up on the integration of black soldier fly (Hermetia ilucens) and earthworms such as red wigglers (Eisenia fetida). Referring back to the permaculture chicken, it is beneficial to determine the necessities, habits, behaviors, intrinsic traits and so on of the organism.

To integrate black soldier fly and worms requires the same concept. After considering the process, it can become clear what are the hurdles that need to be addressed to move out of the limitation of the impossible, to the possible, experimentation and trials and finally the reality.

Black Soldier Fly enjoy temperatures of 90-94 degrees Fahrenheit while Eisenia fetida enjoy temperatures ranging from 70-84 degrees for optimum health. Furthermore, black soldier fly effluent attracts the female fly to lay eggs there. If earthworms are to coexist in this environment, they have to endure the temperature extremes. The liquid effluent from the soldier fly also creates a dilemma if the worm castings are desired for garden beds.

These limitations present the dynamic of what needs to be considered for this integration to be successful, and there lies an answer (in the title). Lets consider the life cycles of the black soldier fly.

Black soldier fly can reduce food and manure by 95% within a day. Containers are also created so that the soldier fly are self-harvesting as the mature pupae search for ground to metamorph into the adult fly and reproduce.

Since they are self-harvesting, black soldier fly can feed themselves to a flock of chickens who will then form a package of fertilizer for our earthworms to digest into rich castings. In the picture below, the BSF bin can be placed next to the coop. It is missing a ramp for the pupae to travel to their fatal death. Some can be saved to ensure that the populations of Black Soldier Fly larvae remain adequate for chicken feed or expansion.

There does lie another issue of the chicken manure being too hot and the habit of chickens to eat insects such as worms. This can be turned into a benefit and an opportunity.

Eisenia fetida is preferred due to its nature of processing large amounts of food. However, chicken manure is rich in nitrogen and will spark a compost pile when added with water and carbon sources such as paper and cardboard in a worm bin. Furthermore, we don't want our worm populations to dwindle as open chicken feed.

To cure these ailments, we can seperate the worm bin into seperate areas based on the temperature. One region will be for hot activated compost, warm compost, and cool worm castings. We then create a barrier between our chickens and the worms so we can allow the worms to happily multiply and reproduce while still having the chicken manure drop below to be composted.

By simply mapping the resources of each of these organisms we can move toward potential systems that cater to the ecological and economic success through permaculture. Although this does not entirely address the integration of black soldier fly and earth worms, it can still be separately integrated and complimented. For example, food sources such as duckweed for fish in an aquaponic system are separate from the fish or animal source since they can be diminished if not readily available, endangered, or shifted from optimum conditions (temperature, habitat, etc).

Furthermore, the effluent from black soldier can still be utilized to enhance earthworm health and vitality. Collection bins to collect the black soldier fly effluent can be dumped into the earthworm bin and further digested. Since the chickens are above the earth worm bin, they will work to prevent the infiltration of black soldier fly into our worm bins. This also can be partnered during a season of the year when the black soldier fly is not or cannot reproduce along its life cycle.

Other potentials exist as well to create further possibilities. For example, the chickens can be positioned above an aquaculture system where their manure will feed bottom feeders who feed plants through an aquaponic system.

The next evolution is to integrate these concepts within our social realm so that the disciplines of ecology, economics and sociology are utilized to create new potentials for solving world problems. The next post will provide a framework to cure the social diseases of our society (such as poverty and its associated ailments) by using these methods to create the foundation of our well being.


  1. How timely Chow! A group of interns here at the PRI are working on a system to integrate Rabbits with a Worm/Black Solder Fly setup. I'll pass this along to them!

  2. I hope it helps (and works), Theron.

  3. I think they are going to test a system that integrates these various elements... I'll let you know how it turns out. Your research is already contributing to their research... with any luck, their research will also contribute to yours!

  4. haha that's awesome. I have another design for the chicken, bsf, earthworm combo, and I was thinking about the rabbit, bsf and earthworm combo. For the rabbits, I don't believe it is necessary to integrate the BSF into the equation.

    rabbit manure is considered "cold." You can simply have a rabbit cage over an earthworm bin. There's not really a need for the BSF, in my opinion.

    There's a good article on Mother Earth News on Rabbits and Earthworms. Which you can read up on below.

  5. It is interesting to see what other people are doing with their worms and chickens. I have a symbiotic relationship going with my laying hens, eisenia fetida, and my garden.

    How well do your eisenia fetida do on strictly chicken litter diet?

    I like your coop design, but it would not work for me because my hens like sleeping outside.