Everyone who composts with worms has asked themselves, “How much should I feed composting worms?” Red Worms are ideal composting worms. They need regular feedings of kitchen scraps and gardening waste. Composting worms quickly convert these scraps into valuable organic fertilizer. Feed composting worms too little, and they starve. Feed them too much, and they can’t keep up. Too much rotting organic matter can cause odors, mold growth, excess moisture, and damage to the bin’s ecosystem. Find out how much food is just enough for your worms.
In theory, red worms can eat half their weight each day. This number applies to a settled worm population under ideal conditions. Since worm bin owners start out with new composting bins, we will also start there.
If the worms just arrived in the bin, they will need time to adjust. New composting enthusiasts tend to over-fill the bin with excess scraps. Like anxious new pet owners, they don’t want their new worms to starve. Worms shipped from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm arrive somewhat dehydrated. They have not eaten in a few days. Packed in peat moss, the worms had little to eat. The worms slow down and go into a partially dormant state. They need a little time in their new worm bin to dig in and get comfy. They are also starting to eat the bedding. When adding new worms to a new composting bin:
- Follow instructions for preparing the bedding. Usually this is, some combination of coconut coir, pure peat moss, shredded black ink newspaper, and/or dry leaves are mixed together.
- Make sure the bedding has the consistency of a wrung-out sponge. Stir.
- Place the worms on top of the bedding. Let them dig their own way in. This lets them make air holes and find their way around.
- Dig a hole and place a single feeding in one area of the bin. If you don’t know what they eat, see what to feed your worms. Cover it with bedding. Check the chart below for the amount of food you should give them.
- WAIT until they have made a good start on this feeding before feeding them again.
How Much to Feed Composting Worms by Weight
# Uncle Jim’s Red Worms Ordered | Worm Weight* | Food**
500 worms | 1/2 lb of worms | 1/4 lb of food
1000 worms | 1 lb of worms | 1/2 lb of food
2000 worms | 2 lbs | 1 lb of food
*Approximate Weight of Worms when shipped, not including bedding
**Half of Their Weight (Amount they can eat per day, ideally)
Note: In a healthy bin, the worms will reproduce. More worms mean you need to feed them more.
Feeding an Established Bin
You will find yourself feeding the worms every day, or every couple of days, or a few times a week. Feeding frequency will depend on how fast they work through their food. Also, your schedule might be tight, allowing feedings twice a week.
If you are going on vacation and don’t have a pet sitter, feed composting worms their typical amount, then place cardboard or newspaper on top of the food. They will start eating the cellulose when the food runs out.
Weighing your worms is not very practical. Separating the worms from their bedding and popping them up on a scale every month is way-overkill. Unless you are running a scientific experiment, you’ll need another method: for example, feed composting worms them in a pattern.
We recommend feeding them along the bin’s interior wall in a clockwise or counterclockwise pattern.
- If practical, cut the food up small using a knife or food processor. More surface area helps them eat faster.
- Dig a small hole in the bedding against the composting bin’s wall.
- Place the food in the hole.
- Cover with bedding.
- In a day or two, check to see if the worms have found the food and started eating it.
- When the worms have made a good showing on this food, dig a hole next to it and deposit a new feeding. Cover with bedding.
- Repeat steps 1-6. When you reach the starting point again, all of the original feeding will be gone – converted into fertilizer.
- Don’t wait until all the food is gone, or the worms might start going hungry. They will quietly die off and produce less fertilizer.
Feeding in this pattern makes the food easy for the worms to find. This method also helps you figure out how often and how much to feed them.
Consequences When You Feed Composting Worms Too Much
Feeding worms too much food has consequences:
- Acidity. A low pH can be caused by excess food and too much acidic food. Your worms are in real danger of dying. See our advice on bin acidity.
- Odor. Too much rotting food will stink up the bin. The bin should have an earthy odor. If you smell something, see Keeping Your Worm Bin Odor-Free.
- Pests. Unwanted critters will smell something good and move in. Learn more about mites, fruit flies, & ants.
- Excess moisture. Food scraps are moist. Puddles, excessively damp bedding, and bad odor are signs. Learn about worm bin moisture.
Feed your worms chopped-up kitchen scraps – not too much, and not too little. If you have excess scraps, refrigerate or freeze them for later. Or, dispose of them in the trash, down the garbage disposal unit, or in another composting pile. It’s better to waste a little food than harm your worm bin.
20 comments on “How Much to Feed Composting Worms?”
do worms live ib spetic leach field ?
Worms only eats decomposing organic matter
Enjoyed article, I am a beginner at the worm game. Please publish more of anything that I might need to know. Thanks
I have a relatively new bin, a couple of weeks old and I a nervous first time “parent”. I read your note #3… “Place the worms on top of the bedding. Let them dig their own way in. This lets them make air holes and find their way around.”
I did that originally but feared I had too little bedding, so I made more in a second bin and moved the original, one week old bedding and worms to the new bin. reading your note above, I’m afraid I buried them alive and I don’t want to dig around too much, I’m afraid I will damage them with my hands. How delicate are they?
I was feeding them more and only twice a week. I think I will try feeding them smaller portions and doing it more often.
I have the worm juice in the bottom pan. do I mix it with water ? and then how much do I put in a potted plant.
is there a market for worm juice if I have too much. or is there such a thing
I have a garden tower. How often should I be completely emptying my compost cylinder and when I do does that mean I need to buy more worms? I am a bit unclear on this part! Thank you in advance!
Just thinking about how much fertilizer I can produce for my hydroponics pots.
Maybe you can help? For example, if I have 500 worms | 1/2 lb of worms | 1/4 lb of food, then what ‘fertilizer value’ might I get from this?
Would it support one pot with an active tomato plan growing in it? or more? or less?
And what volume of bin would that quantity of worms require?
I expect it is not an exact science, but would hope to get some idea; of course it will become clear in the doing of it!
Does temperature make a difference on how fast they feed?
I’ve just stared my bin in the basement. They are eating slower than I anticipated and I am wondering if the upper 50s temp has anything to do about it.
I have 4 outdoor bin I’be just added rabbit manure,food scraps, leaves, crushed egg shells,grass clippings,and coffee grinds for the past 6months. Now that the temps in the Northeast are rising I want to add Red Wigglers. I plan to start ordering 2k this week up to 1k by the end of March early April. Am I doing the right thing? Oops I also have plenty of newspaper and cardboard in the compost too all inside totes with holes. I also didn’t cover them.
I have 21 bins of five different brands. EACH has advantages and disadvantages. I hope to get a four by four by 16 foot block bin finished before the weather cools very much. I will insulate it and cover for winter to prevent freezing and will expect a good start next spring. Hopefully will begin that with at least 10,000 red wigglers in October. Each of my bins require different feeding and watering needs. The ones requiring the most attention and most fragile care are: 1, The worm factory. Three of those bins have died and the newly hatched worms are supplying a new start. 2. The urban bag dried out fastest and requires almost as much attention as the worm factory. 3. Forgot the name of this one but similar to worm factory and after a great start with good attention, the worms died but a newly hatched generation is taking over without a hitch. 4.-5. right now at a tie for my affections are the Hot Frog and Can O Worms. with two hot frogs and three Can O Worms I will produce as much as 12 urban bags. The Hot Frog is spectacular in design, build, and less maintenance than anything I can imagine. Very little watering necessary; almost self-watering, well insulated and close to same temperature all the time, very efficient. The only complaint I have is too small but I can live with that. The CanOWorms is a good workhorse with only feeding and water necessary most of the time. With more bins inside I hope to hit the million plus worms by next August. Fishing a big sport around here so you can guess where some of the worms will go. I try to get my worms to eat more dry food but organic corn meal is their favorite there. Have tried a little organic soy bean meal but do not recommend that for indoor bins. Too much danger of over acid and heat from that. Only put a small amount in the bins but took most of it out the next day when I saw what was happening and gave a healthy dose of water to flush the bins. Feeding indoor bins need constant adjustment in food and care about PH. I plan on beginning harvesting castings next May for sale and maybe a little in April for my organic garden. I already see the wisdom of long delays in harvest to maximize worm reproduction. I plan of reinforcing legs on CanO Worms bins to accommodate extra weight. If I can make more room in October will add a few more bins to get me through the summer next year, then go with more block insulated bins outside. Uncle Jim’s worms have been the sole source for worms and from past experience with other sources I give them a five star pus super rating. Thanks for this latest info. I already see a way to improve my feeding and also lower the cost somewhat. Thank you UJW.
How big would my bin need to be for 500 worms is that a good number to start with how long does it take to reproduce how many should I start off with I have 6 chicken
I tried raising red wrigglers in the past and they survived for about 2 years. They never got very big. I would like to use some for fishing. I tried feeding them more but I think I fed them too much. I would like to try again using a bigger worm that can live in the tower I bought from you. Please give me suggestions.
I just ordered 2000 worms. I am using a Rubbermate bin. About 16″ tall X 15″ X 20″ Will this be large enough?
Diana, fish will eat worms big or small, anything I go fishing I use at least 1 or 2 worms if going for a big fish like a large mouth bass, for smaller bass or bluegill you only need 1 worm on the hook.
Pep that should be large enough as long as you fill the bin halfway with soil so they can make holes
I purchased 250 Red Wrigglers a couple of months ago to compost in my garage over the winter. (Near Dallas, Texas). I have a surplus of dry leaves in my backyard. I add coffee grounds. If bread gets old, I toast it, then crush it into powder or sand. Carrots and potatoes are shredded with a cheese grater. Old bananas are also cut up and added. After 2 months, I see lots of baby worms. Dry egg shells also crushed into sand size.
Btw, when the Temps got colder, I switched from a clear plastic bin to a large plastic trash can. Thicker plastic and more material seems to provide enough room to keep the worms warm enough.
Lastly, no lids. Just an LED shop light placed above the open trash can. Light stays on all the time. I turn the dirt/leaves/compost once or twice a week just to see how they are doing. I like to see those little worms wriggle.
VERY HAPPY with my purchase of 250 Red Wrigglers from Uncle Jim’s.
I bought 2000 worms and some worm food as well. I should have read more info before i got them. I put them directly into the raised gardens, dug about a 4 or 5 inch trench in various places right in the soil. I gave them some watermelon, egg shells and apples before i dropped them in-and then buried them. I just got my food from you yeaterday. It is still faily cool outside and i am going to go dig some holes in the trenches and add the food. Is this a reasonable way to take care of them or what should i do. I will gently work some compost into the dirt as well. And for feeding food scraps do i just lay it on top or what?
You can sprinkle the food on the top of the soil once a week. 1/2 to a cup. The worms will find the food as they burrow. Please let us know if you need further assistance.