Everybody knows that I’m big on bunnies… Cute, fluffy and delicious! But did you know that I’m also into quail, black soldier fly larvae, fish and aquaponics in general? Not only do I raise these creatures but we at Hostile Hare have figured out a way to integrate all of these into the same nutrient cycle. We call it Hare-O-Ponics: Practical Backyard Livestock Integration.
Hare-O-Ponics, or H.O.P. for short, is the best way you can apply the principles of livestock integration in your own backyard. It’s easy to raise rabbits, it’s easy to raise quail, and with a little bit of attention to detail, it’s pretty easy to raise fish in an aquaponics system. These three protein sources can complement each other and, with a little direction, can create a nutrient loop feeding each other!
Black Soldier Fly Larva
Rabbits eat 4 to 6 oz of food daily and they poop almost as much. So you can figure on 4 to 5 oz of manure per bunny in this system. This Now let’s put rabbits aside (the entire HostileHare.com page has info on rabbit raising, go check it out for questions on raising rabbits) and go to the next link in the nutrient chain: black soldier flies.
Black soldier flies are native to most region 7 growing zones, migrating to warmer climates or going dormant during winter months. As an adult, they do not eat. Their sole purpose is to breed and lay eggs. As a larva, they live for about 2 weeks. Mama black soldier fly lays her eggs suspended above a food source. When baby black soldier fly hatches as a larva he falls into the food and begins munching away on his journey to become a big bad black soldier fly himself. When the larva has matured enough and wants to become a fly he needs to make a cocoon and “go to ground.”
The reason the larva doesn’t cocoon and stay in the food is that the rest of his brothers and sisters are so ravenous that they would eat anything that holds still long enough to let them. So he will try to get into the dirt and out of the food… And that’s where your special composter comes in to play. I use the biopod in its many forms, hopefully, we’ll have it for sale soon (check back frequently). Basically, as the larvae try to go to dirt under the food they hit plastic and are directed up a channel into a harvesting pail… or, directly into the feed trough of your quail!
The Coturnix Quail
Quail is another nice addition to the backyard farm. The Coturnix Quail are especially adept for backyard breeding and small-scale operations. I won’t go into the details on how to raise Quail here, but just know they are more efficient than chickens on feed, space, and egg production. There is a downside though, they are MESSY eaters!
People who raise quail have reported 25% waste of feed when feeding quail over waste trays. Some people try to recover the dropped feed but risk contamination of the feed with the quail manure. It’s never a good idea to expose an animal to its own manure. So how do we save the wasted feed that quail drop? Well, we put fish under them that eat the same kind of feed!
By suspending quail over a water source that feeds a fish tank, all the waste will flow into the tank and feed the fish! Tilapia is the perfect fish for this setup. They are omnivorous, eating both bugs and plants alike. They are hardy fish too, handling higher temperature waters, and other adverse conditions.
Tilapia can be stocked densely if there is enough oxygen and filtration. The fish will happily pick up the wasted quail feed and even some of the quail waste. Don’t be weirded out, some fish thrive on the waste of other animals. All the fish need is oxygen in the water, feed, and good filtration. This filtration is accomplished through ebb & flow aquaponic garden beds.
Again, we will skirt the details of the subject of aquaponics, there is a lot of great info out there on it, please investigate. In short, aquaponic beds fill with dirty water that deposits nitrites and ammonia on the media. Bacteria change the nitrites and ammonia into nitrates which plants can absorb. Plants are planted directly into the soil-less filter media and consume the nitrates, helping clean the water.
Deepwater cultures can be paired with the ebb and flow beds to grow floating rafts of lettuce and other leafy greens. This will pull more nitrogen out of the water and put it to work. The DWC beds can grow crawfish too… though, there is some debate on their impact on the system…
A Good Start
The Hare-O-Ponics method is still new and doesn’t have percentages of water filtration to animal “input” yet. Figure on one quail producing the same waste as 8-10 tilapia for now… as we progress with this new style of backyard farming we will produce more literature and media on the subject. In the meantime, give it a go! Raise some animals and let us know about your progress!