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. 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 compliment each other and, with a little direction, can create a nutrient loop feeding each other! 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 larvae has matured enough and wants to become a fly he needs to make a cocoon and “go to ground.” The reason he doesn’t cocoon and stay in the food is because 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 larva tries to go to dirt under the food it hits plastic and is directed up a channel into a harvesting pail… or, directly into the feed trough of your quail!
Quail are another nice addition to the backyard farm. The Corturnix Quail are especially adapt 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 down side 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 it’s 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 are the perfect fish for this set up. They are omnivorous, eating both bugs and plants alike. They are hardy fish too, handling higher temperature waters, and other adverse conditions. They 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. Deep water 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…
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 mean time, give it a go! Raise some animals and let us know about your progress!