I recently opened the lid of my compost bin to find a startled mouse (or young rat, more likely) dining out on the latest load of food scraps. It’s no surprise that it chose this spot as the nights grow cooler – with underfloor heating (from the composting process), grassy bedding and the frequent addition of nutritious snacks, it’s a five-star accommodation option.

This type of encounter can be very off-putting for home composters, with the potential for compost bins to be abandoned, leading to many tonnes of organic waste ending up in landfills around the country.

Rats are a reason to be nervous

It was the presence of a rat and its family in my bin many years ago that made me nervous of my plain old compost bin (pictured). I retired that bin and tried other options for processing my food scraps, including my best worm farm (a Hungry Bin) which I highly recommend. (I wrote more about composting and worm farming options in this article.)

What worms like and dislike

My worms love mushrooms, avocado and bananas. The manual says too much bread isn’t a good thing, but my worms go crazy for it. I guess they have a penchant for carbs, even if they’re not the healthiest option!

They’re not keen on anything with a tang of sulphur like onions and garlic, or acidic veges like tomatoes and chillies. They’d also like their food chopped up, please.

Why worm farmers still need a compost bin

With so many foods on their ‘not our preference’ list, worm farmers still need to have a compost bin to chuck those things in, which leads me back to my humble, very old black compost bin. Every time I fill it to the brim with old papers, grass, leaves and sticks, and all those onions, potatoes and corn cobs my worm-farm worms rejected, it looks like I won’t be able to add anything more for quite some time. But if I pour some water in as well there’s always a good 30cm of clear space by the next day.

Just add chicken wire

Plenty of room for a mouse … or yes, its murine cousin, the rat … to enjoy the fruits of my hospitality. But now I have a solution, and it’s so simple. Put chicken wire under the base of the bin, extending it up over the row of aeration holes. It’s brilliant, and very reassuring when lifting the lid to have no startled – or defiant – eyes looking back at me.

Worm farm or compost bin?

If you are weighing up whether to have a compost bin or a worm farm, get a compost bin. You can’t beat a workhorse compost bin for uncomplicated processing of your organic waste. But if you do have the time and space, having a worm farm as well will produce ongoing, easy access to worm juice and vermicast, which your plants will love and reward you for. And then from time to time, you can up-end the compost bin, fight your way through the chicken wire, and get your hands on the black gold waiting there.