Mealworms for your chickens
Posted 02 July 2012 - 10:17 PM
Posted 03 July 2012 - 07:53 AM
The problem with them is that they are considered a 'hot' feed, meaning very rich in large amounts and they cannot be fed as the sole source of nutrition. The amount fed to the bird depends on their need and has to be closely controlled if that is their only protein source. Chicks and young birds are especially vulnerable to overeating them if their diet isn't rounded out with other foods. The meal worms also need a feed source and that is grain based. In a SHTF situation that might be hard to find but at least a little goes a long way with the meal worms for the amount of protein and fat they produce.
Another suggestion for feeding chickens, though not a real nice one, is hanging meat in a mesh over the chickens and allowing flies to lay their eggs on it. Once hatched, the larva fall to the floor and the chickens eat them as protein. Of course, the meat will smell and eventually rot and need to be replaced and some larva will escape and hatch into flies but that would be looked on as self perpetuating food source too.
Still another home grown source of nutrients for chickens are earth worms. Red worms being the easiest to grow in containers. Unlike the meal worms, earth or red worms can be readily found in the soil and grown in more soil,shredded newspaper, and various other mediums. They can be fed a large variety of foods including weeds and grass, coffee grounds, and peelings. Their 'bedding', worm castings, are a super addition to the garden or field crops, can be used on houseplants, and in hydroponic solutions for inside vegetable or fruit growing.
Many years ago I read of a system for feeding chickens in an old agriculture book that today would have been considered 'permaculture'. I always wanted to try it and did use some of the principles over the years. The chicken house was set up so that a fenced chicken run was attached on either side and these areas were seeded with various grasses and grains. The chickens were allowed into the pens alternatively and the other replanted after the chickens had scrached and pecked and ate what was in the pen. The size of the pen had to be proportionate to the number of chickens and for how fast the seeds/grain would grow. This gave the chickens free range to eat not only the greens but also the bugs brought in by them while still keeping the chickens safe from predators. As the chickens ate they also fertilized the soil though I believe ashes and other ammendments were added to the soil from time to time. I have used this same set up only I was careful to control the length of time the chickens were allowed into a pen and would rotate them before the plants had been killed. This allowed the grasses to regrow without having to replant though I did occassionally reseed any bare areas and periodically I would allow the chickens to take the pen down to bare scratched up dirt and then replant.
In the model(and I will admit I haven't tried this part yet), inside the chicken house were several worm beds under the roosts. These beds were built of concrete blocks on the sides and deep enough the worms wouldn't escape and had hinged chicken wire covers over their tops. The birds own manure dropping through the wire fed the worms, working in the same way as worm beds under rabbit cages do. The worm beds were opened alternatively for short periods of time to allow the chickens to self feed on the worms, giving them the protein and fat they needed to complement the greens and bugs outside. Again, it seems the number of chickens dictates to the number of worm beds needed. The rich worm castings were periodically harvested and in the case of this model, were sold as fertilizer. We'd use it on our gardens of course. According to the author of the article, chickens could be raised easily this way with less work required and they would be healthier than when fed strictly grain. In addition, the money from worm castings, eggs, and meat more than paid for any expenses and gave a large profit to the farmer.
Sounds reasonable, however this was done in the south where the weather was cooperative for year round growing but not so great for us northern people. Having been studying permaculture the last couple of years though, I believe this model could work if the chicken coop was also connected to a green house. Greens could be grown in one section while the chickens were in another and the body heat from the chickens (and perhaps even rabbits) would give enough warmth to keep the plants growing and the worms active. The extra light would benefit the laying ability of the chickens and an area of the green house could also be used for human food. It's possible if it's set up right, the nest boxes could form the base for a seed starting area and the body heat from the chickens below would act as a heat source for the growing plants.
I'm sure there are other symbiotic relationships that could be used in the same way. I know some are using chickens in a greenhouse for raising algae to feed fish and humans both. And still others are using plants and fish symbiotically. These might take time and expense to set up originally but if set up now it would be an almost perpetual self feeding enterprise during lean times.
This is an interesting topic. I'm looking forward to hearing other's ideas on this subject. Thanks for posting it, Dogmom.
Posted 09 July 2012 - 12:21 AM
I know I could grow some of these myself.
Homemade Poultry Feed Mix - 2 parts whole corn
- 3 parts soft white wheat
- 3 parts hard red winter wheat
- ½ part Diatomaceous Earth (not the kind you put in your pool)
- 1 part hulled barley
- 1 part oat groats
- 2 part sunflower seeds
- ½ part peanuts
- 1 part wheat bran
- 1 part split peas
- 1 part lentils
- 1 part quinoa
- 1 part sesame seeds
- 1/2 part kelp
Mix the feed by hand so that it is thoroughly mixed. It doesn't hurt to run your hands through it before feeding in case something settles. This is based on a good bit of Internet research from a variety of places. You may find Bird Farm helpful. It has a lot of specialty mixes. Another good place for information is the forum at Backyard Chickens.
Keep the oyster shell calcium in a container so the chickens can eat it as they need to.
Posted 09 July 2012 - 07:57 AM
The Martian Worm Farm
A Slice of Heaven
Bystander: A Tale of the End of the World as SHE Knew It!
Christmas In Bystander & Other Village Tales
Posted 09 July 2012 - 03:26 PM
I also Googled 'how to grow maggots for chicken feed. Who would've thought you could find so many posts and even a you tube video for that?!
Posted 30 July 2012 - 08:11 AM
My beef with meal worms is that they eat the same food that you should be feeding directly to the chickens.
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