Thursday, September 8, 2011

Something new in the Chicken kingdom

     I am always looking for things that are sustainable and  renewable, especially when it comes to feeding the chickens and now quail.  Enter the meal worm. Though not actually a 'worm' , it is instead  the larval stage of the Darkling beetle.
High in protein and low in fat they are a wonderful
treat to feed to the birds.  I had bought some freeze
dried ones before and my birds loved them.
However, buying them freeze dried is a bit expensive.  So, after a little research and preparing I placed my order online and got 2,200 of them two days later.

What do they need at a glance: 
* Stable Temperatures.  Warmer temps for growth, 45-50 to slow down metabolism if needed.
* Smooth sided bin, either glass or plastic, deeper is better.
*Wheat bran for bedding about 3 inches or so deep.  They also use this for food.
*Something for moisture like a slice of apple, carrot or potato

What will you see happening: 
* Upon setting up and getting your worms, they will eat and shed their exoskeletons as they grow.
*Once they are grown, they will become small white pupa that will  become beetles.
*Once the beetles are grown, they will run around mating and laying eggs in the wheat bran which will hatch   as teeny tiny baby worms and the cycle begins again.

  Starting a colony  is so very simple and you can easily do this yourselves.  All you need is a cheap plastic bin with deep, smooth sides ( to prevent escape).  You can get these at the dollar store or walmart  very inexpensively.  If you use a bin with a lid, then you will need to add a lot of holes for air circulation or you could simply make a top out of screen.  I saw where someone had used a 10 gallon aquarium and  bought a ready made screen lid that fit it perfectly.    Once you get your container, then  add wheat bran for the bedding which is also what they eat. You can find this at  most health food stores, or grocery stores, even feed and seed stores carry it.  For moisture, a slice of apple, carrot,  potato,  or similar item is placed inside.  I put mine on a small plastic lid to keep from getting the bran moldy, as moisture in the bran will cause mold and  is a bad thing.  Toss in a couple pieces of newspaper and you are set to start your  meal worm farm.  

I have mine inside to keep the temperatures warm as I want to be able to feed them year round, especially in the winter when there aren't any bugs  to be found and all my chickens will have is feed.    Should I ever have too many,(doubtful- have you seen my chickens eat?!) I can then place some wheat bran in a dish, place them inside and cover with lid and put them in the refrigerator for  weeks at a time.

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