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How to Raise Mealworms for Chickens

How to Raise Mealworms for Chickens

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If you have chickens, you know how much they love mealworms. It’s like chicken crack. Have you ever thought about raising mealworms for chickens? Great news! Not only is raising your own mealworms easy, but it’s cheap AND you could end up selling them and make a little spending $$. 

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How To Raise Your Own Mealworms


If you have fed your chickens, or other livestock mealworms, you also know how much they cost. Ooohhh boy, they cost about the same per pond as a good steak! For a worm? 

Part of farm life is living a frugal life. When you spend $10.00 on a measly 1 lb of mealworms, it’s hardly cost effective or frugal. I will show you how you can raise your own mealworms for just a fraction of the cost of buying them. Not to mention, they are a healthy and nutritious treat for your livestock. 

How To Raise Mealworms for Chickens

Whether you have land or a condo, mealworms are something that anyone can raise. 

Even if you don’t have livestock, you can raise mealworms to sell to those that do! You’ll notice by the materials list that you can raise mealworms with a minimum investment. 

What you will need: 

  • Organic Live Mealworms
  • Housing (plastic bins or totes)
  • A dark area to house them. Closets work great
  • Oats, wheat bran, or cornmeal.
  • Produce scraps
  • Cardboard egg cartons 

Mealworm Housing

So for housing, the plastic drawers I have work great, anything works though, the beetles don’t escape so it is easy to contain them.

They don’t like light so anything that makes it dark is great. In addition to the storage bins, YouTube offers tons of videos on building your own contraptions. You can go all out or just simply use a tote.     

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Mealworm Bedding & Food

For bedding, you can use oats, wheat bran (or cornmeal), or a combination of the two. You should be able to find either at your local grocery and feed store. 
Bedding should be about 3 inches for them to burrow in. Add some cardboard egg cartons or drink trays from a drive through. 
I was using oats and wheat bran for their food, now mostly just wheat bran. I put in potatoes, kitchen scraps such as carrot peels, celery and such for their moisture, refreshing whenever needed which usually is a few weeks or so. The wheat bran lasts a few months so it is very cheap to grow them.

The list is very small on what they can’t eat, but pretty much like the chickens, they are what they eat so any veggies, but the wheat bran is their main food source.

Mealworm Climate

The temp to keep them at is just room temp. Too hot and they die, too cold and they die, they need a dark place to be in since they hate light. I would say in the 60’s seems to be ideal. Any closet or dark pantry works great for raising mealworms. 

For the moisture, they just need a little, so as long as there is something (food scraps) in there it is good. A potato cut in half works great but you can also pile in whatever scraps you have, they will use them up. As long as nothing is molding then you are fine. if anything starts molding, just remove it.

how-to-raise-mealworms-for-chickens

Harvesting Mealworms

Their life cycle is pretty simple, they are worms and keep molting for their stages, they molt about 15 times by the time they are adults then they will molt into pupa, then they will come out a white beetle and then slowly turn black.
From start to finish it is about 3 months. Beetles live a couple months then die, the worms will eat the dead ones and the cycle continues on. You can actually harvest mealworms at anytime. I wait until they are larger, judging what I have on hand and what I need to keep so I can keep breeding.     

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More Than Just Chickens: Animals That Eat Mealworms

In addition to your chickens loving mealworms, the following animals enjoy eating them as well. 

  • Ducks
  • Pigs
  • Wild and Domestic Birds
  • Reptiles i.e. lizards
  • Fish

After realizing the different species that enjoy this special treat, you could diversify your money-making potential. 

Are Mealworms Good for Chickens?

If you’re raising livestock for consumption, it’s only natural for you to want the best nutrition for your animals. You know what they say, you are what you eat.  Raising mealworms for chickens provides them with a nutritious treat.

You may think me calling mealworms a superfood is a bit far fetched, but I present to you their nutritional content. 

  • Omega 3
  • Omega 6
  • Protein 25g per 100
  • B12, B2, B5, B7 and B9, with relatively high levels of Vitamins B1 and B3 
  • Iron 
  • Zinc

You can read more about Complete nutrient content of four species of commercially available feeder insects.

Mealworm Life Cycle

The mealworm is not a worm. It is actually the larval form of a mealworm beetle. This larval form is the second stage in its life cycle, and at this stage, it does look like a worm. Elaborated below is a mealworm’s life stages.

Image result for life cycle of mealworms

It takes about 3 months to first start out. The worms you order should all change to beetles which can take 2-3 months after that, they start laying eggs like crazy and you can start seeing a return at that time. About a week after the first beetles, you start seeing the small mealworms, depending on their condition you will start seeing the larger ones in a couple weeks or so. every 2-3 months you will see them change to pupa and then hatch out into beetles.
So it does take patience in first starting out and getting up to the number you need for your livestock.

In roughly 6 months from the start, your 1,100 should be about 10,000 worms. 

Can You Feed Your Chickens Too Many Mealworms?

Too much of a good thing is always too much. Mealworms are an excellent source of protein, however, chickens need a balanced diet. Roughly 10 mealworms a day per chicken is a good protein supplement and treat.

I’ve always used mealworms as ‘treats’ so they would be something my chickens looked forward to. Because mealworms are so tasty to chickens, they are perfect to use for training.

Just a couple of mealworms in a plastic cup and a little shake, pretty much get the chickens to do whatever I want them to, including going into the coop. Try it and see how quickly you’ll gain chickens minions to follow you whenever you’re shaking that cup.

Growing Food for Livestock

In addition to raising mealworms for chickens, and maybe even other critters on your homestead, you can help supplement your flocks diet by trapping beetles from your garden for them.

Another tasty treat for your feathered friends is fodder. Much like mealworms, fodder is something you can grow no matter how much space you have.

Lastly, if you enjoy gardening, try growing your chickens their own edible landscape with hopes they may leave your garden alone!

 

Why is it Illegal to Feed Chickens mealworms?

First let me rest your mind, it’s not illegal to feed chickens mealworms. However, unfortunately many mealworms don’t come from the best resources therefore commercial producers are encouraged not to give their chickens mealworms.

Mealworms do an amazing job at breaking down matter, all types of matter. This includes, sewage, rotten food, waste, even plastics. When we use these worms as treats for our chickens, our chickens are now eating these hazardous products.

This is another benefit to raising mealworms for chickens yourself, you know what they’re eating.

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