Friday, July 1, 2016

Meal Worm Farm

Or, How to build a suitable place to raise Chicken Candy

Yummy for Chickens
Our hens go nuts over a handful of the shells and dead  dry moltings of meal worms. We buy them from Del's Tractor Supply in Hilo in a tetrapac package for, well, too much for dead chicken treats. Still, the girls love them so JoAnn buys them. The package says, among other nutrients, they contain 50% protein. I then looked up live meal worms and they say they have 50% protein. Hmmm... When I looked them up on line, this line of treats actually says the dead ones have more protein than live Meal worms! Hmmm again. I didn't have time to get into that search, but I will concede that they have a lot of protein. Buying them like this is pricey since they love them so much, so I started looking for a way to bring this cost down to a more reasonable number. 

I found some live ones on Ebay and Amazon and chose the ones on Amazon. Bought them (or I thought I did) and told JoAnn I wanted to raise them. She said, "No Problem, I was going to suggest the same thing". The info that's missing here is that JoAnn is morbidly afraid of  crawly things! Spiders, centipedes, crickets, if it moves and isn't human or animal its pretty much on her panic list. Turns out that the delight from watching the chickens overrides the panic she has for the bugs. I started looking for housing for them.

You can find hundreds of You tube sites on building meal worm homes, from dumping them into an oatmeal carton to a full scale McMansion, I chose the utility design for ease of maintenance. A three drawer Sterilite storage unit was the ticket. I bought two. I though that I would need to divide the 5000 worms into two Condo units of 2500 each. I did the necessary conversion of cutting out the bottom, adding metal window screen on two of the six drawers then placing these in the upper most slide of each unit is to allow the eggs and newly hatched larvae fall through into the grow up drawer (#2).

So they are: 
Meal worm house
Drawer one- Adult beetles are stored and grown here allowed free access to food and water so they can breed like, well, beetles. The females average about 500 eggs during her lifetime that can last up to three months or so after reaching beetle stage. The mesh in the upper first drawer allow the eggs and newly hatched larvae to be sifted through and fall into the lower second drawer where they can eat and grow to about 1/2" in size. The drawer doesn't have mesh so the small ones don't drop into the third drawer and become food for the growing larvae there. The Third Drawer is the Fattening drawer. Lots of food and water sources in this one for fast growth and low dead loss. About 10% of these will be kept back for breeding, the remaining 90% will be processed for our girl's "chicken candy". 

In the design process JoAnn asked me where I was going to store the 'condo'
while the bugs grew, and I said, stupidly, "the Carport". The icy stare got me to think fast and say, "by the chickens?" which got me a, "Better".
I will be modifying the Hens nest box area to include enlarging the horizontal shelf above their nests into one wide and deep enough to hold both the condos side by side. I am not sure, but I think I can modify the area without changing too much since the measurements are close. 

Next post- Meal Worm Condos, the tour.

Photo Credits: 

Happy Hen Treats:
Screen shot of 
All photos not credited are taken by us and are copyrighted by Air Born Creations

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