How To Raise And Breed Mealworms For Your Chickens
ChickensRaising your own mealworms for your backyard chickens isn’t difficult with this clever set-up.
My chickens love mealworms. In fact, they gobble them up at such an alarming rate that a few years ago I decided it would be more economical for me to try to breed my own.
So I found a guy who sold them in bulk and bought a huge box of live ones. I was so excited about this new venture.
I opened the box, took one look at the mass of squirmy wrigglers inside, panicked, and tossed the entire box into the run with my chickens. In the blink of an eye, all 40,000 worms were gone! And my chickens went to bed very happy – with crops stuffed with mealworms.
What Exactly Is A Mealworm
A mealworm is the larvae of a darkling beetle, which is a family of insects containing an estimated 20,000 species. The specific species used as food for pets is Tenebrio molitor, though a handful of other subspecies are also produced commercially.
They have an extremely short lifecycle, low care requirements, and high protein content making them a popular choice for feeding birds, reptiles, and small carnivorous mammals.
How Much Space Do You Need To Breed Mealworms
It doesnt take that much space at all to breed mealworms. Whether you want to breed on small or larger scale, the 3 tier system setup is still compact enough to fit on your desktop.
The small set measures 8.5 x 7. 25 x 6.875.
The larger unit, which is still pretty compact, measures just 13.5 x 10-7/8 X 9-5/8.
Read Also: Is Sourdough Bread Good For Diabetics
How To Raise Mealworms For Chickens
Raising mealworms for chickens is a fun way to always have a nice treat on hand for your backyard flock. After establishing your colony, mealworms farms are easy to maintain too.
When we decided to get chickens, I knew I wanted to make it as easy and affordable as possible. The cost of chicken feed can really add up and we dont have enough land for our flock to get all of their calories from foraging.
We enjoy composting, and had talked about vermicomposting in the past, so the idea of raising mealworms to feed our chickens popped into my head since Id seen some dried mealworms at the feed store.
It was so much easier than I thought it would be. Our mealworm colony grew quickly and our chickens loved their treats.
After years of experience breeding mealworms, I can say it is easy, cost effective and fun. Best of all, it only takes about 10 minutes a week to maintain them after getting my routine down.
I hope this guide will be helpful for you, and that your family will have as much fun and success as we have had over the years.
Other Uses For Mealworms
In addition to reptiles, mealworms are often used to feed amphibians and birds. Birdwatchers will sometimes use mealworms to attract birds to their backyard feeders that do not eat birdseed.
Mealworms can also be fed to aquarium fish like large goldfish or pond fish such as koi. Both mealworms and pupae can be used as live bait for fishing.
Mealworms are also a source of protein for people. Thats right, you can eat them too. Their may be a certain yuck factor when thinking about putting creepy crawlies in your mouth, though in some countries insects are a viable source of protein. Mealworms are even recognized by the FDA as a food product. Mealworm Fried Rice recipe, anyone?
You may also be interested in our Superworm Breeding Guide, or complete Leopard Gecko Feeding Guide for detailed information on your pets feeding and nutritional needs.
Recommended Reading: Pure Balance Pro Small Breed
Adjust Temperature And Humidity
Ideal temperature is about 75 degrees Fahrenheit, so you’ll want to avoid placing the bins in direct sunlight. Heaters are necessary only in colder climates.
Mealworms produce more rapidly in higher humidity, but most indoor climates suffice. However, drier climate breeders can add a glass of water inside the bin to increase humidity, making sure the water container is tall enough to prevent the mealworms from drowning. The worms function on a normal night/day light cycle, so no artificial lighting is needed.
A post shared by Sticky Toe Exotics on Dec 8, 2019 at 10:20am PST
What Do Mealworms Spawn Eat
The spawn of mealworms do not have a very different diet from their older siblings, except that they require more moisture in their food.
There are nine to twenty larval stages, and with each stage, the mealworms jaws get tougher until they can eat food like grains, bark, or even plastic.
In the wild, mealworm spawns in the first larvae stages feed on fungi, decomposing plant matter and, later on, seeds.
Home-raised mealworm spawns feed on juicy slices of all sorts of fruits and veggies, from bananas and peaches to carrots and potatoes.
Of course, home-raised mealworms would gladly eat a meal with added moisture, such as oatmeal or branmeal, and can switch to pet food later, when their jaws are strong enough.
Read Also: Panera Bread Grand Island Ne
Starting A Mealworm Colony
While mealworms dont necessarily require an intensely monitored enclosure the way some animals do, they do have basic requirements that need to be met.
A large colony can be set up in a plastic tub with smooth sides to prevent escapees, such as the common 66-quart plastic storage bins made by Sterilite that are widely available. Place a 4-inch layer of bran, wheat flour and/or cornmeal into the bottom of the container to serve as both bedding and a food source, but not the sole food source. Feed them nutritious vegetables as well. I recommend a Zilla screen top to allow good ventilation within the habitat, rather than using the plastic lid that comes with some containers. Otherwise, it can become too warm and promote growth of mold and bacteria. Mealworms thrive at around 75 degrees Fahrenheit, an ideal temperature for breeding, laying eggs and living through their entire life cycle. An incandescent lamp or heat emitter like the Zilla Day Blue Light Incandescent Reptile Bulb and Zilla Reptile Fixture can be placed on top of the screen top to maintain this temperature if needed. Much higher temps can be detrimental to the worms health. You can measure these with the Zilla Terrarium Heat & Habitat Controller and Reptile thermometers.
Bearded dragons are among the many pet lizard species that will eagerly snap up mealworms.
How Long Does It Take To Farm Mealworms
It takes 3 to 4 months for live mealworms to be fully grown. If you want to speed up their growth, you can increase the temperature accordingly.
You can also have a constant supply of mealworms by having two or more worm trays. This way, you can grow mealworms in intervals and be able to harvest them regularly.
Also Check: Keto Bread Recipes Almond Flour
Making Your Own Mealworm Farm But First What Are Mealworms
Mealworms are, in fact, insects.
They are scavengers that can be found in grain stores, feed sacks, and occasionally household items such as cereal and flour.
They like dark, dry places that store grain or other edibles such as flour or chicken feed.
You can extract all the nutrition and water they need for surviving and thriving from the grain which they have infested.
Note: An adult mealworm is known as the Darkling beetle.
Can Darkling Beetles Fly
There is a lot of debate on whether or not Darkling Beetles can fly. Some mealworm growers online report having witnessed beetles flying, while others state that they cannot fly.
In a 2016 study on mitochondria in Darkling Beetle beetle flight muscles, scientists noted that they never saw beetles in their experimental colonies actually fly.
It is also notable that individuals of the T. molitor colony used in the present study are never observed to fly
In this study, they kept the Darkling Beetles at 22 degrees C, in a dark and humid location with constant access to food.
Some online articles suggest that the Darkling Beetle will only fly in search of food and wont fly if they remain well fed.
Darkling Beetles cannot sting or bite. If they were to escape a mealworm farm, they are unlikely to cause any problems. At most, they may find their way into cereal boxes or flour, but they wont cause any damage to your home or pose any threat to people or pets.
Also Check: Pamela’s Products Gluten Free Bread Mix 25 Pound Bag
Current Price List For Mealworms Superworms Wax Worms
|TYPE OF WORM|
CURRENT AVERAGE PRICE LIST FOR MEALWORMS, SUPERWORMS AND WAX WORMS.
Make sure that you do not make the mistake and purchase Superworms. Superworms require a different setup. They are also often treated with a growth inhibitor hormone that makes them sterile. They will still pupate into beetles, but they will not produce more worms.
By Step Super & Mealworm Set Up
This last video will provide you with all the information you need to know about DIY mealworm raising. This 12-minute video goes into great detail on the setup and maintenance of a mealworm operation. How I Set Up, Keep & Breed Superworms & Mealworms | Step By Step Super & Mealworm Set Up is a great guide if you are seriously looking into raising mealworms.
Recommended Reading: 45 Calorie Bread Sara Lee
Mealworm Farm Plans You Can Diy At Home
Mealworms are larvae of the darkling beetle. They are filled with protein and perfect for feeding chickens, reptiles, fish, and domestic birds. If you are adventurous and looking to save a few dollars on feeding your pets and livestock, consider a DIY mealworm farm. There are mealworm starter kits available but it is a simple and painless process to put together your own.
Unlike other bug farming options, like crickets, mealworm farms are ideal for those just starting in bug farming. Mealworms are less noisy than crickets. They also dont fly or jump so you can raise them in any container that maintains the proper temperature and humidity.
Mealworms are not escaping artists so raising them in a container with a wire mesh top and some duct tape will suffice. Lets take a look at some of the DYI mealworm plans that can get you started with your very own bug farm.
What To Expect When Growing Mealworms
Building a mealworm is inexpensive, can be completed in a matter of days, uses around 1.5 square feet of space, and can produce about 1 1.5 pounds of mealworms a week.
According to Instructables, heres the timescale breakdown:
- A Darkling beetle reaches maturity just a few days after it has emerged from its cocoon. During the 2 to 3-month lifespan, a female can lay hundreds, if not thousands, of eggs.
- The egg takes between 4 and 19 days to hatch .
- It hatches as a tiny, whitish larva, which is hard to see at first.
- The larva will go through several molts , shedding its exoskeleton as it grows. The last molt occurs about 3 months after it has hatched from an egg, whereby it will be golden brown and between 1 and 1.4 long.
- If you dont harvest the mealworm at this stage, it will then pupate, encasing itself in a cream, hard case that doesnt move much or eat.
- After 6-18 days, a beetle will emerge. It will be pale brown and weak at first, but will darken to a black, shiny beetle after a couple of days, and the cycle can begin again.
I have no clever ending for this post so happy farming! Would love to see any progress you make on Instagram! Tag @bugible lets be friends.
There is a Facebook group called Mealworm Farming also. Very cool group.
Oh thats a great tip! Would you be able to share the link? Very happy to hear.
Read Also: How To Identify Puppy Breed
How To Culture Mealworms
It can become quite expensive to constantly buy mealworms, so you might want to grow your own.
For a constant supply of mealworms, prepare a large circular biscuit tin as follows:
- Punch small holes in the lid for ventilation, place a layer of old hessian sacking in the bottom and sprinkle fairly thickly with bran. Put a slice or two of bread and raw potato, followed by another two layers of sacking/bran/bread/potato, like a three-decker sandwich. You can put a raw cabbage leaf on top if you like. Keep the tin at room temperature, not in hot sun.
- Introduce two or three hundred mealworms into the prepared tin. After a few weeks the mealworms will turn into creamy pupae, then into little black beetles.
- The beetles will lay eggs which hatch into mealworms and so on. Crop as necessary. Replace the bread, potato and cabbage as necessary.
- If you want to start new colonies, prepare another tin and transfer some bits of dry bread from the flourishing colony.
It is very important that any mealworms fed to birds are fresh. Any dead or discoloured ones must not be used as they can cause problems such as salmonella poisoning. Always ensure you use an appropriate mealworm feeder
What Should Mealworms Not Eat
As you have seen so far, there is nothing out there that mealworms cannot eat, even though some tough materials require a longer period between consumption.
Nonetheless, some things could harm mealworms in certain circumstances, or others could even be toxic:
- Water: not only can mealworms not drink it, but it can be dangerous for them if in excess, or even if the habitat is too moist the worms could drown.
- Dry food only: this wouldnt fulfil the mealworms need for moisture, and they can die from dehydration.
- Other chemical compounds, like poisons and gasoline, are toxic for the mealworms and the worms die if they feed on them.
- Oil: it can drown mealworms and poison them.
You May Like: Cuisinart Bread Maker Cbk 100
How To Breed Mealworms For Your Pets
Mealworms, the larval stage of darkling beetles, are a tasty and nutritious meal for many reptiles, amphibians, birds, and fish. Geckos, bearded dragons, turtles, lizards, frogs, some snakes, chickens, ducks, song birds, and carnivorous fish all rely on mealworms for nutrients. But purchasing mealworms from a store has its setbacks.
For one thing, it can be costly. Mealworm prices at a pet store can cause a hole in your wallet. Additionally, store-bought worms are not necessarily kept in the best conditions, so live mealworms may be lacking in nutrition or even close to dying when you buy them. You can solve this by setting up your own mealworm farm! It’s quick and easy to do and will save you money in the long run. Another perk? Breeding mealworms is essentially odorless, and it’s easy to learn how to do!
Follow these steps to set up your own mealworm breeding program:
How To Breed Mealworms
wikiHow is a wiki, similar to Wikipedia, which means that many of our articles are co-written by multiple authors. To create this article, 40 people, some anonymous, worked to edit and improve it over time.wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. This article received 27 testimonials and 95% of readers who voted found it helpful, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 383,443 times.Learn more…
If you have hungry reptiles or fish to feed, breeding your own mealworms is an excellent way to save some cash and ensure your pets are getting proper nutrition. Mealworms are actually darkling beetles in the larval stage, so breeding them involves allowing the beetles to mature and reproduce.You’ll need a few large containers, mealworm substrate, and a collection of mealworms in order to start your own colony. After a few weeks of waiting in anticipation, you should have a healthy batch of mealworms at the ready!
Don’t Miss: Where Can I Buy Healthy Life Keto Bread
How To Keep Chickens Busy
I love that we always have an endless supply of natural treats for our laying hens! We just toss some out back in the morning when theyre making a bunch of noise and theyre completely focused on their treats!
Since our chicken coop was always outside of our bedroom window, I really wanted to keep them quiet. So I came up with lots of great ways to keep chickens busy if giving them some home-grown mealworms wasnt enough to satisfy them.
Modify Top Shelf Darkling Beetle Shelf
MODIFY THE TOP SHELF FOR YOUR MEALWORM FARM SO BEETLE EGGS WILL DROP TO THE SECOND DRAWER.
The top shelf is for your darkling beetles. The adult female beetles will lay up to 500, 2 mm long eggs in her lifetime, which is only a few months. These eggs are small enough to fall through a regular size screen after being laid.
You will need to modify the top shelf so when the adult beetles lay their eggs, they will not get eaten. This can be done by applying a screen to the bottom of the beetle drawer. The eggs are tiny enough that they will fall through the screen and drop down to the middle drawer that is filled with either bran or dried oats.
Recommended Reading: Breed Of Dog That Bites The Most
How To Make A Mealworm Farm
It is possible to buy mealworm farm kits online, but its much cheaper and more fun to make your own! So here we go have some fun and become a mealworm farmer.
This is an excellent project for the kids its easy, doesnt require any high maintenance, and isnt labor-intensive. Its also a natural, self-replicating food source for your flock.