Meal Worm Farming

I’ve decided to start a new thing–farming meal worms here at Wooly Acres! My internet research shows that giving meal worms to chickens through the winter increases egg production. I like eggs. Seems like a good deal! Of course you can purchase the meal worms, but that is more expensive and not self-sustaining.

We actually get meal worms in our barn around any spilled feed during the summer. But since I waited till now, in freezing weather, to decide to do this, I had to go purchase my first set of worms. You can get them at some PetSmarts though make sure you get the “live” ones–they reproduce better. 😉

But I thought it would be more fun to go get them from our local bait shop/auto repair combo business just down the road. The former hell’s angel-looking guy behind the counter was very helpful. I think I would not have experienced this ambiance at PetSmart!

So I bring home 250 small meal worms to get started. They are a little slow because they have been in the fridge. But they warm up pretty quickly.

Their container is about a foot square. It’s a plastic one from the dollar store. You don’t even have to use a lid because the worms can’t manage the slick sides. And once they hatch into beetles, they can’t fly.  I will keep a lid on though, to keep any curious kitties out.

Basically, meal worms need “meal” or grains to eat, bed in and lay eggs in. Many people recommend using Quaker quick oats. You can also give them chicken mash. I had both so I thought I would see which they prefer: the oatmeal is on the right and the mash is on the left. Unfortunately our mash has already been mixed with scratch (corn and oats). I don’t know that they care a whit for corn.

I poured the worms in and they instantly began burrowing. They quickly radiated out to the edges and the whole container seemed to be heaving and sighing!

Next I added their “drink”. I used an apple, but you can use potatoes, bananas, lettuce, etc. Here they are after 5 minutes:

Here they are after an hour:

They definitely seem to be preferring the chicken mash over the oats so far.

So next I wait for them to go through a few molts, then pupate, then emerge into darkling beetles. The beetles will lay eggs, which then hatch into meal worms! These meal worms can be fed to fish, reptiles and amphibians, birds like bluebirds, and poultry. People also use them for fish bait.

Will keep you posted!

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9 Responses to Meal Worm Farming

  1. Glory Lennon says:

    Wow, how exciting! I’d love to entice bluebirds to come to my yard with those squiggly things. May have to drop by and steal some.

  2. Trish says:

    Sounds great! Can’t wait for updates. I have thought about doing this many times. I have several pounds of dehydrated ones (bought on sale) for winter feedings. I put 1/4 cup into a small container with water, microwave, cool and then call the peeps. They stampede to me and will scare small children with their exuberance! They are like little addicts. Num num num,,,,,,,

  3. Dan says:

    How do you know when you have enough to feed the chickens and to start a new batch? I assume the beetles lay multiple eggs? If providing protein for a flock of 12 or so birds I wonder how many you need to keep going to feed the chickens daily? Or is it just a once in a while feeding?

    • Julie Helms says:

      I don’t plan to stop their regular feed even once I have a good supply, so I guess it will just be a supplement…. I don’t know the specifics of how much, how often–trial and error!
      Each beetle lays hundreds of eggs I believe so the potential is great!

  4. Charlotte Howard says:

    Okay, I thought you were joking when you said about farming mealworm…

  5. Cylly says:

    Yay I’m so glad you posted! I’ve missed the daily version from October!
    Interesting that mealworms may prefer grain. Meal+worm = love to eat meal/grain?? Our friend used carrots for moisture nutrition. I think she used those plastic bins with drawers for multi-layer, kitty-proof stackable housing. Mealworms high-rises!
    Maybe another experiment can determine which kind of veg they prefer. 🙂

    • Julie Helms says:

      I’ve seen Youtube videos of the mealworm condos. I haven’t decided how I will do it yet. You can just keep them in one box and lose a few to cannibalism, or separate out the stages (pupa, larva and beetle) as they occur. I do have stacking bins on wheels filled with rubber stamps that has been mostly deserted…I could re-purpose it! I’ll test those veggies–sounds like a good idea!

  6. Way to go, Julie! those little mealworms will keep the chickens healthy and producing eggs. Great idea!

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