A few months ago I shared with the Community my latest (and strangest) DIY project – raising mealworms… Here is the link to the set-up and steps I followed to grow my own “chicken treats”. DIY: Raising Mealworms (Part 1)
Why I undertook this project was twofold: I not only enjoy the domesticated birds in my backyard (chickens), but I’m also passionate about the native birds that visit my property. Though putting out bird-feeders is enjoyable, you can actually attract twice as many birds to your property by providing them with their natural food sources; nuts, seeds and berries from native trees, shrubs and wildflowers. In a presentation that I recently gave at our local lawn and garden show, I demonstrated how you can design a garden that will not only attract birds to your landscape, but will also provide a year around habitat meeting their basic needs of food, water and shelter.
But.. feeding the birds by offering a variety of birdseed in an assortment of feeders is how you get those up-close views of the birds we enjoy. Mealworms are popular among bird-feeding enthusiasts as a way to attract many insect eating birds that are not usually attracted to birdseed. Bluebirds are particular fond of mealworms, but so are wrens, robins, jays, sparrows, cardinals, woodpeckers, nuthatches, titmice and chickadees.
|Image from Enchanted Learning|
And among chicken enthusiasts, mealworms are rated as the top choice in chicken treats! It’s of my opinion that we shouldn’t offer our flock an excess amount of any treat. Most of their nutrition should come from a high quality feed or natural food sources that they have foraged for; grubs, seeds, insects… Offering a treat though is a great way to train your flock to come to you when you call them or to coax them back into the coop at the end of the day. Not to mention the fact that it’s fun to watch them fight over the kitchen scraps!
I’m now in what I call the second phase of this project…
The first phase consisted of the set-up, purchasing the initial mealworms, feeding them and watching them evolve into 1000 darkling beetles. I started this project in September and around December I had a container full of beetles and I was stuck in that phase for a few months. Then in February I noticed that all of the beetles had died (and smelled a lot). I was ready to throw the whole thing out when I realized that under the beetle carcasses and in the bedding were thousands of tiny mealworms! Since I was following a “one container” method of raising mealworms (see this link: How to Raise Mealworms), I left the dead beetles and added in extra layer of wheat bran to diminish the smell… I speculate that my original mealworms that I purchased were the same age, went through metamorphosis and died as adult beetles at the same time. Each female beetle can lay up to 500 eggs in her lifetime, and I now have mealworms that vary in age and size. I cannot even estimate how many mealworms I now have, but it’s more than enough to share with the wildbirds and my hens.
The third phase in this DIY will be when I have mealworms and mature beetles in the container together… Actually apart from the odor (which really isn’t that bad), this DIY has been easy. The hardest part is the wait – about five months from start to harvest. I also like the “hands-off” technique of this method; I’ve never had to separate or touch the beetles. All I do is feed them a couple of times a week and now I scoop out a few mealworms and give my flock a fresh “homegrown” treat!
Please refer to my earlier post for the detailed instructions of this DIY: