Just in case anyone thought otherwise, this is proof that I have gone bonkers. I am breeding mealworms as a renewable food source for our chickens. I was surprised when I brought it up to my husband that he didn’t even bat an eye which means only one thing: he has realized that I have done lost my mind a long time ago.
So, how did I learn about breeding mealworms? It was from a post that I received from Jane who has a website entitled Hedgecombers. When she posted a comment on one of my posts, I took a look at her blog and noticed an article about breeding mealworms. After doing some research, it seems to be a pretty simple thing to do.
I set out to purchase mealworms and start our own mealworm breeding operation. I ended up getting them from this seller on eBay and I am extremely pleased with the purchase.
So, you may be wondering what you have to do to breed
mealworms. I’ll tell you.
|Mealworms the Day We Got Them|
1.) Buy mealworms
3.) Out of the pupa (1-2 weeks later) emerges a Darkling Beetle that live up to 3 months
4.) The beetles mate and produce eggs
5.) The eggs hatch into mealworms
6.) The life cycle starts all over again
Is it really that simple? YES!
Within 3 days of owning the mealworms, pupas started to form. Once they formed, I picked them out of the area with the mealworms and put them in their own area so that when the beetles hatch, they can get busy making some eggs! Also, please know that the Darkling Beetles don’t fly, so there are no worries of having these things flying all over the house.
I am getting a little bit ahead of myself. This is what is needed to breed mealworms:
- A warm place (for maximum breeding, you will want the temperature to be around 76 degrees)
- Plastic tubs (I am using old tupperware containers)
- A food source (bran cereal, oats or chicken feed) of 1-3 inches in the plastic tub
- A water source (a slice of an apple, carrot or potato)
|Water Source for Mealworms|
Many people on YouTube use sweater boxes to start their mealworms out in, but we keep our house pretty cold and there was no way there is any one spot in our house that is 76 degrees in December, January, February or March! Instead, we put our egg incubator that we bought when we purchased too many fertilized chicken eggs for our broody hen to work (again). The 1,000 mealworms we purchased fit in a small plastic container inside the egg incubator. I am pretty confident we can keep up to 5,000 mealworms within this incubator comfortably.
The mealworms will eat through the 1-3 inches of their food source (also known as a substrate) with time. Once they do, all you have left is what looks like sand. I will let you in on a little secret: this is mealworm poop. Another inside secret is that this “sand” is great fertilizer for plants.
Costs Involved:Incubator (we already had)
Plastic tubs (we already had)
1,000 mealworms ($18.99)
Large container of oats ($2.19)
Total invested in mealworms: $21.18 (not including electricity use and slices of potatoes and carrots that we always have on hand)
The only reason I decided to breed the mealworms in the winter is so that I could get some experience and to build up our supply of mealworms for the chickens.
As you can see, with the life cycle being 3-4 months on mealworms, I can make an endless supply of treats/protein for my chickens while keeping the cost of commercial feed to a minimum.
|The mealworms have tripled in size over the past 2 weeks!|
I admit I am creeped out by these things. The noise they make while digging through the oats is an eerie sound because I know it is 1,000 mealworms! Ick. To me, it’s like a bad horror movie. But I know that this is the best possible food for our hens and a replenishable one at that, so I think it’s worth it. Maybe with time, I will be comfortable enough with them to pick them up with my own two hands. But for now, I will continue to use tweezers thankyouverymuch!