First Time Mealworm Farming

Zemeraire

Songster
Jan 17, 2020
209
1,162
186
South West Australia
For the first time I can remember, my local pet store started to stock live Mealworms. The feed stores around here don't stock them live as far as I can find, so this store currently has a monopoly. And they are very pricey. Even a small container of tiny ones just feels so expensive for what is in the container.

So today I set up a tank to grow some mealworms up, let some become beetles and just let some get bigger so they feel like real treats for my hens.

This is my first time doing this, so I just thought I'd ask if anyone has any guidance here and feedback on my setup.

216036002_179977114108508_6253629604086202082_n.jpg


The tank is in my office. It is not plugged into anything, but the tank (an old spare one) has an inbuilt light in the lid so there is just a random cord.

The substrate is a mixture of rolled oats, quick oats I had on hand, the last of a box of sultana bran, a little brown and white rice, a few bricks of wheatbix nobody in my house was going to eat, a handful of leftover uncooked dry mini shell pasta, a handful of crushed grain free kangaroo cat biscuits, quarter of a cup of protein powder/bran mix stuff you give chickens, and a good couple cups of my chicken's mix feed.

I have cut carrots for moisture, and know you are meant to replace them every few days.

The cut toilet rolls are something I saw in a youtube video for them to hide under as beetles. I don't really want to use egg cartons because I use those for my chickens XD

The mealworms I got (and have seen so far) have a size range between about 2cm and 3cm. I'm not sure how old that would make them, and how far off they are from becoming pupae. The pet store got them 2 days ago, and have had them refrigerated in that time. They are very active now a few hours after being put into the tank. I got "50 grams" of live mealworms.

Once they are breeding, I plan to use them for chicken supplement/treat food, and freshly moulted mealworms as occasional treats for my Axolotls. I will also be sharing with a couple friends who also have chickens.

How many is a good number of mealworms to feed my chickens, and how regularly?

For context, I feed a locally mixed feed that is wheat based but has layer pellets, sunflower seeds, and a bunch of other seeds that I don't know.
My run is around 9m X 4m, with a couple fruit trees, bushes and a gooseberry bush. They get supervised time in my yard at least once a week, and two neighbours throw weeds and scraps over the fence for them. I pick up a box of fruit and vegies from the local food bank every other week (stuff that is no good to sell but still good for chickens) and dump it in a chicken managed compost pile in their run. Lawn clippings are also put in the compost pile monthly. At least once a week I like to give a treat to my flock in the form of either whole corn cobs hung up so they have fun while eating it, or tinned chick peas spread around the whole run.

I have tried dried mealworms before and they hate them, but when i tried a couple of live ones they went nuts.

What does everyone think?
 

MadamContrary

Crowing
8 Years
Mar 22, 2013
1,336
5,042
461
Very South Texas
Be aware that long term exposure to mealworms can cause some really bad allergic reactions, I don't know the full explanation, but was warned when I started growing them. Set up looks good, generally the size of the mealworm won't increase, they just come in different size grades. Having bedding you can sift make it easier to remove beetles and worms, the eggs are left behind and become new worms. General advice is to keep treats to 10% or less of total feed (I don't personally follow this, because my birds free range all day) you can feed them the dead beetles too, if you don't the other beetles will eat the carcasses.
 

MomJones

Songster
Feb 22, 2019
378
667
232
South Carolina
My only concern would be air circulation. But I'm new at this too. I started late June and am using the cheap 3-plastic drawer method I've seen online. I put screening material in two of them as flooring. So far, the emerging beetles go in the top drawer, worms in the second, and fras falls to the third drawer. I'd like to have a set-up like Space Coast Meal Worms someday but we'll see how this goes.

Also read that it's important to add new mealworms to keep the genetics healthy (although I have no idea what an "inbred" mealworm would look like.🥴)

Edit: Pupae go into their own little separate box until they emerge as beetles. Also, still not clear as to how we're supposed to find babies amid all the fras?
 

Perris

Still learning
Premium Feather Member
Jan 28, 2018
6,001
31,684
957
Gower, Wales
I think your set up looks good and the mealworms in there must be having a ball! They like greens too btw; a cabbage leaf or broccoli stalk will be consumed quite quickly.

They will probably pupate soon, as they're usually sold when they're about as long as they get, and about two weeks later will hatch into beetles. You can leave them all together in the one tank, but the pupae have no defence against predation by worms or beetles, so some of us pick them out and pop them in their own little tub of bran while they're helpless.

I have not heard about bringing in new genetics and suspect it's a myth; my farm has been running years now and we're still going strong through reproduction from the worms that were in the original carton.

How many of them you feed to your flock depends on how much extra protein you want which of your birds to have; youngsters and moutlers need more than laying hens. On average I give out a few worms per bird per day, plus extras for chicks and anyone growing new feathers. Mealworms are also particularly useful for training chickens to come on call, as everyone loves them.

They reproduce faster in summer than winter, and I store surplus in plastic cartons in the fridge rather than overfeed the flock or let excessive numbers pupate when there's a glut. Typically the reprodution rate is about 100:1, so to keep your colony a consistent size you can give your flock 99 worms for every one you let pupate.

Good luck!
 

Bananer86

Mother of Cluckers
May 25, 2021
315
1,216
206
Central Alabama
Good luck to you all. I finally fed my remaining beetles to the chickens this morning. Even after adding a new line this farm never reproduced. My first time went great until ants invaded the garage & worm farm.
 
Apr 26, 2022
1
0
6
Thank you for this thread. It was very helpful! I am getting ready to raise them for my chickens too. Mine love the freeze dried ones, but they are quite expensive.
 

Hip Hillbilly Farm

New chick mamma!
Premium Feather Member
Nov 7, 2021
749
1,799
226
Georgia, USA
For the first time I can remember, my local pet store started to stock live Mealworms. The feed stores around here don't stock them live as far as I can find, so this store currently has a monopoly. And they are very pricey. Even a small container of tiny ones just feels so expensive for what is in the container.

So today I set up a tank to grow some mealworms up, let some become beetles and just let some get bigger so they feel like real treats for my hens.

This is my first time doing this, so I just thought I'd ask if anyone has any guidance here and feedback on my setup.

View attachment 2752787

The tank is in my office. It is not plugged into anything, but the tank (an old spare one) has an inbuilt light in the lid so there is just a random cord.

The substrate is a mixture of rolled oats, quick oats I had on hand, the last of a box of sultana bran, a little brown and white rice, a few bricks of wheatbix nobody in my house was going to eat, a handful of leftover uncooked dry mini shell pasta, a handful of crushed grain free kangaroo cat biscuits, quarter of a cup of protein powder/bran mix stuff you give chickens, and a good couple cups of my chicken's mix feed.

I have cut carrots for moisture, and know you are meant to replace them every few days.

The cut toilet rolls are something I saw in a youtube video for them to hide under as beetles. I don't really want to use egg cartons because I use those for my chickens XD

The mealworms I got (and have seen so far) have a size range between about 2cm and 3cm. I'm not sure how old that would make them, and how far off they are from becoming pupae. The pet store got them 2 days ago, and have had them refrigerated in that time. They are very active now a few hours after being put into the tank. I got "50 grams" of live mealworms.

Once they are breeding, I plan to use them for chicken supplement/treat food, and freshly moulted mealworms as occasional treats for my Axolotls. I will also be sharing with a couple friends who also have chickens.

How many is a good number of mealworms to feed my chickens, and how regularly?

For context, I feed a locally mixed feed that is wheat based but has layer pellets, sunflower seeds, and a bunch of other seeds that I don't know.
My run is around 9m X 4m, with a couple fruit trees, bushes and a gooseberry bush. They get supervised time in my yard at least once a week, and two neighbours throw weeds and scraps over the fence for them. I pick up a box of fruit and vegies from the local food bank every other week (stuff that is no good to sell but still good for chickens) and dump it in a chicken managed compost pile in their run. Lawn clippings are also put in the compost pile monthly. At least once a week I like to give a treat to my flock in the form of either whole corn cobs hung up so they have fun while eating it, or tinned chick peas spread around the whole run.

I have tried dried mealworms before and they hate them, but when i tried a couple of live ones they went nuts.

What does everyone think?
I am amassing the equipment for a mealworm farm for my girls. So far I have a nine tray tower drawer set up. Honestly, the more I read about chicken obesity and the fact that my girls will free range I am thinking I don't need them. At the very least I now know I should not feed them the worms daily. Apparently chicken obesity is a problem. Hopefully not with my girls. I hope they run wild and free when their time comes.
 

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