Increasing insects in chickens diet on a tight budget.

Heffalump

Songster
Aug 18, 2018
213
145
128
Northern Ireland
I would like to increase the amount of insects in my chickens diet. I know free ranging would be the easiest and cheapest way to do this, but it isn't an option.

I thought about starting up a little mealworm farm but then I read that they have to be kept warm all through the winter and I know my husband won't like me either keeping them in the hot press or using electricity to artificially keep them warm. They're too expensive for me to buy on an on going basis.

I thought of maybe starting off a compost heap in their run to attract some insects, but would love to hear if anyone had thought of any other wats of getting more insects into their chickens for free?
 

U_Stormcrow

Crowing
Jun 7, 2020
2,039
4,506
326
North FL Panhandle Region / Wiregrass
Look into Black Soldier Fly composting as well - it runs a bit hotter, so its one (earthworms) or the other (BSF) - but which works best for you is largely a factor of what raw materials you have, space available, and effort you are willing to put into it.

I've had large compost "bins" go cold when I got the balance wrong, and I've had them drowned out by seasonally heavy rains. I've used (and sold) an off the ground tumbler on a center shaft that made fine compost and was easy to keep the material turned (so it was quick), but of course it made no worms.

Currently, I'm using a BSF Composter This Design without the wheels or handles. Its heavy enough with PT lumber you don't want to move it, the wheels the recommend are undersized unless you have a very hard surface, and it doesn't rotate in its box as smoothly as I'd like - but I'm trying it.

Limited sign of BSF larvae, though the adults are certainly there. I'm not having the (house) fly problems others are reporting following all the rain we've received in N FL - and its got a LOT of small roaches in it, so keep it far from the house. [this may be the result of my adding too much protein before it really got started). In any event, the chickens and ducks wander over and snack daily, though they've not learned to mob the thing when I'm rolling it across the ground to tumble the contents, causing all the bugs which can to scurry out (yet).

Call it an option I can't yet fully endorse - but it is an option.
 

centrarchid

Crossing the Road
11 Years
Sep 19, 2009
26,373
17,726
856
Holts Summit, Missouri
I do a lot trying to increase consumption of insects for at least some of my chickens. I have more chickens than can be kept in insects all the time. Even when insect abundance is peaking, most of the chickens do not get all they want. Everything is seasonal.

The use of lights linked above works to some degree starting in middle spring and ends in mid fall. It is real good from late spring into early fall but takes a dip when wind strong, rain it heavy, or temperatures low. I do not think it would work will in urban areas or where land all overgrazed pasture / well manicured lawns or mature forest. Best areas seem to be where land is a mixture of habitat types where some are left fallow. Some areas near water can be periodically good with hatches of aquatic insects.

I have been having real good luck with Japanese Beetles that can be attracted from trees in the area using pheromones. This system worked best on hot days during summer. When birds are eating a lot like mine were for days on end, I think freshly caught beetles were best as the beetles degrade rapidly upon death and their already low fat levels likely go down further when unable to feed. I doubt Ireland supports Japanese Beetles, but you may have another insect that can be attracted using pheromones.

https://www.backyardchickens.com/th...es-to-pens-of-chickens.1256756/#post-20164846

https://www.backyardchickens.com/th...low-cost-bio-attractor.1258075/#post-20185033

Something I have going on in barn has a lot of coarse gravel covering floor. Uneaten feed, feces, feathers and dander collect among the gravel to become food for some sort of very small moth. The chickens invest a lot of effort consuming the adult, pupae and caterpillar stages of that moth. Ground must be dry. That is best during late summer.



Others options I pursue require acreage and birds to be free-range for at least part of day.
 

NachB

Songster
Apr 28, 2020
86
119
116
Chicago, IL
I regularly pick slugs from the garden, it’s not a lot and I’m not sure it does all that much, but it sure makes the hens happy.
you can put wet boards down at night and in the morning there should be a lot of critters in there. I’ve also give them dead mice, but that’s not a reliable Protein source.
 

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