Meal Worm Start Up

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by dmichelek, Aug 24, 2016.

  1. dmichelek

    dmichelek Hatching

    Jan 27, 2013
    I would like to grow my own meal worms as an occasional treat for our chickens and if I have extra sell them to local fisherman or others in my neighborhood with chickens.

    I have been reading and reading about mealworms.

    I have three questions for those of you who have been breeding mealworms.

    1. Is a plastic bin 12 inch by 24 inch large enough for 5000 meal worms for start up?
    2. Will I have enough meal worms to sell a few if I am planning on giving some to the chickens only on weekends?
    3. I read somewhere about people developing allergies to meal worms. Has anyone experienced this? I am planning on keeping the bin in the corner of my kitchen but now I am not so sure.

    Thanks for your answers.
  2. chicks n roses

    chicks n roses In the Brooder

    Jul 13, 2016
    great idea ill be following this thread!
  3. sumi

    sumi Égalité

    Jun 28, 2011
    Tipperary, Ireland
    1. For that number of worms, I'd divide them into 2 or 3 tubs rather. They don't do well when overcrowded and once they start breeding, their numbers are going increase substantially, so rather have a bit more space available for them.

    2. Each female beetle lays approximately 275 eggs in her lifetime. If you get roughly 50/50 females and males from your start-up 5,000, give or take some losses.. Do the math [​IMG] Leave your first worms in the tubs and let them go through their complete lifecycle. It will take approximately 5 months before you will have worms enough to start selling. If you keep them comfortably warm, they'll go through the cycle quick.

    3. I've been farming them on a fairly large scale for a year now and don't wear any protective clothing when I work with them. No allergies yet (touching wood). It is possible though.

    Here is a long-running thread on mealworm farming with a lot of good info that I think you'll enjoy:
    azygous likes this.
  4. Duck Drover

    Duck Drover Songster

    Apr 8, 2013
    I used ice cream tubs with a hole cut out of the center of the lid for air while the edge prevented worms from crawling out. I also separated the pupae into a separate tub and moved the beetles to a new tub with baby cereal and powdered milk (we were feeding lizards so this was recommended) so they would lay their eggs and the worms would develop together in a new tub. We used potatoe slices for moisture and I would soak them in water first so they would last longer. By the time the beetles all died the worms were growing nicely. The older the tub was the bigger the worms and the more pupae would develop. We actually did experiments to determine te exact time for each stage but I don't remember except that I think the beetles only live 4 months.

    I had started with just one tub but the worms will eat the pupae and the beetles will eat the worms so we just used a strainer to sift out anything non-worm that would not fit through the holes. It was pretty low maintenance. I still have the tubs on a shelf next to my furnace (which is in a closet with the water heater so it is nice and warm and also dark) but we stopped raising mealworms when we stopped keeping lizards. I wanted to learn to freeze dry them for the birds but it did not seem necessary since they forage for live bugs and earthworms in the yard.

    Our colony was started from just one small container of worms from the pet store and we sold surplus tubs of worms quite a few times. I had been raising roaches and I tried crickets briefly but the mealworms were so easy and they reproduced so effectively that I quit raising roaches and failed with the crickets.

    The superworms won't work but you don't want to feed them to birds because apparently they can eat their way back out. You can refridgerate the mealworms to slow down their development but we just let them go onto the pupae stage and hatch beetles in order to start over again. Sometimes you can find free beetles and start that way because people buy the worms and don't feed them fast enough. Only the worms will survive being refridgerated while the superworms will not so if you get a starter container of worms from the cold section at the pet store you know they are not superworms.

    When we raised hedgehogs I got a 5 gallon bucket of superworms since they chew them up so they can't eat their way out but I did not trust the lizards to chew them enough so we used the regular mealworms for them. It was easy enough to sift out the biggest worms when we pulled out the pupae using the strainer.
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2016
  5. AnnieSantiago

    AnnieSantiago Songster

    Aug 13, 2014
    Portland, Oregon
    I just came home from the pet store where I bought 500 mealworms to get started. $11
    Dropped by Winco and picked up some wheat bran. 79 cents
    Dropped by Goodwill and picked up a clear plastic bin for $1.99

    The mealworms are in their happy home now.
    The girl I spoke with raises mealworms herself and she said "You don't need an aquarium or anything fancy. You don't even NEED a lid if you don't want one; they rarely escape."

    She also said, "Just keep a fresh piece of cucumber, apple, or carrot or some other moist fruit/veggie in there and let them grow!"

    I DID get a lidded box, and put a hole in the middle.

    Now for under $15, I'm set.
    If they grow out of their container, I'll get another.

    I'm happy.
    My chooks are going to be REAL happy!
  6. azygous

    azygous Free Ranging

    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    Yes, get yourself at least three plastic trays of that size. And you will make life much easier if you cut the bottom out of one tray and the lid of another tray so they can stack. Your adult beetles will live in the tray with the hole cut out of the bottom. Glue metal window screening over the hole so the eggs can sift down into the container beneath. Your new larvae will automatically be sorted from the adults that way. The third container will be for transferring larvae to that are nearing feed-out size.

    The only allergies you might experience would be from the frass and from the grain mites, should any develop. The grain mites especially can be quite irritating to the sinuses should you inadvertently sniff any in. Wear a mask.
    AnnieSantiago likes this.
  7. penny1960

    penny1960 Going back to La La Land

    Dec 29, 2015
    Mossyrock, WA
    you grow enough I am not far from you would be a ongoing customer if you decide to go that road also
  8. AnnieSantiago

    AnnieSantiago Songster

    Aug 13, 2014
    Portland, Oregon
    How big does the screening have to be? Do the adults crawl in there on their own???
    penny1960 likes this.
  9. Kusanar

    Kusanar Crowing

    Apr 30, 2014
    Roanoke area, Va.
    Window screening is what is recommended, get the metal stuff, they will chew holes in the plastic window screen.

    You have to put the beetles in the beetle bin, no way for them to crawl in there, either pick out the pupae as they form and put them in the beetle bin, or wait until the pupae turn into beetles and catch the beetles and put them in with the others to breed.
    penny1960 likes this.
  10. AnnieSantiago

    AnnieSantiago Songster

    Aug 13, 2014
    Portland, Oregon
    ok thanks
    penny1960 likes this.

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