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Mealworms, so confused! Questions added post 5.

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by la dee da, Mar 16, 2012.

  1. la dee da

    la dee da Songster

    Dec 18, 2008
    Ok so I'm trying to figure out the whole mealworm thing, I know it's supposed to be easy but my brain is twisted in knots! I have read several threads on them but I can't seem to get my thoughts in order and there are a couple of things I don't understand. Here is what I've read and the questions related to them:

    -Take the dead adults and feed them to your chickens.
    -Don't take the dead adults, it's important for the worms to eat them.
    Do I feed the dead adults to the chickens or leave them for the worms to eat?

    -Use white pine shavings (is this regular pine shavings?) as bedding.
    -Use wheat bran as bedding .
    What is wheat bran? I can't figure out if it doubles as bedding and food or if it's just bedding. Which bedding is best to use? Does it matter? Would aspen be a good white pine substitute?

    -Put in an apple/carrot/potatoe cut in half buried in the bedding for moisture.
    Do they double as food? How can I tell if it's enough moisture? I mean if the container is big it'll need more than just one food right? Should I check often to see if they've dried out? Is there a better way to provide moisture? Like through a sponge or paper towel?

    -Feed them oatmeal.
    Should I give them a variety? Can I grow my own food for them? Do they eat anything besides oatmeal? I want to give my chickens the healthiest food possible.

    -Put a few layers of newspaper/brown paper sack on top of everything so the larva will go there to pupate.
    Is this necessary? I've also read that you can take the adults out as they become adults, but read nothing about the newspaper when I read that. Is the newspaper/paper sack layer to make it easier to get the worms for the chickens?

    I also have read that mealworms are high in fat and low in protein, is this true? Are the adult mealworms better for your chickens and if so, is it a good idea to grow a lot of them to adulthood?

    I think there are other questions but my brain is a little twisted and tired haha. Thank you in advance!
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2012

  2. dfriloux

    dfriloux In the Brooder

    Apr 8, 2010
    Here's an article I found very interesting. It looks pretty basic, but it does address some of your questions.[​IMG] (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mealworm) I'm in the same boat as you right now and am trying to figure out whether it's even worth the trouble to grow them or, if I buy them in bulk, how do I keep them alive? My friend bought 5,000 for $30 online, which I think seems reasonable, however, I'm not sure how long it'll take my chicks to eat 5,000 mealworms! Anyway, good luck to you!!
  3. kizanne

    kizanne Songster

    Mar 28, 2011
    Tallahassee, FL
    Ok.. Here are a few answers..

    Wheat bran is bedding and food. Pine is just bedding
    Oatmeal would be food also and bedding

    Find out where your worms are coming from China grows alot of mealworms.

    You buy wheat bran from a feed store in bulk or pay more and buy it in the store.

    depending on your chickens ..... 5000 won't last long unless you really just use them as treats. Mine if I let them could easily eat 300 a day or more. But I use them as treats.

    The beetle dead/worm dead. It doesn't matter either way.

    The fruit and veggies are moisture and of course it still provides some food aspects.

    It is hard to have too little moisture but too much you'll know cause it will cause mold.

    They are insects so not hard to grow. Worth it is an opinion. My chicken's, my daughters hamster and even my tilapia love them so it is worth it to me and we go through alot when I'm in the mood to pass out treats.

    An they have high protein and fat. but I haven't seen any ill effects in my chickens or eggs. High protein is good and a little fat won't hurt, they are chickens they were literally born to eat bugs.
    1 person likes this.
  4. la dee da

    la dee da Songster

    Dec 18, 2008
    Awesome info, I have a place to start now!
    Thank you both [​IMG]
  5. la dee da

    la dee da Songster

    Dec 18, 2008
    I think I'll start with using pine shavings as their bedding, as I can reuse it without tossing out valuable food. So my next questions are:

    1. Can I grow my own mealworm food?
    2. Should I give them anything besides say, oats (or should I crush it to make oatmeal)?
    3. Should I grow some greens, or give them table scraps, removing them after a couple hours if the worms didn't eat it?
    4. Will oats provide enough calcium and protein for the worms and adults?
    5. Is there anything else I should grow or give them besides oats or oatmeal?

    I'm thinking the healthier the bugs and worms are, the healthier they'll be for my birds.

    Thanks a ton!
  6. Gallo del Cielo

    Gallo del Cielo La Gallina Resort & Spa

    May 6, 2010
    My Coop
    I wouldn't use pine shavings. The "bedding" is really food for the mealworms and you should use either wheat bran or oatmeal (rolled oats) or chicken feed. They won't eat pine shavings. Of course you can grow food for them--try a variety of things and see what they like. Mine mostly eat kitchen scraps. Yes, if they don't eat something within a day or so, remove it. If you want to increase their calcium content, add a cup of oyster shells to the mealworm colony. Good luck!
  7. kari_dawn

    kari_dawn Songster

    Nov 2, 2009
    North Texas
    It may help you to think of mealworms as a very hardy (read: hard to kill) grain pest. Essentially, that is what they are.

    You can bed them in just about anything derived from grains and they will be perfectly happy. I chose to bed mine in unmedicated chick starter. I figure giving them nutrient rich food will empart more nutrition into them for my chickens...besides, I already have it laying around. Its easier to just replentish their bedding with something I already keep on hand.

    I agree that you should not use pine shavings...that seems like that would be a pain....not to mention, the worms will be at least trying to injest them...you might as well provide them with something that has some sort of nutrition. I have also found that it is easier to sift the worms out of bedding that is smaller particles.

    As far as providing moisture, I use potato. It is not too wet so as to cause mold, and it is dense enough to provide moisture for a few days. I leave it in the drawer for the mealworms and just let it dry up in the case that beetles have laid their eggs on it....once there are too many dried up pieces, I remove the oldest ones. Mealworm raising can be as hands on or hands off as you want it to be. I personally choose the hands off approach. After I lost my original flock to predators, I forgot about my colony (it was started specifically for my girls, and tending to them just reminded me of my loss). Six months later, when I got new chickens that were old enough to enjoy them, I checked in my drawers, and they were still alive and thriving. No moisture, nearly no food, and still thousands of mealies wriggling around in there.

    I pick out just the mealies as I need them, and basically ignore the colony the rest of the time. They are hard to get wrong, just don't over think them :) Provide bedding (food), moisture (slices of potato or other sources), and a slick walled container to keep the beetles from climbing out. I use a double stacked plastic drawer. I have found the upper drawer thrives more. I guess there is more air flow or something....so I swap the drawers every few months.

  8. ScottM

    ScottM Songster

    It should go without saying, but buy the oats/bran at the feed store in lbs, vs the grocery store.

    I'd also suggest not oats, but wheat bran. The difference being you can use a strainer to sift out the worms when needed.
  9. onafixedincome

    onafixedincome Songster

    Oct 10, 2009
    It really IS as simple as it sounds.

    Mealworms are a grain pest, and are naturally found in grain storage areas. So we give them grain-based bedding (I use wheat bran), which is actually like you or I sleeping on cotton candy or mashed potatoes--it's comfy and it's edible! :) We give them a few veggies or similar for moisture, and we leave them (mostly) alone. And...they do what they do--they eat the bedding, chew moisture out of the veggies, and breed. And grow.

    I just consolidated my boxes into large bins, the pretty standard 20? gallon rectangle Sterilite type. The bedding for the 2400 or so beetles is about oh, 8 inches deep, and there are beetles scattered happily burrowing and eating and breeding throughout. I use stale wheat bread to give them shelter/things to hide under, and carrots or celery (BTW, celery is a great way to provide the Cricket Quencher..big feeding trough..mine lined right up like hogs at a trough) for moisture.

    And I ignore them except about once a week, when I go through and pull dead worms and beetles for the chickens (they can get smelly, so out they go and make chooks happy) and make sure there's enough moisture being provided.

    The worms and old bedding from beetle boxes went into a new big box with a few carrots. They're growing, and I'm more or less leaving them alone.

    It's just that simple.

    I would NOT try this with any bedding material but a grain product; they need that habitat to survive.

    Good luck!!

  10. la dee da

    la dee da Songster

    Dec 18, 2008
    Okay, no pine, use grain, but how do I separate their poo from the bedding? I was planning on using this method for them so that we can use their poo for the garden and keep the bin reasonably clean from poo https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/571630/mealworms (post #7). I also figure it'll be maximum produnction, and if I don't like it I can always try keep the entire colony together.

    Do I need to have newspaper/brown sacks on top of everything? Are the bugs happier if they have someplace like that? We are planning on putting them in plastic totes (is clear ok or do they need it to be a solid color?) on top of plastic shelving systems, so we can keep them in the garage in warmer weather and in the house during winter. I have no idea how easy or hard it is to roll oats, can they eat just whole oats that I've grown? If I grow a variety such as corn, oats, and wheat and put all that in as their bedding, would that be ok?

    The reason I want to get these so "right" is because I'm going to try and grow my own chicken food, and these are part of that plan.

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