Raising Mealworms, Superworms, and Crickets

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by LTygress, Apr 3, 2013.

  1. LTygress

    LTygress Songster

    Sep 12, 2012
    Yesterday, for the very first time, I actually purchased freeze-dried mealworms from Tractor Supply for my hens. At $10 for a small container, I think I shelled out WAY too much money! It's cheaper than live ones, but not in the long run. However, I did it because my current live mealworm supply is low, and I had to give them treats for being so good about moving to their new pen. Yet the price made me VERY thankful that I normally do raise my own, and I decided to share how I raise ALL THREE of my chicken treats. The best news is, you have everything you need to keep these guys going, because you're raising chickens! And all three of these little bugs LOVE eating hard-boiled egg yolks! Go figure!

    I see a lot of threads about mealworms, and I know there is a thread dedicated to raising them. Mealworms are the easiest of the three things to raise. You literally just dump them in a bucket with wheat germ, and let them go. But I tend to separate them out when they are pupae, and put them in another container. This gives all of them plenty of room to grow, and I know I have enough to keep them going. I don't start feeding from the NEXT container until I see pupae in it, so I know I will have some to move. But for the most part, a cheap bag of mealworms and a good supply of wheat germ (I've found the cheapest on Amazon so far, sold in four-bag packs), will go a LONG WHILE if you just leave them alone and let them do their thing. Obviously, you want a box that the worms and beetles can't chew through or climb out of, so those clear plastic rubbermaid containers work for me. An occasional sliced potato or apple works for water, but they really don't use water very much at all. The wheat germ is pretty much the only food you'll need (and it works as a substrate as well) but you can occasionally add hard-boiled egg yolk as a mealworm treat.

    Not as easy to raise as mealworms. Superworms are like giant mealworms (around 2 inches long) and you can find them at most fishing bait shops in groups of 25 for $3-4. I personally buy them in bulk from Ghann's Cricket Farm here in Georgia. But they aren't very easy to raise for me. I just got my first successful offspring, and I've been trying for about six months now. But then my biggest problem with them is steady HEAT for the beetles and eggs.

    UNLIKE mealworms, superworms can not stand to be cold - they will die. They also will not turn to pupae on their own in the box of wheat germ. In order to get them to change, you have to separate them from food AND water AND all other superworms. The best way I have found to isolate them like this is medication bottles - rinsed out well, and completely dried. My mother is on about 4 or 5 medications that get renewed every 2 weeks to a month, so I've got an endless supply! If you know anyone like this, start stocking up. Each container should have no food, no water, and only a SINGLE superworm. The death rate when doing this is actually VERY low. Keep them somewhat warm - somewhere in the 80's to low 90's has worked best for me. When you see the superworm curl up onto itself into a C-shape, he's almost ready to change.

    Once a superworm morphs into a pupae, you can put the pupae in another container of wheat germ. All of the pupae can go together in this new box - you only needed to separate them to morph into the pupae. A slice of potato or apple occasionally will give them a source of water. This is MUCH more important as a beetle, than as a superworm. But do NOT give them any direct source of water (i.e. pour it into the wheat germ, or add a bowl of water). Beetles are kinda stupid, and will drown themselves, or the water will make the wheat germ moldy. After a while, dig a little trench in the wheat germ and check for movement of baby worms. Mealworm beetles will often dig down into the wheat germ. Superworm beetles do not. Give them a piece of paper egg carton to climb on so they don't get stuck in the wheat germ like quick sand. You can also feed mashed hard-boiled egg yolk to superworm beetles and offspring, to help supplement their diet during breeding and growing.

    Crickets are much like mealworms - you can dump them in and let them go. The problem with crickets is that the adults will eat the offspring if there is not sufficient amount of food for them. For this reason, many cricket breeders will put temporary containers of soil into the cricket habitat for them to lay eggs. NO OTHER SUBSTRATE will be in the habitat. You can feed crickets mashed hard-boiled eggs (yolk and white) and give them slices of potato or apple for water. DO NOT leave open water in a cricket habitat, and don't mist crickets themselves from a water bottle. Crickets, like beetles, are pretty stupid, and will drown themselves. The babies will even drown themselves in a single drop of water on the glass of an aquarium. One method that breeders use to give crickets plain water, is to wet a sponge and leave it in the habitat. The crickets can drink from the sponge, and you simply remove it and re-wet it when it's dry.

    You can tell female from male crickets based on the number of protuding "tubes" on their back end. Males have only two. Females will have three. The third one is the ovipositor, which the female will stick into the soil to lay her eggs. If you see a female cricket sticking the ovipositor into the soil, she's laying eggs. Males may or may not be near her chirping as she does this. Cricket breeders will put a container of soil into the cricket habitat and keep a loose eye to watch for females laying eggs. About 1-2 weeks after first noticing it, they will remove the container of soil, and replace it with a new one. The container with eggs in it will be moved to an "incubation" container where it will be kept at a steady temperature in the 90's and misted to stay moist, until the first baby crickets are seen. Crickets do not have a larvae or pupae stage. They hatch right out of the eggs looking like REALLY tiny crickets. One way I have found to see them is to blow onto the egg-filled soil. Once you stop blowing, debris will stop moving, but baby crickets will keep going.

    At this point, start adding food, and sliced apples or potatoes, or a wet sponge. Once they get to about 2 weeks old (or 1/4 inch) they can safely be added back in with the adults. The best part about raising crickets to feed to your chickens, is the fun in watching chickens chase the jumping crickets! Chickens are VERY precise when pecking, and they can catch fast-moving crickets with amazing accuracy!

    I actually keep my crickets in a large 150G aquarium with screen lids. Because of this, and the amount of food I usually give them, I don't have to remove the eggs to protect them. I just keep a heat lamp on one end of the tank and let the crickets do their thing. The advantage to this is that I get many different sizes of crickets in one container. This is especially important for my 200G terrarium where I keep lizards, garter snakes, frogs, and turtles of all different sizes. But it could also help a flock of chickens with younger chicks that need access to slightly smaller crickets. Either method works, though.
    OCeggs23 and JIG alaska like this.
  2. LTygress

    LTygress Songster

    Sep 12, 2012
    Just read that superworms are not recommended for chickens because they have such large mandibles. But I have yet to have ANY problems with my chickens eating them, and they get to dig in every time I order a box of 1,000 from the supplier.
  3. Tatiana110

    Tatiana110 Songster

    Very informative post, thank you so much for sharing your experience!

    We got mealworms and are starting our mealworm farm now. Hoping for some success, as our chicks love them!

  4. StephenP

    StephenP Hatching

    Oct 29, 2016
    I'm raising super worms and after about 6 months, they started pupating on their own. I have about 20 that have pupated and maybe 5 large black beetles so far. I started raising mealworms because I thought they would be easier. But mealies aren't good for geckos, so back to only supers for me.

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