Topic of the Week - Feeding mealworms, bugs etc.

sumi

Égalité
Staff member
Premium member
Jun 28, 2011
39,099
23,785
1,252
Tipperary, Ireland
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Pic by @aoxa
Chickens are omnivorous and when given the chance, will happily devour a surprising assortment of bugs and small animals. I've seen mine eat frogs, small snakes, mice… Most of us prefer to be a bit less adventurous when meeting our flocks' craving for meat and stick to providing things like mealworms, crickets, roaches etc. This week I would like to hear you all's thoughts and practices on feeding "live" treats. What do you offer your flocks, what can you feed them safely, etc?


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chickengeorgeto

Crowing
6 Years
Dec 25, 2012
8,048
4,090
431
Big Bend of the Tennessee River's Right Bank.
When feeding extra protein do be careful with the forms of live protein that you chose to feed your chickens. Meal worms are the larva stage of the DARKLING BEETLE and both meal worms and darkling beetles are a major pest and a serious disease vector in commercial chicken houses, besides the meal worms destroy the very chicken house that they live in by boring into the walls of the chicken house in order to pupate. This behavior is more pronounced when using the deep litter method of of chicken manure control.

Don't take my poor word for this, research it and find out for yourself. Also other things like Earth worms, slugs, crickets, snails, and grasshoppers all transmit disease bacteria and intestinal worms to your flock.
 

Trish1974

Araucana enthusiast
Mar 16, 2016
2,831
6,326
522
North Central IN
My Coop
My Coop
My flock gets a daily treat of dried mealworms and sunflower seeds, but as for "live" treats they are on their own. I provide the opportunity for that by letting them forage in the yard and in my 50' x 60' garden. I especially like this time of year when the days warm up just enough that some bugs come to life and the flock finds them and eats them before they have a chance to reproduce. I flipped over a large pile of weeds in the garden the other day and there were hundreds of baby spiders running around underneath. The flock had them devoured in minutes.

Though I have read some bugs and earthworms can cause parasites I do not discourage my birds from eating anything that comes natural to them. I believe a diverse diet (even with the risk of parasitic involvement) is much more healthy than a cooped-up feed only diet.
 
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Rocky Rhodes

Songster
Oct 5, 2013
969
739
207
North Georgia Mountains
We had a large chicken run beside our barn, when I was a kid. Right beside the run was an old rusted out vehicle with bushes and small trees growing all around and through the floorboards and wind shield opening(windshield was long gone). It was like an old milk van. Anyway, A man came to remove it and this was a big event for us kids, I don't know why. He hooked it up and began to move it. It hadn't moved far when mice began to scamper out, A lot of mice. Being kids, we instantly started chasing them. I don't know what we would have done if we had caught one, get a rabies shot I guess. Trying to get to safety, they all headed for the barn, but to get there they had to cross the chicken run. We were all shocked at how quickly those hens dispatched and consumed the mice.:eek: It was like feeding time at jurassic park. They were fighting over them and ripping them to pieces. Some were swallowed whole. We (the kids) thought it was the coolest thing we had ever seen. Our mom, however, was horrified and would not eat eggs that weren't from the grocery store after that. That was the day I became fascinated with chickens. These are not just birds... They are my own little private flock of feathered DINOSAURS.
:celebrate
 

GC-Raptor

Crowing
Jul 26, 2016
3,013
3,632
371
Connecticut, U.S.A.
I don't feed my hens live or freeze dried insects or worms. I do let them free range 1 hour before sunset daily (weather permitting), on more than an acre. We average 3 to 4 inches of precipitation a month and have many hardwood and some softwood trees. They love to search the leaves for bugs, salamanders, worms, crickets and grasshoppers.20171028_171640.jpg Crickets used to find their way into my basement and keep me awake. Not anymore.
I feed a 18% layers pellet, and the only treats I give them are a mixed bird seed scattered on the straw in their pen 20171204_130449.jpg or under the raised coop in wet or snowing weather, twice a day. I also smash a soft shell, thin shell or cracked egg when I find one, on top of seeds on the ground. GC
 

BarredRockMom

Crowing
Jun 9, 2013
570
1,434
277
Pennsylvania
At my house, we are always setting aside fresh venison from what we process. We freeze it in little baggies for the girls & alternate between that, heads of cauliflower, raw sunflower seeds and freeze dried mealworms. Nothing flips the Velocirapor switch faster, I have to say! We allow them to free range (usually daily in good weather) & we supervise to both keep them outta trouble & watch out for predators. If they chase down crickets, spiders or other bugs, they are welcome to 'em. I've had many a gasp in horror as one or another kills & sucks down a baby snake like the spaghetti scene from 'Lady & the Tramp'. (Man, that just makes me want to gag just thinking about it!) I try not to give them worms or slugs, but I can't stop them from eating them if they discover them. They LOVE to scratch around in the garden as we prepare the soil for planting & we usually come across all kinds of larvae creepy crawlies. When we get extremely lucky, we dig up those ghostly white cicada larvae! Man THAT'S a treat they love!! When it's cicada season, the sound of crunching can be heard all over the yard as the girls discover 'chicken potato chips'!
 

centrarchid

Free Ranging
Sep 19, 2009
23,723
13,027
696
Holts Summit, Missouri
Mine will consume almost all insect fare, with exception of insects that have red on them. Insects with red here typically use compounds they collect from milkweed to keep predators at bay.

May through June in some years I have placed a light near roost of young game chickens. Night flying insects (May Beetles mostly) then come into range where chickens can pick them off from their roost. Some nights allow for very rapid crop fill. This seasonal and not well suited for feeding more than a few birds at a time.

When working on beehives some of the chickens follow me and wait for me to drop burr comb. They consume the drone brood very well. I also have been throwing scratch at base of beehive to encourage chickens inspecting area for insects. Hope is to use that as a measure for controlling hive beetles in and just before the pupal stage.

At work I have a lot of ponds and a river nearby where mayflies (burrowing mostly) emerge in mass. Chickens really like those.

Recently I have begun exploring the use of mass harvested Japanese Beetles as eats. The beetles do not keep well outside of a freezer so working on ways to increase their density and dry them so they can be kept year round. Below is an ongoing thread working on the procedure.

https://www.backyardchickens.com/threads/making-feed-from-japanese-beetles.1223688/
 

BarredRockMom

Crowing
Jun 9, 2013
570
1,434
277
Pennsylvania
Mine will consume almost all insect fare, with exception of insects that have red on them. Insects with red here typically use compounds they collect from milkweed to keep predators at bay.
We don't get many Japanese beetles here in my yard, but the girls sure do snap them up quickly when the do see them! The go to town in stink bugs, too!

May through June in some years I have placed a light near roost of young game chickens. Night flying insects (May Beetles mostly) then come into range where chickens can pick them off from their roost. Some nights allow for very rapid crop fill. This seasonal and not well suited for feeding more than a few birds at a time.

When working on beehives some of the chickens follow me and wait for me to drop burr comb. They consume the drone brood very well. I also have been throwing scratch at base of beehive to encourage chickens inspecting area for insects. Hope is to use that as a measure for controlling hive beetles in and just before the pupal stage.

At work I have a lot of ponds and a river nearby where mayflies (burrowing mostly) emerge in mass. Chickens really like those.

Recently I have begun exploring the use of mass harvested Japanese Beetles as eats. The beetles do not keep well outside of a freezer so working on ways to increase their density and dry them so they can be kept year round. Below is an ongoing thread working on the procedure.

https://www.backyardchickens.com/threads/making-feed-from-japanese-beetles.1223688/
 
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