You need to fortify your chickens’ diet with enough protein if you want them to be healthy and produce more eggs. One of such proteinous foods is mealworms.
Not only do mealworms boost your chickens’ immunity and provide them with enough protein for increased egg production, but chickens also love eating them. Below are more reasons you should give your chickens mealworms and what to consider when doing that.
5 Reasons You Should Give Your Chickens Mealworms
Mealworms are tasty foods chickens love. Besides, they are enriched with lots of nutrients that do wonders for your chickens. Here are reasons you should give your chickens mealworms.
Increased egg production
Chickens need sufficient proteins to produce more and healthier eggs, and mealworms are dense sources of proteins. They also contain the vitamins and minerals your chickens need.
Feeding them to your chickens increases the flavor and nutritional value of the eggs they produce. Ensure you include mealworms in your chickens’ diet, especially during their laying period. Sometimes, mealworms can trigger egg production as well.
Useful during molting
Usually, your chickens will experience a molting season in which they lose their feathers and grow new ones. Molting, a response to hormonal changes in chicken, makes your chickens healthier and more robust.
However, during this time, they don’t produce eggs but need all the protein they can get. You have to fortify their diet with dense protein sources such as mealworms, as feathers mostly contain protein.
Strengthened immune system
Proteins are great immune boosters, and every living thing requires them in sufficient quantities. Chickens aren’t left out. Mealworms have over 50% protein, so you don’t have to worry about your chickens not getting enough protein. Besides, mealworms contain methionine, an amino acid that keeps your chickens from becoming cannibalistic.
Besides the nutritional value of mealworms, they are delicious. Chickens love munching on treats and will only love you more when you give them mealworms.
As such, they’ll want to be around you, and it’ll be easier to train them if you wish. Also, eating mealworms makes your chickens happier – you can see this in their excitement when you give them, and happier chickens are healthier chickens.
It’s fun to watch your chickens going wild over mealworms. Sometimes, they fight with one another to get a mouthful to munch on. Such moments are fun and emotionally relaxing for you, the owner. If you feel like you need something to cheer you up or you want to take your mind off your worries, you can make this a favorite pastime.
How Often Should You Give Your Chickens Mealworms?
Even though it is good to feed your chickens with mealworms, you should note that too many mealworms are bad for them. Mealworms are a type of treatment, and treats shouldn’t be more than 10 % of what you feed your chickens.
They mostly need their feed, which contains all the nutrients they need in the right proportion. As such, they shouldn’t have mealworms more than twice a week. In a day, don’t give your chicken more than ten live or four dried mealworms. Below are some of the effects of feeding your chickens with too many mealworms:
Giving your chickens too many treats, such as mealworms, leads to obesity. If your chickens keep eating what they shouldn’t eat in the first place or overeat what they should, they will gain unnecessary weight.
For fully-grown chickens, weight gain isn’t needed. It causes liver damage in chickens if care isn’t taken. It can also make eggs yoked together or too big for the chicken to push out. An obese chicken finds it challenging to cope in hot weather, too; the body temperature won’t be regulated, which leads to improper breathing. As such, such chicken dies of heatstroke.
Change of attitude
Another effect of giving your chickens too many mealworms is a change in their attitude. They become easily lethargic and irritated and might not be as active and agile as they were. A shift in attitude is easy to notice because during this period, they aren’t their old selves. When you see this, ensure you regulate their diet to be their usual selves again.
Poor health condition
Since overfeeding leads to obesity in chickens, they won’t be as healthy as they should be. They will be more susceptible to diseases such as colds, decreased fertility, sudden death syndrome, etc.
Even though your chickens don’t have to be skinny to be healthy, their weight should be moderate and consistent. Always weigh them to know when they are being overfed. To control their weight, create opportunities for them to exercise; you can do this by allowing them to free range.
Store-Bought vs. Homegrown Mealworms
You can buy mealworms for your chickens from the store or grow mealworms in your home. Below are some of the things you should know about store-bought and homegrown mealworms.
You can get mealworms in any store around you or order online. The benefit is that it requires fewer efforts compared to growing mealworms in your home. You don’t have to bother with providing a conducive environment for your mealworms or looking for tips on how to grow healthy mealworms.
However, store-bought mealworms cannot be trusted all the time. This is because they are often grown with chemicals that may be dangerous to your chickens. You might find it difficult to get reliable stores to buy your mealworms from. In fact, some countries have banned mealworms because of this.
In addition, buying mealworms at the store can be expensive. Mealworms cost quite a lot and can cause you some financial strain if you want to include them in your chicken’s diet regularly. As such, if you don’t have much to spend, you should grow your mealworms.
The other option is to grow your mealworms, but the process isn’t entirely stress-free. When you grow your mealworms, there’s no risk of giving your chickens what will hurt them. Besides, raising your mealworms is cheaper than buying them at the store every time you need them.
However, you must first understand the growth and reproduction cycle of mealworms, what you should give them as food, the environment necessary for their survival, etc. As such, you have to acquire a lot of knowledge about them if you want to breed mealworms for your chickens. If not, you’ll grow your mealworms on different things that might be dangerous to your chickens.
Farming your mealworms
Growing your mealworms isn’t expensive; you have to know how to go about it. Mealworms don’t require too much space or water and can be bred anywhere. The first step in farming your mealworms is to get a container with a lid. After, clean and dry the container thoroughly. Get the required feed and get the mealworms. The more you feed the mealworms, the more they multiply.
5 Other Healthy Foods to Give Your Chickens
Asides from mealworms, there are other healthy foods you can give your chickens. Always ensure that you give your chickens suitable feed and treats in the right proportion as the quality of their food directly affects their health.
Chickens love apples because they are tasty. Besides, apples are enriched with vitamins that enhance your chickens’ performance. However, ensure you remove the seeds from the apples before you feed them to the chickens. This is because the seeds contain cyanide which might be dangerous to your chickens. Also, to make it easier for your chickens, cut the apples into small pieces.
Eggshells are excellent sources of calcium, and chickens need calcium to produce healthy eggs. Instead of disposing of their eggshells, you can grind them and mix them with their diet. It has no negative effect, but you shouldn’t rely on this as their only source of calcium. ou have to feed them other foods as well.
Berries are another food you can give your chickens, either strawberries, blueberries, etc. Any chicken breed will jump at the opportunity to eat berries. If your chickens were free-range a lot, you can plant berries in the spaces they love to roam. Besides, it’ll be a form of exercise for them when plucking off the berries from their limbs.
Greens and vegetables
Greens and vegetables such as lettuce, kale, turnips, onions, carrots, etc., are excellent sources of nutrients for chickens. You can buy them regularly from the store or grow them in your house. These foods are enriched with vitamins that provide energy and warmth, especially during cold seasons.
Flaxseed is good for chickens too. It enhances their strength and the appearance of their feathers. It also improves the quality of their eggs and reduces cholesterol levels in their blood. Since flaxseed contains unsaturated fatty acid, it provides your chickens with healthy fats
You can buy flaxseeds, grind them and mix them with your chickens’ diet or buy flaxseed feed.
It’s advisable you feed your chickens with a wide range of healthy feed and treats so that they won’t lack any nutrients. However, ensure you buy their food from reliable stores and farms, or if you can, make them yourself.
Mealworms fortify your chickens’ diet and improve their egg production. Even though they aren’t the main feed, they can’t be ignored because of their nutritional value. To ensure you provide safe-to-eat mealworms for your chickens, you should consider home-growing mealworms. If you don’t have the time to, buy your mealworms from a reliable, local farmer.
Joseph Hudson has been raising chickens for over 15 years. In 2018, he completed the Agriculture & Natural Resources program at Mt. San Antonio College. He currently raises over 1400 chickens on his 7.5-hectare farm. He keeps sharing his experience on raising healthy and happy chickens on Chicken Scratch The Foundry.