Monday, August 04, 2008

Go West, Young Man - and Raise Some Mealy Worms

We're back from visiting Bernie's parents out in the Great Plains. I have to tell you, I am honestly one blessed individual. I have the best in-laws a person could possibly wish for. Not only are they kind, sweet, and wonderful, they are honestly some of the most fun people I have ever met. We had a great time and it was really hard to leave them, knowing that they are so far away. We don't get to see them near as often as we'd like.

The week away was no where near as difficult as I had feared. We had such a great time visiting Bernie's parents I really didn't have a lot of time to dwell on missing our homestead - although I must admit, it creeped into my mind and heart on occasion. We got to see his sisters and a couple of nieces and nephews, and we also did a fair amount of sight seeing. The Great Plains is such a contrast to the area where we live. Both are beautiful in very different ways. We have very hilly terrain, and lots and lots of trees. In certain areas of the Plains, it really seems that you can see as far as the end of the earth - and at night the skies are filled with more stars than I ever knew existed. Every where we went, I spent the entire time with my nose pressed to the car windows, just staring at the beautiful landscape, and admiring the homesteads in a part of our great country that was founded by homesteaders with more grit than I probably possess. Awesome. Absolutely awesome.

I took a lot of pictures, and it was very difficult to choose only a few to post in this blog because they are all so pretty. Below, is a picture that proves the earth is indeed flat:


Isn't that just an awesome place? You can also see the end of the earth in this picture, and a glimpse of the Missouri River:


With such a wet spring and early summer in that part of the country, the wildflowers were spectacular. This looks like a sea of flowers to me:


And the Black Eyed Susans were everywhere:


We got to take a little road trip to Le Mars, Iowa. It's the Ice Cream Capitol of the World and home to Blue Bunny ice cream, which just so happens to be my absolutely very most favorite wonderfully delicious ice cream on the entire planet. It may have been the highlight of the trip for me. That would be a tough call though....

Pictures could never do justice to the beauty of the Great Plains. And words could never adequately explain how awesome my in-laws are.

As wonderful as our visit was, it was also wonderful to get home at the end of the trip. I am very proud to report that Bernie's fence did the trick. The chickens were safe and so was the garden.

The chickens grew in the week we were gone - a lot! And Duke is perfecting his crow. He's also practicing it a lot more often and has been crowing just about every time he sees us outside. Our rain barrel has over 50 gallons in it now, and the garden is providing a fair amount of fresh vegetables. The cats weren't very happy with us the first day after we returned, but they've finally decided to forgive us and allow us to pet and love on them.

Before we left on our trip, I ordered 1,000 Mealy Worms so I can raise them for the chickens to eat. They arrived the day we returned. I'm going to take the word of the invoice and trust there were 1,000 worms in the box when it arrived as I really have no interest in counting them.

I did vermi-composting with Red Wigglers for a few years with great success, so when I read about raising Mealy Worms for the chickens I decided to go for it. It really seems relatively simple and inexpensive. Some people choose corn meal, wheat bran, or other mediums, but I decided to use chicken feed because it's easy for me to find and only cost about $15 for 50 pounds of it, which should last quite a while. I simply filled the bottom of a very large plastic tub with about six inches of chicken feed, placed a few cut up potatoes and cabbage on top, dumped the worms in with it all, and then covered it with newspaper. I also put the plastic tub lid on to keep the cats out of it. Apparently the best temperature for the worms to breed well is between 70 - 80 degrees, so I put the whole rig in the tub in the spare bath room. And then I closed the shower curtain so unsuspecting visitors to the powder room won't be as likely to leave it running and shrieking. So far, so good.

The past week has been a lot of fun. It was great to see Bernie's family, and great to get back home. Not surprisingly, the long to-do list I left was here when I got back. There's always something to do here on the homestead - but I wouldn't have it any other way. And I might actually accomplish something if I didn't have to stop and play with the chickens, listen to Duke crow, pet Elvis, hold Priscilla, and listen to the wind blowing through the trees. I'm telling you, it's hard work around here.

Bee Free,


Suz said...

Welcome home, Penny.

I've enjoyed reading your chicken-rearing tales. Glad that all are well.

I've been madly hatching eggs all summer with middling success. Now have a new flock of baby Delawares that don't seem to want to quit on me, and two (out of 6) surviving turkeys. Then while I'm fussing away, one of my Buff Orp hens just hatched 10 out of 10 and is doing just fine without my help!!

Anyway.. I have a Q about mealy worms!!! Are these to *replace* layer feed or to supplement? Where did you buy them, will they keep themselves going through the winter.. how will you feed them, etc etc!

My fullgrown flock is about to quadruple for the coming winter.. anything to help keep the cost of feeding down will be a winner with me.

Suz in VT said...

Hi Suz,

Thanks for stopping by. Wow, that's really cool that your buff orp. hatched 10 out of 10 - and even cooler that she is raising them on her own! THAT'S the way to get baby chicks!

The mealy worms are to supplement the chicken food - I feed them as a snack because they are high in protein and the chickens love them. I also give them home made yogurt which is good for their flora and they love that too. And they go crazy for any leftover veggies or fruit I throw in there as well. All of this seems to curb their appetites a bit, but I don't feed them so much that they don't eat enough feed to get the necessary components.

For the worms, I got mine at Free shipping and relatively inexpensive I think. He recommends using 2 containers and separating the larvae from the bug, but I'm not doing that. I only use one container and I suspect the chickens will eat the worms fast enough that we won't have a population issue. When the temp gets colder, the worms will go into a hibernation state - so if you want them to produce year round, you'll need to keep them at 70 - 80 degrees. As for feeding, they will eat the medium you raise them in, so you will need to occasionally add more. I am using chicken feed (layer). The potatoes and cabbage provide the moisture they need.

I'm no expert on the subject, and if you google raising meal worms, you will find several different methods and a lot of information. Just use the one that works best for you.

Let me know if I can provide any additional info. I do find that supplementing the chicken feed cuts back a bit on the cost.

Take care,

Chainsaw said...

I raised some meal worms in science class wayyyy back in the 8th grade by taking oatmeal that had gone stale, and filling a jar with it and adding some water, just enought to make the oatmeal damp, and screwed the lid on tight.
In no time at all, the humidity created in the jar caused mealworms to be born.
Kinda makes one wonder just how many, and what kinda critters are laying dormant in our food. said...

Extra protein - that's a bonus! Cracks me up how many people I know that just gross out at the thought of a bug on a vegetable. If they had any clue at how many bugs they ingest on a daily basis eating store bought food, they'd likely never eat again. My chickens love the meal worms. I'm sure thankful they're easy to raise.