DIY Mealworm farm kit
Our chickens love mealworms. We get a flock of runners at the back door every time we walk by. The girls are hoping we’ll open the door and throw out a handful of the freeze dried mealworm treats that we buy them. It may as well be chicken crack. The dried ones can get pricy, and our other girls preferred the live ones. Now that our flock is laying, we are starting a new mealworm farm to keep them supplied with their favorite protein rich treat.
Mealworm farm kit
Mealworm farm kits can be a way to get started. We found this to be one of the easiest DIY projects you can do. Kids love the mealworm larvae and will even play with the mealworm beetles. I’ll use some of the mealworrms for fishing in addition to feeding them to the chickens, but don’t tell them that. Getting started with a mealworm requires minimal investment and supplies. You can be growing your own mealworms in just 5 minutes.
Darkling Beetle Life Cycle
The mealworm is the larval form of the darkling beetle. Similar to butterflies, mealworms pupate and then change form. The female beetle lays eggs that hatch in 4-19 days. When they hatch, you have tiny mealworms. These mealworms shed their skins, or molt, similar to a snake shedding its skin. Once the mealworm larvae is big enough, it will enter the pupal stage. The mealworm pupa will stay in this stage for anywhere from a few weeks to several months. The pupa stage is boring… You’re just waiting for the mealworm beetles to emerge from the pupa. The mealworm beetles emerge in a really light color. After a day or two, they go from light brown to black.
DIY Mealworm Farm Supplies
There are only a few things you need to set up your initial farm. For a basic set up, I’ve used plastic containers. You could use an old aquarium, or any container that is at least a foot tall and has a lid. While the beetles aren’t great climbers, you don’t want them running loose in your home. You’ll need their food/bedding. I like using rolled oats, but you can also use wheat bran. Depends on what you want your chickens to eat. You can even use your chicken’s food, I started my first mealworm farm with just chicken scratch. The mealworms will also need a source of water. I’ve found that apples are great. You can quarter them and use a quarter per 200 larvae. Carrots also work well for mealworm watering.
Setting up your mealworm farm
You want your container to be clean and dry. Layer in your 1-2 pounds of rolled oats, wheat bran, or chicken feed. I used rolled oats as they are the easiest to get.
Sort out dead mealworms before adding them to the container to start the mealworm farm with no dead. This will help you tell if they are dying off and you need to investigate. I used the container lid to sort and am starting with 1000 mealworms. You can start with less, but the more you have, the sooner you’ll have a sustainable colony of mealworms.
All that is left on the lid is dead mealworms and already eaten food. This will just go into the compost pile.
Now simply add the sorted mealworms to the oats. I did this as I went so there were several additions. I also added an apple cut in quarters.
If you use a solid lid, drill a few small holes for ventilation (3/32″ works fine for this)
Check back the next day for any issues. This looks great. The mealworm larvae are eating the apples for moisture.
We also added a cardboard scratching post that was destroyed by our cat. It has a hollow section and is made of cardboard. The beetles need high places to climb and like cardboard for laying eggs. I’ve seen people use egg cartons to provide the same type of environment. We used toilet paper/paper towel rolls in the past.
After about a week, I checked in on them and there was mold growing on the apples. I guess the PNW moisture is too much for a full lid. Easy fix, we swapped out the lid for some window screen from the hardware store.