We use maggot buckets on our farm to feed our chickens maggots.
Now. Go take a breath, wipe the throw up off your lap and stick with me – lot’s of people do this and for many good reasons…
Maggot’s, in their ultimate state, are just little wriggly tubes of protein and fat. And chickens need all the protein they can get to ensure good health, excellent laying production, even temperament, healthy coat, etc, etc, etc.
Chickens are omnivores – they eat all the things. Meat, veggies, bugs, etc. They can do well in environments in which they only receive vegetarian feed, but, like some humans, they can also have health issues if the vegetarian diet isn’t closely monitored to give them the right amount of protein.
In permaculture, there is a saying that the “problem is the solution”. Here, our “problem” is meat scraps from dinner – either from chickens we have harvested on our farm or from meat we get from other farms or the store.
We use those scraps in the Maggot Bucket. I also have used deli meat that has gone off, old leftovers that have meat in it and other odds and ends.
Here is how you put a simple one together. This method works well for people who have smaller flocks – say, between 5-20 chickens. For much bigger flocks, multiple buckets, or a bigger bucket can be used.
- Get 2 gallon sized planting pots.
- Use wire to poke through and tie off to make a hanger.
- Put in meat and some substrate – leaves are good, or pine needles or wood chips.
- Put the other gallon sized pot on top just lightly.
- Hang high in a tree or bush in an area that you won’t have to really go close to when collecting eggs or cleaning out the coop.
Here is what happens:
- Flies are attracted to the smell of rotting meat.
- They lay their eggs in the meat and substrate.
- Eggs hatch about 1-2 days later and *POOF* – instant protein.
This system does NOT breed more flies. In fact, it can lower your fly population b/c the maggots never reach maturity. You want flies to lay eggs in the meat because the maggots get snapped up by the chickens once they wriggle their way out. And wriggle out they most assuredly do. This process is way more desirable than, say, flies laying eggs in your trash can and those eggs potentially reaching maturity.
I would strongly suggest not using any kind of grain or mash in this system. This article talks about the potential for botulism in grain or mash that has been allowed to be fermented and worked over by maggots. Botulism can kill chickens and it’s very important to monitor what goes into the maggot buckets.
Bigger, 5 gallon buckets can be used much like the smaller ones. Drill holes about 1/2 inch wide around the perimeter about an inch up.
Instead of using raw meat, you can also use manure – the flies are just as attracted to poop as they are to meat.
Our method of maggot farming is different from other peoples. There are lot’s of ways of doing this technique. I prefer the one in which I do not have to look or smell the bucket too often. I just provide the housing and time and lets the flies do the rest. I wait until I don’t see maggots coming out and then I know that they bucket is usually exhausted and I take it down and add more substrate, meat or bones, and then cover again. I haven’t had a ton of problems with smell and I’ve NEVER had a chicken get sick or die after consuming maggot’s from the system.
I have, however, noticed a decrease in excessive molting and and increase in egg production.
I have also noticed that it keeps the hens engaged, entertained and less likely to pick on each other and cause a ruckus. Chickens love novelty and busyness. They do not like to be kept in a run without things to investigate and turn over. If left without things to do they turn to tomfoolery and that’s when they can start pecking at each other or me and trying to escape.
We do not free range our hens b/c the farm has many growing areas that I am not keen on having my carefully laid mulch obliterated by chicken’s scraping feet. For their safety and my sanity, we keep them in a big run and continuously throw weeds, scraps, worms, bugs, and huge piles of grass clippings. These things, and the maggot bucket, keeps them happy and healthy.
Has anyone used this system? What are you doing that is different from ours and what have you found works well for substrate? Keep the conversation going in the comments.
In peace and hard at work – Lindsey