How to Raise Red Worms as a Chicken Treat

How to Raise Red Worms as a Chicken Treat

Raising Red Worms is Good for Your Chickens and Your Soil

Do you know how to raise red worms as a healthy chicken treat? It’s no secret that backyard chickens and fowl of all kind love worms. But it’s important to note that not all worms are equal and not all worms are the easiest to raise. If you’ve been considering raising mealworms, here’s what you should know. Raising mealworms takes an active hands-on effort. There are four stages of growth and each stage of growth requires that you have hands-on care for those individual stages. This will require four bins for the stages. Yes, you can raise them in one bin, however, when you harvest them, you will have all four stages to harvest because they will not be easily separated. This pretty much defeats the purposes and ultimately you’ll lose some of your breeding stock without working in the four-stage method.

A mealworm is exactly what the name implies. They eat grain meals. You raise fowl, you have grains, and the first escapee suddenly becomes your enemy. Even worse, it also becomes the enemy of your community if you are in farm or grain country. We’ve all heard the little song about the “bull weevil just lookin’ for a home.” Well, a mealworm is about the same kind of guy. He’ll seek out grains if he escapes and he will reproduce rapidly to become a menace. Worse yet, if you decide you don’t have the time or interest to continue to raise them and turn them loose, you are creating a disaster scenario in your own grain environment.

I believe a much better option is the red worm or maybe known as wriggly red worm. Red worms are small garden worms that enrich the soil with their castings which make great natural fertilizers. Learning how to raise red worms doesn’t require much hands-on effort; they can be raised in a single bin, and their food supply is as near as your kitchen without sacrificing your grains. They enjoy fruit and vegetation, coffee grounds, tea grounds and shredded paper — things we all have an abundance of.

And if we’re learning how to raise red worms, why not make use of the red worm to compost that material for you and produce the worm castings important to the soil? Raising red worms for composting is an easy way to improve the health of your soil for gardening. Red worms can be raised year round when provided shelter from freezing or hot weather. And the best part of learning how to raise red worms is that you can use the red worms for fishing bait, chicken treats, and soil enhancement with no special equipment and no special hands-on efforts. If you get tired of raising red worms, dump them in the compost or garden and let them enrich your own garden soil or toss them all to the chickens and farm fowl.

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How to Raise Red Worms: How Worms Improve Soil Health

Worms produce the earth elements of calcium, magnesium, nitrates, phosphorous, and potassium through their digestive system. Do you know how to add calcium to soil? Red worm compost doubles the calcium content of soil. They increase magnesium levels of soil by as much as two-and-a-half times. The nitrates level goes up by five times. The phosphorous level increases by as much as seven times and the potassium level by 11 times. These are all elements that fertilizer companies refine and bag for sale. These elements are what your plants — your vegetable, herbs, grains or flowers — need for a healthy life.

Red worms:

• Improve your soil’s physical structure;

• Improve your soil’s water holding capacity; and

• Enhance germination, plant growth, and crop yield while improving root growth and structure.

What Do I Need to Raise Red Worms Successfully?

All that is needed is to toss in some kitchen scraps periodically and keep their bedding moist. Regular potting soil or composted materials and manure works fine for a bedding material and an environment that doesn’t get too hot or too cold (they best tolerate temperatures from 40 to 80 degrees). Setting the bin in an area that gets morning sun and afternoon shade typically is the best. You don’t really need a lid, except that the lid keeps cats from using it as a litter box, and the lid helps to retain moisture on warm days and keep rain out on inclement days. A plastic storage bin will work just as well, but will need ventilation if the lid is used. Even a screen over the top will work fine as long as some moisture can be contained. The worms can be raised in a bin in the kitchen or outdoors, wherever is convenient for you to toss table scraps or waste from fresh produce in as you have them. So even just outside the door of the kitchen to the outdoors may be a convenient location. I keep a bucket with a lid near the kitchen work area, so I can just toss the scraps in it and then carry that to the worm bin.

Where Can I Buy Red Worms?

Red worms are usually easily obtained wherever fishing supplies are found. Worms are asexual, so they do not need a partner for reproduction; however, the more worms you have, the more they will seek out partners for reproductive efforts. A regular plastic storage container can be obtained anywhere and size is reliant on how many you intend to raise. Anywhere from a shoe box size to a suitcase size or larger bin will work. If you feed them the scraps regularly, they will reward you with more worms and a handful of worms tossed to the chickens will create a feeding frenzy of appreciation.

If you’re looking for an environmentally safe and friendly treat for your chickens, red worms are a good option and maybe not as creepy to handle as a meal worm. Inexpensive to raise and easy to harvest. We here at Just Fowling Around would encourage you to raise the red worms for many environmental purposes, as a learning experience for children, and knowing you’re providing a healthy source of protein to your flocks will give you peace of mind as well.

Worms work 24 hours a day producing the casts that will enrich your potted plants or garden plants. A mesh screen for separating the worms from the castings works well. Never deplete your supply of worms, or have two different bins of worms. Those separated from the casts and those in a reproduction bin, so you will always have them reproducing for you even as you are tossing some to the chickens or into the garden. The worms cannot survive only on the castings, they must be fed to continue to reproduce. Too many worms in a bin can halt reproduction, so separating them ever couple of months or so will be to your advantage. Replenish their bedding materials as needed. A bag of potting soil, peat moss, aged manure or compost will last a long time for the bedding material, so any initial investment is reduced to pennies as your worms and castings become productive. You may have to make no investment at all in bedding materials if you’re a gardener, you will already have these materials on hand.

Supplies Needed for Raising and Feeding Red Worms

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  • Bin with lid (ventilated for good air circulation and at least an 8-inch high container with holes punched in the bottom for drainage)
  • Compost/potting soil/aged manure/peat moss or a mixture of all with wood shavings/sawdust
  • Shredded paper and cardboard scraps
  • Fruit/vegetable scraps
  • Pulverized egg shells
  • Bread scraps
  • Coffee or tea grounds
  • Large spray bottle (to keep the soil moist as necessary)
  • Wire mesh

NOTE: No meat or bones, these tend to just get rancid and attract rodents and predators and insect pests. Generally whatever you toss into a compost bin will be good food for the worms.

Why Do You Want to Learn How to Raise Red Worms?

Raising worms should not be the newest fad or the biggest marketing ploy but should be raised for the health aspects of your chickens and your gardens. We’re never going to encourage fads or fancy packaging, that fall to the wayside because they are expensive or time-consuming or not worth the effort past the initial “romantic” appeal. We offer good practical reasons to do what we suggest and if precautions need to be in place we will definitely make those known. Raising red worms is not a fad, and does not have to be expensive or time-consuming to provide you with a natural healthy product that has benefits for years. Once you’ve established them in your garden, it’s optional whether you continue to raise them in bins. I like to have them both in bins and in the gardens, working away for the benefit of the environment and food sources and those raised in bins, can be grabbed up in a handful for treats to the chickens while heading out the door to the chicken coop or run or hand fed to those chickens that come to you for their expected treats.

We hope the guidelines are encouraging and useful to getting your own beneficial worm community going and thriving. If handling the worms creeps you out, use disposable surgical gloves when handling them, but be assured the worms are harmless – they just wiggle a lot when handled. Or grab a fisherman, he’ll be unaffected by the wriggling of his best fish bait or grab a kid that seems to love handling worms and use that opportunity as a learning moment for an environmentally friendly and beneficial creature of the earth. And believe it or not there are actually people that do not know the benefit of worms and I’ve even read comments from people that want to destroy worms because they do not like them in their garden. That simply tells me how uninformed people really are about their own environment. All we can do is offer good solid information and hope the uninformed will become enlightened.

Source: Backyard Poultry

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