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Casalinho’s Maggot Breeding Enterprise

This is my attempt to provide additional protein for the poultry, giving them a better diet whilst reducing my feed bill. Stop reading now if you’re of a delicate disposition, but before you dismiss maggot breeding as feed just consider that it’s a free product produced out of something that would be otherwise wasted.

Until I kept chickens, I had no idea how carnivorous they actually are. The occasional dead rat I threw them sent them into a feeding frenzy and it would be pretty much ripped apart before it hit the ground. The ducks are a little more reserved, but will go after insects with their necks low to the ground ready to hoover them up. Very effectively too!

We have a steady stream of meat products which for one reason or another are waste and would previously have been composted, burnt or chucked to the chickens. Cooked chicken, fish and rabbit bones can’t go to the dogs for fear of them shattering, then there’s the leftovers when I butcher something (skin, feet, innards etc) or any small unexplained deaths in the animal shed. We lose a fair number of baby rabbits for instance, plus rats who manage to drown themselves in the goats’ water bucket or who come within my range. All of these things now go into what has become tastefully known as my ‘dead things bucket’ which hangs out of chicken reach in the far side of the poultry run. Innocent looking, you’d never guess …..   

There are a series of holes drilled around the bottom edge of the bucket, there’s a few sticks in the bottom to avoid the holes becoming blocked, the dead stuff goes on top of those then the contents are covered with a thick layer of straw. The straw acts as ‘soak’ in the same way as sawdust works in a compost toilet, to contain any smell. As you can imagine, the dead stuff attracts flies. Those that survive the attentions of the hoovering ducks lay their eggs in the bucket contents. Once the fly eggs hatch, there’s a stack of maggots which provide free protein for the poultry.

Of course, getting the maggots to the poultry is key to the system working. And needless to say, this is where I’m still struggling. The idea is that the maggots conveniently fall through the holes in the bottom of the buckets and into the beaks of the birds waiting below. But why would a maggot let go of it’s food source and conveniently fall through a hole? Shaking the bucket dislodges a fair few and gets the birds very excited, but the most effective way of getting the maggots to the birds seems to be simply upturning the bucket and letting them take them straight from source. This has the obvious disadvantage of stinking like, well, like rotting carcasses, but thankfully I seem to have been blessed with a not too keen sense of smell (maybe proximity to the goats has rendered me immune to bad smells? 😉 ). Far more unpleasant is having to get the scraps back in the bucket again for another round. Yeuch! It needs to be done fairly regularly, as my big fear is that maggots not consumed quickly enough will develop into flies. A waste of protein! Eventually scraps which will no longer support maggots get burnt. If I put them in the compost they just attract the dogs which make a hell of a mess, get stinky then think they can lie on my bed.

If anyone has any bright ideas for parting the maggots from their food source without my having to get quite so close up and personal I’d be very pleased to hear. Perhaps some sort of spinning thing would do the trick? I had in mind a sort of large scale salad spinner, but have visions of firing maggots off all over the place! Perhaps something along the lines of the rotating composters might avoid that problem. I’ll keep at it, and report back ….

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6 comments to Casalinho’s Maggot Breeding Enterprise

  • Slim Chance

    Howdy,
    The larvae need a crawl up ramp, and then they drop out the tube.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BnfkW4WgtG8&feature=player_embedded

    Black Soldier Fly Larvae BSF is a good search topic.

    Thanks for posting the hard core permaculture stuff.

    Slim

    • Andrea

      Interesting. I’d never heard of the Bio-pod.

      My own ‘dead things bucket’ is actually working a little better now, with minimal intervention from me. I now understand that larvae travel downwards into the soil when they’re ready to pupate, so I just enlarged the holes to make it easier for them to do so. I need to make sure I’ve a decent layer of thin twigs at the bottom of the bucket and give it a swill out occasionally to avoid the holes getting blocked up.

      I must admit to giving the bucket a good shake occasionally though, just for the fun of watching the chickens!

      My only failure with the bucket was when I added a large dead carp. The outer skin went completely solid in the heat and the maggots couldn’t escape. I ended up battering the whole thing with a piece of wood to break it up into pieces then chucking the lot to the chickens to clear out themselves. All the time I was doing it I was expecting guests, and I was imagining the scene they’d come upon if they managed to get as far as the chicken shed without my hearing their approach 😉

      How did you come across our site Slim?

  • Thomas Kaudia from Kisumu

    This is so exciting since conventional sources of protein have become very expensive. I will try this bucket hanging system. Thank you for posting this article.

  • Pat

    Love the bucket idea. Does it attract raccoons though?

  • Thanks Andrea, will think about this and run it past the rest of our coop. Currently there are five of us, two couples and one other. Each couple does two days a week and the single does one and then one weekend in three. We may get more members again at some point however. It will be interesting to see if I can get this past them!

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