Mealworms for Chickens: 8 Benefits You Need to Know

Fat mealworms up close

Mealworms for chickens, which are the larval form of the darkling beetle, have become a popular topic among poultry enthusiasts and farm keepers. These tiny, wriggling creatures are more than just a treat.

They’re a nutritional powerhouse that can bring lots of health benefits to your flock. From improving egg production to boosting the immune system, mealworms are an easy and affordable way to enhance your chickens’ diet.

Feeding mealworms to chickens has become increasingly common, and this article will explain why. So, if you’re considering mealworms as a treat for your chickens, keep reading.

Are Mealworms Good for Chickens?

Mealworms in human hands

For those looking to boost the protein intake of their chickens, mealworms are a fantastic choice. These crunchy worms offer a dense source of protein, making them an excellent addition to a chicken’s diet.

Moreover, mealworms contain essential nutrients like vitamins, fats, minerals, and amino acids that support the chickens’ overall well-being.

Offering mealworms in moderation can be especially beneficial during molting seasons or when you want to provide extra protein to your laying hens to support egg production.

However, it’s important to ensure that the mealworms are of good quality and sourced from a reputable supplier. Avoid feeding chickens mealworms that have been exposed to pesticides or other harmful chemicals.

Also, remember that mealworms should not replace their regular balanced feed; they should be considered a supplement or treat.

Adding mealworms to your chickens’ diet can be a great way to provide them with variety and additional nutrition. Just be mindful of moderation and quality to ensure the health and happiness of your feathered friends.

8 Benefits to Feed Your Chickens Mealworms

Many chicken keepers are probably aware of the numerous reasons to feed their flock mealworms. Since chickens naturally crave protein-rich foods, mealworms are an easy and nutritious choice to satisfy this need.

Moreover, since mealworms are packed with essential nutrients, they offer a host of benefits that go beyond just being a treat. This section will explore the benefits of incorporating mealworms into your chickens’ diet.

1. Even a few mealworms greatly benefit your chickens

Two mealworms on a leaf

When it comes to feeding your flock, mealworms offer a potent punch of nutrients in small quantities. These tiny worms are densely packed with protein, which is essential for your chickens’ overall health.

By introducing mealworms into their diet, you’re ensuring that they get a significant protein boost without overfeeding them.

Furthermore, breeding your own mealworms will prove to be a cost-effective choice over the long term and give your chickens a steady supply of nutritious treats.

2. Improved egg production in hens

Egg production in a farm

It is every chicken keeper’s dream to have hens that lay consistently. Introducing mealworms to their diet can make this dream a reality.

The high protein content in mealworms aids in egg production, ensuring that your hens lay eggs regularly. This protein-rich diet also gives the hens ample energy, leading to more active and productive birds.

3. Improve the quality of your eggs

Chicken eggs up close

Beyond quantity, the quality of the eggs your hens produce is paramount. With mealworms in their diet, chickens will have enough protein to produce healthy eggs with thicker shells and richer yolks.

This is made possible by the calcium and protein in mealworms, which ensure every egg your hen lays is of the highest quality, both in terms of taste and nutritional value.

4. Strengthen the immune system

Chickens with strong immune system

Your flock’s well-being depends on its immune system being in top shape. A chicken’s immune system can be strengthened by feeding them mealworms due to their high nutritional content.

This means fewer illnesses, less medication, and a healthier, happier flock that thrives in its environment.

5. It helps your chickens during molting

Two chicken molting outdoors

Molting is a natural process where chickens shed old feathers and grow new ones. During this period, chickens need all the protein they can get to support the development of new feathers.

Because of their high protein content, mealworms are the perfect food supplement at this time of year. Feeding them to your chickens will ensure that they molt quickly and healthily.

6. It helps turn the bedding into a deep litter system

Tiny chicken coop

For those who employ a deep litter system in their coops, mealworms can be a beneficial addition. When you sprinkle mealworms on the coop floor, chickens instinctively scratch and peck in search of these treats.

Hence, that hot, heavy bedding won’t need to be mixed through with a shovel, saving you time. This natural behavior helps turn over the bedding, promoting a healthier deep litter system.

7. It’s fun to watch

Chickens eating mealworms

One of the joys of keeping chickens is observing their habits and behaviors. Toss in some mealworms, and you’re in for a treat!

I’ll always remember the first time I tossed mealworms into the coop. The sheer joy of watching my chickens scramble, their eyes lit with excitement, was unforgettable.

It’s more than just feeding; it’s an experience that never fails to bring a smile to my face. It’s pure fun to watch.

Not only is it enjoyable to watch your flock hunt for mealworms, but it also gives you peace of mind knowing they’re getting the exercise they need.

It’s a delightful activity that strengthens the bond between you and your chickens.

8. Your chickens will thank you for it

Two chickens being fed mealworms

Happy chickens are productive chickens. By offering them mealworms, you’re not just providing a healthy treat but also showing them love and care.

It’s not just about the nutritional benefits; chickens also love the excitement of chasing and pecking at these wriggly treats.

Giving them mealworms can lead to a more contented and relaxed flock, which in turn leads to them producing more eggs and having fewer behavioral issues.

How Often Can You Feed Chickens Mealworms?

Feeding mealworms to chickens is a common practice among chicken keepers. Chickens love mealworms, viewing them as a tasty treat. However, like all treats, moderation is key.

In general, treats shouldn’t make up more than 10% of a chicken’s diet. Given this, it’s recommended to feed your chickens mealworms once or twice a week.

Starting with a small amount, like a tablespoon, and gradually increasing it as the chickens adjust is a good approach. This ensures that your chickens get the protein boost they need without overdoing it.

Remember, while chickens go crazy for mealworms, balancing their diet with other foods is essential. Always observe your chickens and adjust their diet as needed based on their health and behavior.

What Happens If Chickens Eat Too Many Mealworms?

Mealworms for chickens in white background

While mealworms offer a significant protein boost, they’re also high in fat content. Overconsumption can lead to obesity in chickens.

An overweight chicken might face various health issues, including reduced egg production and potential liver problems.

Fatty liver hemorrhagic syndrome (FLHS), a condition where fat builds up around the liver, making it prone to bleeding, can be a consequence. This could be fatal, especially if the hen tries too hard to lay an egg.

Moreover, too many mealworms can cause kidney disease and gout in chickens due to their high protein content.

Remember, while mealworms are about 50% protein, a laying hen only requires around 20 grams of protein daily. Overloading their diet with protein can strain their kidneys.

Hence, moderation is key when feeding mealworms to chickens. By doing this, you can enjoy watching your chickens relish these tasty treats without compromising their health and well-being.

How Many Mealworms Should a Chicken Eat Per Day?

Mealworms, being rich in protein, can be a beneficial supplement to a chicken’s diet. However, moderation is essential.

As a general guideline, mealworms can be given to chickens once or twice a week as a treat. You can feed an adult chicken anywhere from 2 to 3 superworms or around 10 to 15 mealworms.

Adjust the quantity based on your chickens’ individual needs. Age, size, activity level, and overall eating habits should all be considered.

Moreover, it’s important to keep an eye on their health when feeding chickens mealworms.

If they’re maintaining a healthy weight, displaying their usual energy levels, and continuing to lay eggs consistently, then you’re likely providing an appropriate amount of mealworm treats.

Can Baby Chickens Eat Mealworms?

Mealworms with pieces of vegetables

Baby chickens need a diet rich in protein during their developmental stages to ensure proper bone and muscle growth. Introducing mealworms can be a great way to supplement their protein intake.

At around 1 to 2 weeks old, baby chicks can safely consume these worms. However, they should be given mealworms sparingly to prevent overwhelming their delicate digestive system.

Most chicks raised by people usually don’t have access to grit, which aids in digestion.

Thus, before introducing mealworms, ensure your chicks have had access to chick grit for at least a week. In doing so, they are better able to digest the mealworms.

Moreover, one mealworm per week of age is the recommended amount to feed a chick. For instance, a chick that is two weeks old shouldn’t eat more than two mealworms at a time.

Overall, mealworms are fine for baby chickens to eat in moderation. But starter feed should always come first when it comes to nutrition, and mealworms should only be given as an occasional treat to fortify their diet.

Is It Illegal to Feed Chickens Mealworms?

Feeding mealworms to chickens is a topic that has garnered attention, especially in the context of legality.

While chickens naturally free-range and forage for insects, including mealworms, the concern arises when these mealworms are purchased in bulk.

Some mealworms, especially those produced on an industrial scale, might be cultivated in conditions that expose them to contaminants like bacteria, viruses, fungi, pesticides, and heavy metals.

The regulations vary by country. In the UK and the EU, feeding shop-bought mealworms to chickens has been illegal since 2014. The DEFRA ruling covers all commercially produced insect proteins, not just mealworms.

In most countries like the US, feeding mealworms to chickens isn’t illegal for small-scale backyard poultry keepers. However, the source of these mealworms is crucial.

Some unregulated facilities use cheap waste and animal byproducts, which can be harmful. These mealworms can introduce diseases to chickens, affecting their health and the quality of their eggs.

So, while feeding mealworms might seem like a nutritious treat for chickens, it’s essential to be aware of the regulations in your region. 

Always prioritize the health of your flock and ensure any treats given are safe and free from contaminants.

Where Can I Get Mealworms for Chickens?

Mealworms up close

There are various options to consider if you’re looking to treat your flock with mealworms.

Dried and live mealworms are commonly available at local pet stores and feed stores, meeting the needs of both bird enthusiasts and chicken keepers.

Moreover, a range of dried mealworm brands can be purchased on websites like Amazon for people who prefer online shopping.

Online bulk purchases can save you money, and checking reviews when buying mealworms ensures you get a quality product.

For those feeling adventurous, starting a mealworm farm at home is a great option. This guarantees a fresh supply and may even end up being more affordable in the long term.

If you’re thinking of growing mealworms, here’s a video that can help you get started:

How to Start Your Own Meal Worm Farm to Feed Your Chickens (Part 1)

Final Thoughts

Mealworms are an example of how small things can make a big difference in the world of poultry keeping. They’re a nutritional goldmine that can boost your flock’s health, happiness, and productivity.

On top of that, mealworms are not only beneficial but also fun to incorporate. Seeing your chickens go crazy chasing after these wriggly treats will surely make you smile.

However, despite the numerous benefits of feeding mealworms, giving them in moderation is essential. Overfeeding can lead to issues, so always ensure a balanced diet for your chickens.

Have you tried giving your hens mealworms? Please share your thoughts on feeding mealworms for chickens in the comment section below.

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