My Brain is Full of Maggots and Worms

Image borrowed from The Sustainability Library

Yes, I have maggots and worms on the brain. And no, I’m not hiding out from daylight reading Naked Lunch and sniffing bath salts.

Okay, well, I have been hiding from the sun. Did I mention it’s been in the 100s for days now? Well, it cooled off to a pleasant 97 degrees on Sunday. Still not exactly sweater weather.

But I haven’t been reading any dark surrealist fiction or rotting out my brain with chemicals. Actually, I’ve been thinking about maggots and worms lately because I am noodling away about how to harness their potential on my homestead.

The magical composting ability of worms is well-known, of course.  Getting into worms has been next on my to-do list for a while now, and I even went to a little workshop on worm bin composting a couple weeks ago at the fair to get into a wormy frame of mind.  I want to get a worm bin going, but I also want to try a slightly larger scale worm project in one of my compost piles outside. I have a little more studying to do about that.

“Okay, Sara, worms I get, but maggots?”

Yeah, I know. Super gross, but let me explain.  I was already thinking a lot about worms and how beneficial those slimy, wiggly little guys can be, when I went to the dump with the trash from the Ranch Party last week.  In the super hot weather, the garbage had gotten nice and ripe in the week it sat around after the party (as an aside, we recycled and composted like crazy during the party – and after 5 days with 20+ house guests, we only had one more can of trash than normal. Not bad!). Needless to say, there were maggots in there. And when I say maggots, I mean SO MANY MAGGOTS! One can had probably 1 to 2 inches of solid maggots in the bottom. Brutal. I was in gag-city.

But then another part of me – the part that wasn’t dry-heaving – recalled a particular conundrum I’ve been pondering lately, having to do with chickens.  Basically, my chickens just can’t be a real free-range flock. There are tons of predators around my place, I have no rooster to keep these ditzy ladies organized, and, although they produced the most delicious eggs ever when I was letting them free-range earlier this summer, about half the time they were laying their eggs while they were out and about rather than going back to the nest boxes.  What’s the good of delicious free-ranged eggs if you can’t find them?

So I’d been thinking about ways to provide my girls with some extra proteins and fats while still keeping them safe inside their run and close to the nest boxes.  I hate giving them that nasty soylent-gray chicken crumble that I fear is actually made out of chickens.  Ideally I want them eating grain, calcium supplement, greens, and bugs and get rid of the crumble altogether (as it is now, they hardly eat any crumble, but I feel obligated to provide it to make sure they’re getting everything they need).  As I stared down at the repulsive wriggling mass at the bottom of the garbage can it hit me: I can feed them maggots!

Turns out I’m not the first person to think of this either. In fact, there’s tons of stuff online about how to harvest maggots safely and with limited smell. Specifically, you can grow Black Soldier Fly larvae by avoiding meat products as your maggot food, and just sticking with regular kitchen compost.  By keeping the food source vegetarian, you protect yourself and your girls from exposure to nasty bacteria like botulism that can develop when using meat or offal.  It also produces far less stench, which is key. Finally, it’s a good steady source of protein for your birds that is FREE. I have more studying to do on this subject as well, but the basic design for a maggot feeder seems pretty simple.

So there you have it: maggots and worms. Eating compost and helping out. So far they’re all just in my head, but soon they’ll be coming to a Domestead near you. Beware of disgusting photos to come!

10 thoughts on “My Brain is Full of Maggots and Worms

  1. At first a very repulsive idea. Then I thought: everybody likes eggs from free-range chickens. So what do people think those free-range chickens are eating out there when they’re free-ranging? It’s bugs! All kinds of bugs! So why not maggots?
    Makes perfect sense. I’ll be interested to learn how your learning journey goes.

    • I know, it’s gross to think about it. Of course, if you start thinking too much about eggs (at least, for me) in general you can sick yourself out pretty easily. Best to just roll with it. They like to eat bugs. Give em bugs. Then go think about something else!

  2. We do partial free range by allowing our chickens into our fenced vegetable garden area ONLY after 4:00pm, since we know they have all layer by then. We keep them out of the raised beds with bird netting around all sides. They find plenty to eat in our flower beds and compost pile….and snails are no longer a problem. They tuck themselves neatly into their little henhouse as soon as the sun sinks away. Such good birds…….

    • I was thinking of doing that too – I want to worms mainly for composting, but I heard that they reproduce rapidly, so I might give some to the girls from time to time. It is sadder than giving them maggots though, worms are kind of cute.

  3. I’m going to have to look into maggots! I have the same problem with my birds (coyotes in the neigbourhood) — they get all the weeds from my garden, but I still feel bad about letting them out so seldom.

    Have you tried putting plastic eggs in the nesting boxes? That seems to really help with the secret-nest-egg-hiding… gives them the right idea, apparently. I let them out later in the day, too, and the roosters do a pretty good job of keeping track of the girls. Please do let us know what you find out about maggot farming — we can stomach the photos, I think!

  4. Definitely do the worm bin! As long as you can keep them cool but not cold they’re the easiest farm critters to raise. And let us know about your BSF experiments and research… we may raise them someday for fish feed, and I’m sure the chickens would love them! I saw some in the garden a while back and “borrowed” one of the hens from their coop to dispatch the nasties. She of course did a bang-up champ job of it. I’ve heard of other folks making simple fly traps from soda bottles (cut the top off, turn it over and put back in the bottle so it makes a funnel, then fill part-way with water and something that smells good to flies. When it’s full or just too nasty, dump it out in the pen and watch the hens go nuts. When I did this, I used a commercial lure packet I had lying around so I didn’t feed it to them since I’m not sure what’s in that stuff… but man, did it work! And the better it worked, the worse it smelled, which meant it worked even better… blech.

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