How do I feed my laying hens? Sometimes it gets gross.
We do a few things to supplement their diet, like giving them weeds and perennial cuttings, and the worms I mentioned in my post about the worm grunting stick. And for now, we give them some store bought layer pellets and whole corn. On the whole I’m trying to feed them as much as possible from nearby sources and buying as little as possible.
Since I hunt and fish (admittedly quite poorly) as do some of my friends and family, I occasionally have extra animal parts we probably won’t use. Guts, fish heads, etc. We also end up with older freezer burned meat occasionally. I could bury or compost them to make decent use and not waste these things, but it makes more sense for overall system fertility to find a way to feed them to the hens first.
That’s where this seemingly plain bucket comes in. This is the maggot bucket I’ve mentioned, or at least the most recent one. The concept is simple: put old meat and other foods that attract flies into the bucket, layered between a carbon rich material like leaves, wood shavings, or straw. I tend to prefer leaves but I used straw for this one.
All it needs is the correct holes drilled in it. A row of small holes an inch or two from the bottom, and a few big ones up near the top. The flies come into the large holes, lay eggs in the meat, and when they hatch they wriggle their way out of the smaller holes near the bottom. Try 1/4 inch holes along the bottom and 3/4 inch holes at the top.
It’s important that you not drill holes actually in the bottom of the bucket; the decomposing flesh can become a quite gross liquid that probably isn’t the best thing to have on the ground for your hens. Much better to have it pool in the bottom and eventually have maggots eat it up, so make your holes an inch or two up. The maggots will grow in the animal parts and then try to find their way out to soil. If your chickens are around to hear them fall, it’ll attract their attention and they’ll come snack on them.
Some people will use roadkill for this, but that can risk giving your hens botulism, which can be just as fatal for them as it is us. Since botulism is found in soil, use animal parts that haven’t been sitting out
This will smell pretty bad some times, so I hang mine in the run on the side of the coop opposite of the house. Having plenty of carbon material in there keeps down the smell so you only get occasional whiffs unless you’re right next to it.
This method might not work for anyone, but it can work for anyone who doesn’t have neighbors too close by. Ours are plenty far away, so we make use of this great method as one way to minimize the need for store bought feed and make the whole system more integrated.
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