Chicken Feed-Protein from thin Air..sort of..

So a couple weeks back one of the blogs that I like to read recommended a new chicken book, The small Scale Poultry Flock by Harvey Ussery, now she did a glowing write up to the point that I had to go check this book out and I pre-ordered it and it arrived a week later, and I am still slowly reading it..

That in and of itself is telling, most “of the new improved” books I can get though in one read, with most of it repeat info, standard knowledge, or “SS” aka Stubborn and Stupid info that does not work well but its in every single book.

This book however has been a slow read, a read it and then put the book down and think it, and then go out and look at my flock, look at my bedding, looks at how I make a dust bath. Now I will do a proper and full report on this book, and I will be trying a few things that he does to see if they work within my set up or not, however the basic’s is not what I want to talk about..

Now most of the folks that have been reading for any length of time knows that I self-butcher and will do all that is possable to not waste anything that can be used on the farm, which is why I am struggling with this one.

Now I raise greens, extra produce, and let my chickens be chickens, I use them to clear ground, I feed them red wigglers that I have raised in worm bins feed from the rabbit hutches, and yet I am stumped at the idea of maggot buckets that the book is talking about..

He calls this protein from thin Air, and the idea is this, you take a 5 or 7 gallon food grade bucket, drilling dozens of 3/8th holes into the bottom, sides and lid so that the female flies can enter and lay their eggs but small enough that the chickens can’t peck at the contents, then you can put chopped up road kill, or any extra butcher bits into the buckets, He puts a thick layer of organic material like straw or leaves on the inside and then puts the chunks or parts into the middle, this helps keep the smell down and still allows the flies to easily find their way though the straw and into the middle to lay..

Now you wait, the larvae of the common fly species live, feed and grow in their feeding medium, then only when they are ready to turn into flies, do they instinctively find their way to earth, now this is where the feed comes in.. The maggots leave the bucket by the drilled holes falling onto the ground in the chicken pen, Just as the chickens and duck have figured out to hang around my hanging nets filled with a bit of fruit peels or garden leftovers that I hang to bring the flies to them in their pens, they quickly figure out that those tasty protein fly larve are going to crawl out of the bucket and end up down their gullets..

According to the book, the only thing that should be left will be hair, bones and teeth, so in a nut shell, you are breeding flies, not only are you recycling scrap bits or road kill as per the book, but you are also reducing the potential of the size of each new generation of flies on your farm, as the chickens are eating the offspring that are now NOT going to end up adults flies themselves, so its a win-win-win.

Now I can see the logic of this system, I really can, but there are two main things that make me go hmmmm.

1) it would be illegal per my county by-laws, I can bury the extra’s, I can compost the extra’s and I can burn the extra’s but the rules are pretty black and white that I am not to just leave them out for any length of time and rightly so, I think our country rules are fair and even handed and well-written towards the farmer while still staying on the safe side..

Can you really say that the bucket system with lots of straw padding could in fact pass as a active compost system? Maybe for small amounts left over from butchering, but you would have to make sure that your percents are right between dry and wet materal, then you could say its like a compost bin with holes?

2) Its gross me out! I don’t know why, I am not a easily grossed out person, you are talking to someone who as a young child, had her own spider collection that she hunted and brought them bugs to feed on, someone who moves heaps of worms from place to place,  some who has been covered in birthing fluid more times then I can remember, who has covered newborn lamb or kids mouths and helped breath air into them, you get the idea..

And yet the idea of choosing to create a way to produce maggots just makes my skin do the crawl, which is not to say that I won’t give it a try with one bucket and see what happens, but those chickens had better eat those larve as soon as they drop is all I have to say.

I am as interested in the idea of this helping lower and control the overall farm population of adult flies as I am in regards to providing protein to the chickens.

Ok, so has anyone tried this? If so, please let me know how this worked? Any tweeks from the basic idea? How much protein do you get to replace in bought chicken feed vs per bucket? Anyone else besides me that gets the ahhhh feel from this idea?

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15 Responses to Chicken Feed-Protein from thin Air..sort of..

  1. mom says:

    Good Morning farmgal ,anything that would encouage the laying of more fly eggs and maggots is revolting to me. Flies are hard enough to control on a farm to start with and to keep them out of the house even

    Ah but mom those adult fly’s are going to lay somewhere, if you can control where they lay in the buckets and then have the chickens eat the maggots in the end, you will in fact have less flies on the farm.. Which in turn should mean that you have less trying to come in the house, it could be a good thing IF it works!

  2. queen fo string says:

    Have you ever considered breeding soldier flies for the same purpose? I think it might have been the same blog you got the chicken book recommendation from that was talking about them last year. The principle is the same, and the soldier fly larvae feed the chooks. Apparently soldier fly females are attracted to anything that even remotely smells of soldier fly and one stage of the process means the composting materials get eaten, a bit like a wormery. It seems that that system, even more than using normal flies would certainly count as a composting system. There’s a lot of info on them out there. This was just the first blog I found

    • Hi Queen

      Yes, that same book has a great write up about the breeding of soldier flies, only two issues with it for my own personal use, a) they can’t do the same job when it comes to larger amount of butcher proteins, the flies will keep laying and up production as required, which to a point could be worked around, the bigger issue is that the auther recommends that anyone in a colder zone then 6 or so uses the blow fly’s instead of the soldier flies, who are whimps when it comes to temptatures, they don’t like the cold..

      Thanks for the info, I will do a little more research on them..

  3. Deb W says:

    OMG! Saw your photo and went “Eee,eeew YUCK, What is that?” (But I think I just knew what they were; )
    But, in spite of that instinctual reaction that we all seem to have, flies DO serve a purpose and do it very well. I still remember a story my Grandpa once told me about a bush pilot who’d crashed in the middle of nowhere… He’d compound fractures to his leg(s?) from the impact and “came to” to find maggots on the open wounds, shooed/brushed the flies/maggots away. Lost consciousness again. Came-to to find the maggots were back. Brushed them away again… Finally when he came around the last time, he found the maggots were gone and his wounds were not just completely healed, but had been replaced with beautiful, healthy new tissue. Maggots eat only diseased/dead/dying tissue; producing antibiotics at the same time. They are used by the health care system in some countries (Great Britain for one) as a tool in battling wounds that refuse to heal.

    Dont think that the straw would do a whole lot to keep down the smell of decay (if it had progressed that far) but I’d also bet that the flies would get there before we could even detect any smell on a freshly dead carcass. Did he say how many days it takes to get from egg to larvae to “going-to-ground”?

    • Deb W says:

      Sorry, just HAD to know so I looked it up… 143 hours @ 70ºF (or just a hair under 6 days) and will keep multiplying as long as food’s available. Heard that Muscovey Ducks are the best for barnyard fly catching(?)

    • Hi Deb

      I think that Maggots used properly should be part of a medical treament plan and thanks for the looking up of the amount of time it takes from laying to being ready to harvest time, however I would like to point out that while maggots perfer diseased/dead or dying tissue once they run out of that in a wound, if they are still growing, they will start in on the healthy issues, that is why Fly strike on farms is so carefully watched for, and part of the reason that most breeds of wool sheep have their tails docks as young lambs, thankfully I don’t have to do this on my hair sheep but if I had wool sheep, I would certainly dock the tail to help prevent this from happening.

      Having said that it does not have to be sheep that are only effected, any critter that has fur that is long enough to matt and can get feces in it, can be a area that fly’s will lay in, and you are then dealing with fly strike.. which is just nasty any way you cut it.

  4. Heather says:

    I have to agree with the gross out factor. There are few things that really gross me out, maggots are one of them…ewww. I think I will have to check out that book! We don’t have chickens yet, but it is my hope for the spring.

    • Heather, I have a hard time on the ekkk factor too, think it was passed down from grandma to mom to me.. however having said that, yes if you are thinking about getting chickens this is a very good book to consider getting, the only thing I will say is that they don’t need everything he recommends, he treats his chickens very, very well, they don’t need all the things he does to thrive and be happy cluckers.

  5. farmer_liz says:

    I’m not so sure about the maggots yet, but just ordered the book, I have to find out more! What sold it? your comment about “Stubborn and Stupid info that does not work well but its in every single book”. I have noticed this too, in books and magazines, after you read a few, you’ve read them all, and I really really wanted to find a chicken book that had some new ideas, especially around food requirements, natural remedies for lice and how to hatch lots of chicks. I can’t wait to get stuck into reading it.

    • Hi Farmer Liz

      I checked out your blog and spent the first read going HUH, she is planting her garden, then figured out where you lived! LOL, I signed up for your blog looking to learn more and see if things are done different or the same in your country vs Canada.

      I hear you on the books, there is some of the same basic information in the book, but there is alot of interesting new stuff as well, I think you will be pleased with it, come back and let me know after you have got it and read it though..

  6. Ciar says:

    As an alternative to decaying flesh – flies are attracted to the smell of sourdough (a clean, vinegary scent). Not only the tiny fruit flies, but larger species also. (This is why you should securely cover your sourdough loaf when it’s rising or you might find, as I once did, a grouping of large white eggs deposited on the dough). One time we had a fly problem inside our apartment. Could not figure out where they were coming in from. Turned out, they were breeding inside a large sack of flour that had gotten damp on the bottom (essentially creating a sourdough environment).

    So perhaps you could breed chicken snacks in a sourdough medium. Sounds more sanitary than roadkill to me 😉

    • This is very interesting, thanks for the feedback but I love the idea of finding way to recycle everything in a natural way, and having left over parts or guts is part of the farm cycle, being able to find a way to turn that “waste” into a clean healthy food source for a different critter on the farm is just closing the farm loop in one more way..

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