Feeding Mealworms to Chickens: 7 Reasons Why You Should

While mealworms may not be the most appealing thing for humans, they are considered a delicacy in the chicken world. Dried and fresh mealworms are often used for fish and reptiles, but they will drive a whole flock crazy. Did we also mention that mealworms boast some incredible nutritional benefits? If you have been wondering about giving mealworms to your chickens, consider this a sign that you should.

This article will also introduce 7 reasons why mealworms should be included in your flock’s diet. Let’s begin.

little chicks eat mealworms
Photo credit: Pixabay

What are Mealworms?

Mealworms are primarily used as food for pet reptiles, but they are finding their way onto menus throughout the world. Mealworms are the larval form of the darkling beetle. These worms are hatched from tiny, bean-shaped eggs. As worms, they are either white, yellow, or slightly brown and are about 1.25 inches (3.18 cm) in length.

You can raise your own mealworms to give to your chickens, but they are also easy to purchase from the local pet store. You will receive the worms in a container of bran or oatmeal, and you can get a thousand worms for a relatively cheap price. However, raising your own worms is far less costly in the long run. Plus, it is fairly easy to do.

Are Mealworms Safe For Chickens?

Yes, mealworms — fresh and dried — are very safe for chickens young and old to eat. Mealworms contain zero toxins. The only thing you have to be aware of is the fat and protein content. Mealworms are nutritionally dense and may overload your chicken, leading to heart problems, fatty liver, and obesity. Too much protein may cause blistering around the feet, loose bowels, and respiratory problems.

Therefore, consider mealworms as a tasty treat that your flock gets in moderation.

Baby chicks can also eat mealworms, though it is best for you to wait until they reach 3 weeks old. Before that, their digestive system won’t be able to handle the protein and fat content. You can teach the chicks how to eat mealworms if their mother is close by. She will come over to show them how it is done. From there, offer the babies a few worms and let them go crazy.

7 Reasons to Feed Mealworms to Chickens

background mealworms
Photo credit: Depositphotos

Looking for reasons to give your lovely flock some mealworms? Consider the following benefits to adding mealworms to the diet:

1. Your Chickens Don’t Need Many Mealworms

When you buy a carton of mealworms, you get thousands. Since your chickens only need a small portion every few days, mealworms are a cost-effective treat option that is also super dense in nutrients. Since chickens need a diet that is roughly 16% protein, adding in a few mealworms can help them meet their nutritional needs for very little money out of your pocket.

Furthermore, you can raise mealworms to have a consistent source of nutrition for your chickens. It will save you money and make your flock much healthier in the long run.

2. Hens Need The Power of Protein

As you may already know, a chicken egg is one of the most complete sources of protein on the planet. If you want delicious, healthy eggs, you need the hens laying those eggs to also be healthy. A single mealworm is 50% protein, which means that your egg-laying hens are going to adore having these in their diet. Furthermore, they will have more energy and beautiful plumage throughout the year.

3. Turn the Deep Litter

While this reason for using mealworms can be a bit odd, it does indeed work. If you are using a deep litter system in the coop and want an easier time at turning the bedding, use mealworms. Scatter some mealworms — dried or live — around the floor of the coop. Your chickens will start scratching around, hunting for the worms, and thus, turn over the bedding.

4. Mealworms Help With Molting

feed chickens with mealworms
Photo credit: Flickr

Between autumn and spring, chickens molt. It’s a fact of life — one that requires boosted protein intake. Mealworms are an exceptional source of protein. By giving some worms to your chickens during and after molting, you can help them grow their feathers back faster than before.

Also, a chicken’s immune system is dampened during molting season. Since mealworms have protein and dozens of vitamins and minerals, they can bolster your chickens’ health and keep them from getting sick.

5. You Will Be Entertained

Ever watch chickens at play? You truly get to see how diverse and goofy chickens can be. When chickens get a chance to hunt for mealworms, though, they take on a whole new level of excitement. You will have a great time watching your flock go crazy peck and scrabbling after the mealworms, especially if you use live ones as a treat.

If you want to truly give your chickens a fun time, pair the mealworms with other foods. For instance, you might crumble up some dried mealworms alongside diced fruit and vegetables.

6. Get Better Quality Eggs

Mealworms contain about 50% protein, 31% fat, 8% fiber, and calcium and phosphorus. What does that mean for egg production? Quite a bit. See, when chickens have enough protein and calcium in their diet, they are able to produce bigger, thicker eggs with more flavor.

Additionally, you can give mealworms the hens that lay eggs throughout the winter to fortify their diet. In the winter, chickens need all the nutrients they can get to stay healthy and to keep up with egg production. You also won’t have to worry about thin-shelled eggs when mealworms are on the menu. 

7. Your Chickens Will Thank You

As any chicken keeper knows, when your chickens are happy and healthy, you feel triumphant. Plus, you are probably aware that chickens are very happy in the presence of delicious food. There are many stories of flocks swarming their keepers when they know a delightful treat is coming. Show your chickens how much you love them by giving them a wormy morsel or two.

Children will also love the chance to toss a mealworm or two to their feathered friends and watch the treat get gobbled up. It’s a great bonding experience, particularly when your chickens are your pets.

How to Feed Mealworms to Your Chickens

Giving your chickens mealworms is easy. You can do it one of two ways:

  1. Toss the mealworms on the ground and let your chickens have their way with them. Dried and live mealworms can be scattered around the run. The chickens will dart around, pecking at the worms and eating them.
  2. Mix in the mealworms with other treats, grit, and feed. This is great when you want to give your chickens a nutritional boost. Sprinkle crumbled mealworms in the food or with grit, as this will help them digest the worms more easily.

How Many Mealworms Should You Feed Your Chickens?

Chickens should never eat too many mealworms. As mentioned earlier, this would be bad for their health, which is contrary to the reason you’re feeding them worms to begin with. This means that an adult chicken should only have 4-5 mealworms once or twice a week. Mealworms should not be anymore than 10% of an adult chicken’s diet.

The only exception is when a chicken is laying eggs or molting. This is when a few more mealworms helps them remain happy, healthy, and strong. Hens will love a mealworm here and there, as it increases the quality of their eggs. During molting, chickens need all the protein and fat they can get to regrow their feathers faster.

Similarly, baby chicks can eat twice as many mealworms. They need the vitamins and nutrients in the worms for their development.

Other Worms To Give To Your Flock

Now that you know that chickens crave mealworms, you might be wondering if there are any other edible worms out there for your chickens. After all, you might have access to other kinds or maybe want a substitute for mealworms. Here are three more worms that your chickens will happily devour:

Superworms

mealworms
Photo credit: Depositphotos

On first glance, superworms and mealworms aren’t that different. Superworms have a slightly better nutritional profile than mealworms, which is why they are given to reptiles as part of a balanced diet. The downside of superworms is the cost. They are a bit more expensive than mealworms; they are larger, however, and make for a nutrient-dense treat.

Silkworms

silkworms eat fresh leaves
Photo credit: Depositphotos

The benefit of feeding silkworms to your chickens is the vitamins. While silkworms have protein and calcium, they also contain a number of B-vitamins. Your chickens need these vitamins for proper functioning.

Earthworms

group of earthworms
Photo credit: Depositphotos

The good news is that you won’t have to go searching for earthworms if you let your chickens free-range. They will seek out earthworms on their own, as these worms are a chicken’s favorite. Like other worms, earthworms have a decent amount of calcium, fat, and protein.

Final Thoughts on Mealworms

Should you feed mealworms to your chickens? Yes! There are many reasons why mealworms are the ultimate bird snack, including their health benefits. Both chicks and adult chickens should be given mealworms as a snack. Just remember not to go overboard with the mealworms, as the benefits could easily become negatives.

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