Thursday, December 26, 2013

Homemade biopod for Black Soldier Fly Larvae.

I finally took the plunge into raising chickens without commercial feed.  It was always my goal but my flock grew fast and commercial feed seemed like the only option.  Over the summer however we lost several hens to wildlife and the flock that was left decided they no longer wanted to stay in their blocked off 2 acres but would rather be up near the house causing lots of mess and damage to the gardens.  I locked them up in the coop for a month and went to work on solving the problem and during that period of eating only commercial grain feed I saw a huge change in our eggs as well as the behavior of the birds.  The eggs yolks quickly went pale yellow and 2 of my older birds seemed to age very quickly.  One even died during that period.  It may be a coincidence that my older hens started showing real signs of old age at that time but either way it felt very unnatural to me so I ditched the feed and started down a new path.

I'm now feeding the chickens what we have available and supplementing with food from the kitchen when there isn't enough in the garden or with resources in the yard.  We live on a creek so I have been blessed with the ability to feed them bait fish that are very easy to catch and duckweed which is high in protein.  The duckweed is all full of snails, minnows, and lots of other water creatures so the chickens love the excitement of finding treasures when I toss a net full into the coop.  The other sources of food are from house scraps and garden scraps.  I recently harvested most of the sweet potatoes and all the ones that were too damaged for human consumption were boiled up and bagged to feed the chickens for the next several months.  When we are busy and scraps are light I have been supplementing with things like oats, flax, chia seeds, rice, rye seeds, and quinoa.  Sometimes I add a little water to make the portion larger.  The chia is great at expanding and acting as a filler to this homemade feed.   It has only been about a month but the cost seems to be reasonable so far.  I purchased these items in bulk at Costco for my family to eat and have used very little so far.  I have had to supplement a bowl full about every other day for 10 chickens. 

This is all an experiment so I'm learning as we try this out but so far our egg yolks are back to a dark yellow color and that is with just a small amount of outdoor space, that is mostly dirt, to roam since the chicken run is still under construction.  I am however foreseeing a problem in the near future with a protein source as the weather gets colder.  The bait fish and duckweed will be gone soon so I'm trying out a new vermaculture technique that I read about online.  Raising Black Soldier Larvae for chicken feed.  It seems to be popular in the aquaponics community but could also be a cheap and easy source of protein for chickens as well.  Here is one site all about the Black Soldier Fly. 

I made a quick video instead of pictures to show you how I created my biopod for Black Soldier Fly Larvae.  I will keep you posted on how it works! 

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