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Crickets or Locusts - best natural diet?

 
Annie Hope
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Hi,

I am looking at breeding crickets and/or locusts as chicken food. We get regular truckloads of leave/tree mulch dumped regularly on our 8 acres, as well as having sections of grass mowings that can't be feed to the larger animals (e.g. lawn with poisionous walnut leaves in etc). From my understanding, crickets breed the fastest, and naturally live on a diet that includes fungi from rotting wood, while locusts will eat their way through any green matter quite happily. What would be the best option - or would it be best to have a mixture of both to eat different things?

Anyone else with experience feeding crickets or locusts on a natural diet?

Annie
 
alex Keenan
Posts: 487
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First, where are you going to get your insect? There are different varieties of crickets and grasshoppers. My local crickets do not breed at the rate of a house cricket.
You will need to build habitat for them. Not only do you have to feed them you have to breed them. Which means you need conditions for them to breed in. You can find this information on the Internet.
You should design modular, so you can start small and scale up.
Since your food sources are untested you will likely need to design your first modular unit to house your insects and populate it. You will then need to do some trial and error testing.

You may wish to look at http://teca.fao.org/read/7927
They feed the crickets chicken feed
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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I know you're asking about crickets and locusts, but are you in an area with Black Soldier Flies? Their larvae are supposed to be one of the most efficient animals for turning plant material into protein. Chickens go nuts for them. They are relatively easy to raise and don't escape like crickets and locusts might.

Sorry to be off-topic.
 
alex Keenan
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I talked to a company in Ohio that raises them for pet and fish feed.
He said the key was fats. It seems soldier flies are big on decaying stuff with a certain protien and fat percentage.
He is always looking for sources of fat to add to his feed mix for the soldier flies.

Since you are in Texas I vote for the locust.
http://www.clubfauna.com/articles/invertebrates/how-to-breed-locusts/
You can grow high protien greens like collared greens, mustard greens, and turnip greens, etc to feed them.

What about breeding Dubia Roaches
http://www.clubfauna.com/articles/invertebrates/breeding-dubia-roaches/
Roaches eat:
Dry cat or dog food is the most common (ground fine).
Fish flakes (mix with dry food is the best).
Cereals that are whole grains are the best (add honey and they love it).
Just about any type of fruit (not rotten or mouldy).
Some salads to balance out the diet (not rotten or mouldy).
NO poultry, they can eat it but you do not want to risk losing them or your pets.
Just about all table scraps as long as their is no or very little poultry.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
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Posts: 8972
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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We don't have many locusts around (just various species of grasshopper) and I don't intend to import more bugs! We have BSF and I'm currently raising some.

The main problem I see with crickets and locusts is escaping. And noise.

 
Casie Becker
pollinator
Posts: 795
Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
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forest garden urban
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Some of those grasshoppers are locusts. In crowded conditions frequently rubbing against each other triggers a biological response that causes some species of grasshopper to develope the more notorious physical and social characteristics of locusts. Prior to learning this I thought locusts were a separate species native to the mid east. I think most locust outbreaks here are still described as grasshoppers, which they technically are.

 
Annie Hope
Posts: 88
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Hi, I live in New Zealand (though my husband is Texan), 7km (4 miles) from the West coast. We have a VERY temperate climate. In Winter (which is now here) our average minimum temperature is 3C (37F), and our coldest on record ever is -4 (24F), our average winter maximum is 13C (54 F). This means that we do have frequent frosts, but they melt by about 10am, and a simple covering is usually enough to kept the frost away. In the hottest months of summer, our average minimum is about 13C (54F), and our average summer maximum is 22C (72F), and the highest on record is about 30C (86F). From what I have read, BSL breed at 24-32C, and we might hit those temperatures maybe three times over a summer. Other parts of the country are 10C (16F) degrees or more hotter in summer, so black soldier flies do live naturally in parts of New Zealand.

After three years of searching, I have finally found a source of them that is getting posted to me this coming week. I will need to experiment with breeding them indoors, but it is not an easy thing to do. (I have found this simple idea https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=efdGyefvnWA ).
I am going to separate them, and let some breed up slowly in the cold, and other breed more quickly in heat, so I have a few tries at at. The main food I was going to feed them was cow, pig and goat manure, so I am not sure about the fat content of that.

As black soldier fly and crickets/locusts enjoy similar temperatures for breeding/hatching, I could probably actually make a little box that does both together. Come summer, I also want to find and experiment with native crickets that probably have lower breeding temperatures.

What would work well in our content is compost worms, but because of the climate, the tiger compost worm (eisenia Fetida) out-competes the red worm (Lumbricus Rubellus) which breeds much more slowly (like one viable offspring a fortnight) and the blue worm (Perionyx Excavatus) which breeds profusely, but in warmer climates than New Zealand compost reach. From what I understand the Eisenia Fetida excetes a substance that is toxic in large substances. I have tried without fail to source the Blue worm - one grower has separated a few that they will send me if they breed up enough, and another will separate some if they re-appear over summer, but there are none visible now.
In the mean time, I am going to try and make my own segregated colony of only red worms, and breed up enough over a few years to start feeding them to chickens. As they breed so slowly though, I am estimating that I will need about 20-30kg compost to sustain the breeding adults and breed 1kg of worms from them. This seems quite a low conversion rate. But as it has to be collected, and is free, it is better than composting it.

I have not seen Dubai Cockroaches for sale in New Zealand - and there are very strict quarantine laws here, so I could not bring them in. I really want something that will eat the manure, and also the tree mulch that other animals won't. I have wondered about slowly breeding wood lice (wood slater / roly poly) - but there is little information about that. Any other ideas?

Annie
 
alex Keenan
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Here is something you may try to see what is out at night in summer in your are as a food supply for birds.
One guy I know places quarter inch cooking oil in a small kids swimming pool. He puts a light in pool to attract insects.
He empties pool each morning and mixes oil and bugs with chicken feed.

There are grasshopper traps that use light to attract grasshoppers. Grasshoppers hit glass panel and fall into holding container.

Another option, at least in my area, is attractive lures such as Japanese beetle traps.

 
steve bossie
Posts: 245
Location: Northern Maine (zone 3b-4a)
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annie i also recommend dubia roaches. they breed like mad, don't smell and make no noise. are very easy to raise and my chickens love them. they're a tropical species so they aren't invasive. i raise mine in a solid colored tote with cardboard egg flats layed on their side. i feed mine chicken, dog or cat food. what ever i have on hand and fruit scraps. you can raise thousands in a 30 gal tote right in your house and no one will know they are there. they can't climb the plastic so they won't get out. lots of places sell them. with texas weather you probably won't need supplemental heat but in winter you might need to put a heat pad to keep the temps above 75f to keep them breeding. for water i take a small saucer and put some small stones in it then fill. the stones keep the small nymphs from drowning. good luck!
 
Todd Parr
Posts: 572
Location: Wisconsin, zone 4
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I raise mealworms and Dubai roaches. I have raised crickets in the past. I don't recommend it. They are noisy, escape constantly, and stink to high heaven. I anyone has specific questions about raising mealworms or roaches, I'm happy to try to help. I have 5 very active colonies of roaches and a keep between a half dozen and a dozen groups of mealworms going.

 
steve bossie
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Location: Northern Maine (zone 3b-4a)
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i have mealworm colonies also but i find they take a long time to grow to any size. do you have a way to get them to grow faster?
 
Todd Parr
Posts: 572
Location: Wisconsin, zone 4
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steve bossie wrote:i have mealworm colonies also but i find they take a long time to grow to any size. do you have a way to get them to grow faster?


Lack of moisture is the number one thing that hinders their growth. I have seen them literally double in size in one day when I increased the moisture available to them. One way to do it is to soak paper towels in water and lay them in the bins on the top. In a few minutes you will see them come up to get water. This is time intensive, because the towels dry out quickly. An easier way is to lay paper towels on top of the food/bedding and dump water polymer crystals on the towels. That is the way I do it.

I'm assuming you feed them well. My food mix is 50% good quality dog food, 25% chicken layer crumbles, and 25% alfalfa pellets. Grind it to a powder in a blender. Use it for their bedding and food. Don't get it too wet (see paper towel method above). Occasionally I give them other foods like cereal, greens, carrots, whatever.
 
steve bossie
Posts: 245
Location: Northern Maine (zone 3b-4a)
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potatoes are cheap around here so i use slices on the bedding but causes a lot of mold. i use similar bedding/ food. with roaches i find you don't have to worry about anything with them. they aren't fussy. if you forget to feed them ,they eat the cardboard egg flats they hang on. some people just feed them cardboard and water! they won't be as prolific but they can live on just that!
 
Todd Parr
Posts: 572
Location: Wisconsin, zone 4
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steve bossie wrote:potatoes are cheap around here so i use slices on the bedding but causes a lot of mold. i use similar bedding/ food. with roaches i find you don't have to worry about anything with them. they aren't fussy. if you forget to feed them ,they eat the cardboard egg flats they hang on. some people just feed them cardboard and water! they won't be as prolific but they can live on just that!


The roaches really can live on just about anything, but it makes sense to me that if I am going to use them to feed another creature, the better the roaches eat, the better the nutrition that the animal consuming them gets.
 
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