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Mealworms , when is the right age to feed them to your poultry. ( baby Chicks)

edited November 2015 in Bug Farming Questions

I have been looking everywhere for some help and need some thoughts . what age do you think , is too early to feed baby chicks live mealworms ? Sometimes we like to throw some tiny mealworms in for newly hatched chicks that are about a week old or so depending on the size of the chick depends on the size of mealworms i give them. What are the cons or any pros of feeding live mealworms to really young chicks. can it cause respiratory issues from the exoskeletons ? how much is to much for bantam chickens and standard chickens ? what is a good age to start giving them live mealworms ? Can it cause damage to the liver or other organs feeding protein to early ? thank you for your thoughts and help. i sometimes have noticed some chicks at a really youngs age having problems even eating baby baby mealworms , so we have cut back for awhile on giving it to my silkie chicks till i get more info .

Thank you


  • Betsy, - Broiler (for eating) chicks beginning at 7 days fed up to 10% Tenebrio molitor mealworm larvae as a part of a 19% protein diet was as good as when did not use the larvae as part of the 19% protein feed which was based on soybean & sorghum. As per respected Mexican entomologist in (2002) "Use of Tenebrio molitor (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae) to Recycle Organic Wastes and as Feed for Broiler Chickens"; link =

    At a younger age of just 2 days old expect only 10 out of 14 chicks to actually eat a 20-25 mm size mealworm larvae. Some will probably investigate it from a distance with their neck fully extended & pass, others just peck with beak closed & never actually open their beak; the one's that open their beaks are the ones which will be the first to actually pick up a larvae.

    If you are using a transparent/clear water dish for them & there are no color contrasts in their immediate environment for the very young chick to orientate to then they will be more timid about engaging the mealworm. This is because when very young if they learn to differentiate that there are objects in their environment they will be less afraid of the appearance of a mealworm larvae & will eat it (open beak up) instead of just investigate it (poke with closed beak).

  • @gringojay , does feeding mealworms to chicks at such a young age effect there crop or breathing due to the exoskeleton. I dont raise broilers much just when the time of year is right. i mostly raise silkies and sizzles for show reasons and 4H and FFA for the kids . i have noticed the silkies and sizzles seem to be more delicate than broilers when it comes to eating worms. this info you have shared with me is very informative thank you i will now save this info .

  • Hi Betsy, - I don't see any way that chitin from larvae would perforate or impact the crop. Chickens are omnivores; yet autopsies done back in the 1970s (?) on wild forest fowl akin to chickens show that their wild diet is naturally very high in assorted larvae.

    The crop (an enlarged sector of the oesophagus prior to stomach) is designed to store items foraged & larvae (mealworms) have no protrusions. Their enzymes include one chitin-ase in their proventriculus (glandular stomach before muscular stomach with it's gastric enzymes) located just before the muscle mechanics of their stomach digests food.

    One study added chitin at 25g/Kg feed of chickens from chick to adult & 48% of that was digested, at 50g/Kg feed 50% was digested & at 75g/Kg feed 45% of that was digested; but the energetic value (Joules/Kg) produced is fairly minimal. A lot of recent studies parse positive benefits from using chitin &/or chitosan (processed chitin). One very old study reported that 10-15% chitin based compound improved the rate of egg laying, but 20% led to poorer laying & shells get less hard.

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