Got Baby Chicks? The Deal with Feeding’em Mealworms



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Buddy, let me tell you about the mess I got myself into the other weekend.

I just had to go get some fluffy peeps to raise in my backyard coop.

Thought the kids and I could learn a thing or two about where our grub comes from.

Well, I sure learned my lesson – those baby birds can pack away the feed faster than I can say “chicken dinner!

Anyways, I’m at the feed store chatting with ol’ Roy gettin’ supplies.

He says to me “You know what those baby chickens truly love, Tanner?  Some fat juicy mealworms!

Now I ain’t never heard of feeding bugs to birds before but Roy swears by it.

Says the extra protein is good for their growing feathers.

I figured what could it hurt to give it a try, so I tossed a bag in my cart.

Boy howdy, was I in for a real wake up call when I got home! I sprinkled maybe ten worms total in their coop.

Within seconds those fluffy peeps were scrambled like eggs, pecking so fast their little beaks were a blur.

Wouldn’t you know it, the whole flock polished off every last bug before I could blink! Then the real show started.

You Won’t Believe What Happened Next!


At first everything seemed fine – the chicks were happily cheeping away like normal.

But then I started to notice some suspicious bulging going on under some tail feathers.

I took a closer look and nearly fell over in a dead faint – those baby birds had swollen up like balloons! Their tiny crops were stretched tight as drums with who knows how many mealworms.

Let me tell you, it was downright disturbing to see!

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t consider calling off the whole chicken raising endeavor right then and there.

I mean how was I supposed to explain to the missus that I’d gone and killed our chicks on the very first day?! But then I remembered ole Roy had mentioned to watch the belly size.

So I said a prayer and waited it out, keeping a close eye on my little feathery friends.

After about an hour the swelling started going down gradual like.

Phew! Those peeps must’ve been digesting and processing all them worms.

Soon their crops were shrinking back to normal.

Well color me relieved – it seemed they were gonna be just fine after all.

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But it sure gave me a start, I’ll tell you hwat!

So Can Baby Chicks Safely Eat Mealworms?


Alright folks, now that I’ve scared you good with my mealworm mishap story, let me set the record straight on whether it’s really safe to feed these bugs to babes.

The short of it is – yes, in moderation mealworms can be an alright treat for young chickens.

They’re full of protein and other important nutrients to help the chicks grow up big and strong.

The key is goin’ slow and watching how much they gobble up.

Those worms are fattier than starter feed so it don’t take much to fill ’em up.

You don’t want little crops over-stretching again! Stick to just a handful at feedings at first until they get their mature size.

And make sure to remove any leftovers so they don’t go back for seconds.

With a watchful eye, some mealworms in their diet here and there probably won’t do no harm.

Also remember chick tummies are still tiny while they’re feathering out.

So those worms can bulk em up fast if you’re not careful controlling portions.

Go gradual with it and they should do just fine.

And don’t try feeding em too often neither – keep worms as a treat alongside regular starter meals.

As long as you mind portion control and don’t overwhelm delicate chick digestion, some mealworm protein should be A-OK.

Tips For Safe Mealworm Feedings


Alright friends, hopefully my story has you a bit more educated on mealworm dos and don’ts. Now please do me a favor and actually learn from my mistakes! Here’s some key pointers I’d be remiss not to pass along:

  • Start by scattering maybe 3-5 worms per chick at each feeding. Don’t just dump the whole bag and call it good!
  • Watch how fast they gobble those worms down.15 minutes is probably plenty of time before collecting any leftovers.
  • Stick to offering worms at most twice a day – once in the morning and again at night.Let those crops have time to settle in between.
  • Keep an eagle eye out for bulging little tummies after worm meals.If you see swelling, hold off on more until it goes down some.
  • Remember that mealworms are high in fat – so go light with portions until the chicks are bigger and better able to process it all.

Listen friends, I hope you take my advice to heart.

Properly introduced in moderation, mealworms can make a fine snack for baby chicks.

But overwhelm those tiny tummies and it’s straight to Disaster City, as I unfortunately found out the fun way! Let me know if you have any other questions – happy to help keep you from the mistakes I made.

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Choosing the Right Mealworms

You’ll want to source quality bugs if you’re adding mealworms to your chicks’ diet.

The mealworms you feed should be healthy and pesticide-free, so look for ones specifically bred and packaged for pet or feed use.

Avoid collecting wild mealworms yourself unless you’re certain of their source – you don’t want any introducing parasites or other issues to your flock.

Opt for live mealworms over dried or crispy varieties when possible.

The live ones provide more complete nutrition through their natural oils and internal organs.

Check for movement and make sure none are squished before feeding to your chicks.

Most feed stores will carry high-quality live mealworms in bulk bins or pre-packaged containers perfect for smaller home flocks.

You can also order them online from reputable suppliers if your local shop is lacking.

Just be sure any mealworms you use are fresh, active, and sourced with your chicks’ health top of mind.

Storing Mealworms Properly

It’s important to store your mealworms correctly so they stay lively for feedings.

Most mealworms are shipped or sold in sealed containers at room temperature.

Upon opening, empty them into an airtight sealed container with holes poked in the lid for ventilation.

Line the bottom with oat bran or cornmeal bedding about 1⁄4 inch thick for the worms to burrow in.

This provides moisture and helps prevent them from drying out or clumping together.

Store them in a cool, dark place like a basement, garage or shed out of direct light.

Check weekly to make sure the bedding remains slightly moist but not soggy.

Sprinkle a light coating of wheat bran or oats over the top as needed to absorb excess moisture.

Properly stored, live mealworms can last several months before needing replaced.

Only remove as many as you need for 2-3 days of feeding at a time to keep the rest fresh.

Preparing Mealworms for Feeding

To get mealworms chick-ready, there are a few simple preparation steps to take:

Wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling the mealworms and chick feed.

Select only the most active worms, discarding any that appear dried out, lethargic or dead.

Gently rinse them under cool water and drain well in a mesh strainer.

This washes away any bedding or debris without chilling the worms.

Pat very dry with a paper towel so they’re not soggy for the chicks.

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You can then either feed them live from your hands or container.

Or for easier distribution, place them on a plate or shallow lid and let the chicks peck them up independently.

Never microwave or cook the mealworms as this can diminish nutrients.

Raw and lively is best so the chicks get the full nutritional profile.

Portioning Guidelines by Chick Age

How much you feed per chick depends on their size and age:

Day-old chicks: 1-2 worms maximum spread lightly over starter feed.

Week 1: 2-3 worms at each feeding, no more than twice daily.

Weeks 2-4: 3-5 worms per feeding, 1-2 times a day.

1-6 months: 5-10 worms at each feeding, up to 2x daily.

6-12 months: 10-15 worms per feeding, once daily is adequate.

Laying hens: A small handful (15-20 worms) once daily.

Always gauge belly filling and adjust portions based on individual chick appetites.

Growth will also impact intake needs so monitor weight gain closely.

Slow adjustments up or down are best to avoid any GI upset from changes.

Recognizing Signs of Too Many Worms

It’s important to know what to look out for if chick tummies get overloaded:

Within an hour, crops may appear visibly swollen sticking far out.

Rubbery distension indicates a full crop you can gently feel.

Regurgitation or vomiting of undigested feed can happen.

Chicks may seem lethargic with ruffled feathers if really impacted.

Diarrhea can also result from an unsettled or irritated GI tract.

In severe cases, respiratory issues may appear from stomach pressure.

If signs persist beyond a few hours, seek an avian vet’s guidance.

Most often, restricting further worms and massages aid recovery.

Learning these cues helps you adjust portions proactively next time.

Additional Protein Sources For Chicks

While mealworms are a tasty treat, variety maintains chick health:

Small amounts of cooked, softened egg can supplement protein.

Boiled diced vegetables like zucchini, carrots or spinach add minerals.

Chick-safe greens like shredded romaine, kale or collards freshen crops.

Plain, live cultures yogurt has probiotics for digestion.

Small fish or shellfish like saltwater shrimp in moderation.

Homemade chick treat recipes add whole grains and seeds.

Freeze-dried insects or grubs maintain crunch without bloat risk.

A balanced selection keeps chicks from fixating on one food.

Rotate extras alongside starter and keep portions modest.

Variety ensures little bodies get a full range of vital nutrients.

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