Friday, June 13, 2014

"Automatic" maggot feeder for chickens

How about a quick, easy, nearly free and slightly smelly way to supplement the fat and protein in your chickens' diet while giving them a treat?

I started doing this last year after getting the idea somewhere (I can't remember where, I'm sorry, I wish I could give credit where it is due. Really), and though I wouldn't do this if I had really close, or picky neighbors, it's worked great for us.

This is really simple. Take a 5 gallon bucket, drill a bunch of 1/4 inch holes in the sides. Don't drill any holes in the bottom or up about 1 inch from the bottom. Throw a couple handfuls of straw in the bottom. Fill with a few pounds of meat. Cover with some more straw. I suppose you *could* collect roadkill for this part, but I usually have some old something-or-other in the freezer that isn't salvageable, or I have frozen animal carcasses left over from the previous trapping season. Fish carcasses work great too, for you fisherpeople. I mean, you know what stuff attracts flies, right?

Maggots make great chicken treats.

Hang the bucket about a foot or two above the ground in your chicken run. Wait.

Ok, so it's going to smell some, there's nothing you can do about that. But, if you don't use TOO much animal material in there and you keep some straw on top of it and below it to absorb any juices, it won't get too bad.

As all the neighborhood flies find the meat, they'll lay eggs. Fly eggs become maggots. Maggots eat meat. Eventually, some maggots fall out the holes in the sides. Chickens love maggots and it's great protein and fat in their diet. Lots of times, in the evenings, I see my hens standing under the bucket waiting for a maggot or two to fall out.

A few points of caution here.

1. If you make any holes in the bottom of the bucket or very close to it in the sides, some unpleasant smelling liquids will find their way onto the ground and the smell will increase dramatically.
2. Don't overload the bucket. I put probably 2-3 pounds of guts/meat/whatever in there at a time. This will last a few weeks at least.
3. The more holes you drill the faster maggots will fall out. Don't make the holes big enough that chunks of meat fall out. 1/4 - 3/8 inch is about perfect.
4. If it rains a lot where you are, put a cover on the bucket. The flies can still find their way in through the holes in the sides.
5. If you live in the middle of nowhere and have a strong stomach, you can put holes in the bottom of the bucket. It will work better. It will also smell a lot worse. Your call on this one really.
6. One reason for hanging the bucket is that it makes it less likely that a maggot-crazed hen will get IN the bucket, which can become a very messy situation very quickly. A cover will also help, if this is an issue for you.
7. The other reason for hanging it is that when the maggots fall, it gets the chickens' attention, and they find them easier. Mitch Hedberg was right about this, snacks are better when they fall and that holds true in the chicken world as well.

When the bucket is finished and there's nothing left to attract flies, there probably won't be much smell left either. At this point you can either dig a hole and bury what's left, or you can just dump it on the ground in the run and let the birds dig through it for any remaining snacks. I usually bury it somewhere. Rinse the bucket out and repeat, if you aren't completely grossed out at this point.  :)


  1. Great idea! Gross and disgusting but great! I'm gonna give it a try. How does it affect the eggs?

    1. I haven't noticed a change in the eggs when I do vs when I don't have the maggot feeder out. My hens eat a lot of bugs and worms anyway, in reality the percentage of their diet that's maggots is still pretty small.

  2. Dont some of them come back out as new flies increasing the fly population?

  3. I have noticed that my watermelon rinds in my compost literally crawl with maggots after a few days... Maybe this would be less smelly??

  4. You don't need meats, you could also let some potatoes rot. They'll smell just as awful and attract plenty of flies, but it's better/cheaper than wasting perfectly good meat.

    1. You should try getting scraps from a local butcher.
      I've been feeding scraps straight to my chickens and had a dramatic increase in egg production.
      I've been wanting to use the scraps for the maggot buckets, because maggots are higher in protein than raw meat.