Sunday, December 26, 2010

Raising Chickens (and flies?)

Early in the fall Donielle and I ordered a flock of Freedom Ranger chickens to raise for the freezer. These chickens are able to forage for more of their own food than the traditional meat bird, the Cornish Cross. They grow more slowly and their feed/weight conversion isn't nearly as rapid but we decided to give them a try. Here are the newly arrived chickens in our stock tank. The stock tank stayed on the front porch where we could keep an eye on things yet keep the 'stinky' chickens out of the house. They got new food, fresh water, and a nice heating pad to sleep on. We actually split the order with some friends down the road so we ended up with about 15 birds of our own.

This next photo shows the collection tub of our BioPod. One of the blogs I follow regularly is called The larvae of black soldier flies are actually wonderful composters. What takes weeks or months in a traditional compost pile takes just days with BSF. The adults are attracted to decomposing food scraps in the pod and lay their eggs in the 'egg disc' in the lid of the pod. When the eggs hatch, the larvae drop into the food scraps and begin to eat. They consume the scraps and molt several times until they're ready to pupate. Their instinct is to go 'to ground' and they seek a way out of the pod to burrow into the earth. Immediately prior to pupating they 'poop' and molt one last time. The larvae are able to negotiate an incline of up to 45 deg which is something the pod is designed to exploit. The larvae climb the 'exit' ramps and drop into the collection bucket below. What you end up with is a totally clean, self-harvesting supply of grubs that are very high in fat and protein. Take it from me, the chickens (both chicks and adults) love them.

Look for more about Black Soldier Flies and BioPod in the future. Compost for the garden, grubs for the chickens. What's not to love?


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