Permaculture: Maggots for Chickens

Here's an interesting idea in permaculture: What to do with leftover meat, offal or carrion that exists in every kind of farm establishment? Some permaculture farms put it in a bucket cover it with straw and make chicken food by farming maggots, a farm-time favorite of our friendly fowl. Simply enough, these contraptions are called "maggot buckets" and are suspended near a chicken coop, where when the maggots fall to the ground, the chickens are patiently waiting.  In the wild, chickens would forage many bugs and grubs and certainly maggots would not be any exception. And people harvesting chickens may have some organs or bones unsuitable for eating - the maggot buckets serve as a meat composting system.

In the video, Brian Kirkvliet says that the bucket is layered with "critters and straw" and by the time the maggots have done all their work, all that is left is straw and bones. The maggots fall out of the drilled holes in the bottom of the bucket and the chickens snatch each and every one of the maggots. They seemingly love them.

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Additionally, an article called, "Protein from Thin Air" (originally a sidebar to "Feeding the Flock from the Homestead's Own Resources" in the Oct/Nov 2006 issue of Backyard Poultry Magazine) written on discusses the use of maggot buckets in depth. Despite some issues Harvey Ussery, has had recently, at the time he originally penned this article, he felt fairly secure with the methodology: "... in all the links sent , the references actually described the condition associated only with spilled feed which had become wet, had soured and begun working with maggots, and then been consumed by the birds. Sounds to me as if the botulism bacterium was growing in the soured feed mash, not in the maggots. In any case, I have always avoided using a grain mash as a maggot breeding substrate. However, I fed carrion-bred fly larvae the entire fly season last year, and this season I have honestly lost track of the number of beaver carcasses I’ve put through my buckets—and I have not had a hint of a disease problem. Neither has my longtime mentor Joel Salatin, who follows beef cattle on his pastures with a big flock of laying hens, who scratch apart the cowpies for the maggots growing in them. Based on such solid experience, I conclude that the homestead flock owner need not fear disease if he chooses to tap into this rich source of free protein"

Harvey Ussery states his further research will be an introduction to breeding maggots from the Black Soldier Fly, the focus of his next article in Backyard Poultry Magazine. By taking a few preventative measures, doing some practical & literary research and employing a lot of patience, a sensitive farmer could produce a great renewable, sustainable chicken feed out of any kind of fallen or unused meat and promote a more sustainable farming approach rooted in permaculture.

Photo credit: video still from Paul Wheaton's Permaculture Channel