Its fairly commonly known that many types of Poultry such as Chickens and Turkeys love Mealworms as part of their diet but the question people often ask is, ‘Is there a benefit to giving your birds Mealworms?’ This Blog will look to answer the questions, why should you feed mealworms from a nutritional, enrichment and health perspective.
Mealworms are high in protein, fats , essential amino acids and vitamins. They are natural way to supplement your feathered companions diet in a way that not only benefits them in a dietary way, but improves overall health and reduces stress, through promotion of natural behaviours. Mealworms are not a complete food and should be fed in a limited way as they are lacking in calcium and do not represent a balanced diet for chickens and when fed in too large a quantity or as an exclusive food can cause health issues.
Nutritionally Mealworms contain between 46-53% protein depending on what they are fed and this extra protein is important for egg laying birds, and helps keep their condition during the process and improve egg quality. This high protein also help poultry through their Moult. Feathers are made mainly from protein so the extra protein increase in their diet through the supplementation of Mealworms helps birds through this uncomfortable period by making sure they have enough protein to efficiently produce new feathers. Mealworms exoskeleton contains chitin which has been proven in research studies to improve gut health by reducing populations of bad bacteria, such as salmonella, in their intestines.
Feeding Mealworms also acts as a form of environmental enrichment for your birds and promotes natural behaviour. Mealworms when scattered or placed as part of toys and other enrichment promote mental wellbeing and avoid stress.
Use in young birds
Mealworms should be seen as a staple addition to those rearing young birds. As well as having the necessary protein needed for growth their complex vitamin and amino acid structure provides key nutrition often not found in compound foods. Studies have shown that birds raised with access to insects have less incidence of vitamin deficiency ailments in particular those associated with leg weakness.
Live vs Dried Mealworms
Why feed live mealworms over dried Mealworms? In the UK it is currently against the law to feed dried Mealworms to poultry as dried mealworms are generally produced in China and can potentially be fed on animal protein which could adversely affect egg quality and production. Domestically produced live Mealworms are fed on plant matter and as well having a better nutritional profile also promote natural behaviors in poultry, leading not only to improved health but also wellbeing. Live Mealworms can also be produced cheaply and sustainably using food waste and excess vegetable matter.
Mealworms while not an exclusive food source for poultry are important in their long term health and wellbeing and should be seen as an important addition to any poultry diet.