January 10, 2011

Feed the birds!

It is snowing in the south today. We are such wimps when it comes to snow. As a friend of my husbands said today, "It's Tennessee. We have one snowplow per county." My little cul de sac won't ever get plowed. I've been watching the birds swarm around the bird feeders and the blue birds are hanging around the deck waiting for me to put out the meal worms. I figure it's a good time to repost the one about growing meal worms for the birds.

You can grow meal worms in a plastic storage container anywhere that stays above freezing and is protected from moisture. They are clean and have no odor. Even my koi in the backyard water feature like them.

Here are instructions for growing and feeding meal worms for the backyard birds. The picture above is of my favorite type of worm feeder. I have tried several and this seems to work best. I bought this one at Wild Birds Unlimited but I am sure they are available elsewhere. I put worms out every morning all year but you can feed only in winter and in nesting season if you prefer. It may take a few days before the birds find your feeder. Mine is very close to my back door on my deck and they found it right away. I can almost guarantee that a Titmouse will be the first to find it. They are the most curious little birdies – and the biggest eaters! I take worms out of my growing containers and keep a weeks supply in a recycled butter container in the refrigerator. They will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks - they go simi-dormant and perk right up in room temps.

This picture is the container that I keep and grow the worms. As I mentioned in the previous blog “worms in the basement”, I got my first worms from my cousin. If you are lucky enough to have a friend who grows meal worms, maybe they will share a few with you to get you started. If not, here are a couple of links to web sites where you can purchase worms also here. Be sure to NOT buy the giant worms, they are sterile – treated with a growth hormone. I buy small or medium if I ever need extras when my birds are eating a lot. It usually takes about a week or two for the small ones to get large enough to feed but they are perfect to start you clan with.

The very best bedding and food for meal worms is wheat bran. I purchase form our farm co-op I have also used Chick Starter but it seems to stay a little too moist for me. The wheat bran that you can find in the grocery store will work but is expensive.

In addition to the wheat bran, you will need to scatter some raw apple or potato slices or dry fresh lettuce leaves on top of your worm bed every once in a while. The worms love these; it gives them moisture that they need. I add new ones when I notice that my worms have eaten almost all of what I put in last. Do not let your bedding get wet – it will mold and could destroy the worms.

In a few weeks you will see black beetles in your container along with the worms. This is good – these are the last stage in the life cycle of a meal worm. The beetles will lay eggs and the process starts all over again. If you get a great deal of beetles, I get rid of some of them. They will eat them worms if there is not enough food for them all. I toss them in a pile of leaves in the yard – who knows maybe they will reproduce there. Meal worms live under leaves and other debris in nature.

About once a year, I sift all the worms and beetles out of my container, dump the old used bedding into my compost and start out with fresh bedding. I put about six inches of fresh bran and place my worms and bugs back in, top it off with a few apple slices and I’m ready for a new year of bird feeding. Wear something old and a mask if you have dust allergies. This can be a dusty chore!

Once your worms are established and reproducing, you can run your fingers through the bedding and you will notice movement in the bedding. These are tiny baby worms –thousands of them! Future blue bird treats!


  1. Kathy, you are right about us wimpy Tennesseeans and snow! I'm sure our neighbors to the north are laughing at us! Enjoyed your post..I've enjoyed watching my feeders today too.

  2. I talked to a customer from Arkansas today, she said they are as crazy as we are. Made me feel a little better.

  3. Pookie bear is too cute peeking out from underneath the gate! Thank You for stopping by and following. We are one of your new followers..........TALLULAH'S

  4. I like vintage stuff about as much as I like gardening