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Grow sustainable chicken protein from table scraps

 

The BioPod turns kitchen wastes into tasty grubs for chickens

The BioPod turns kitchen wastes into tasty grubs for chickens

As you probably realize by now, I’m mildly obsessed with bugs. I have eaten grasshoppers several times, once in Oaxaca, Mexico, and a couple times in Santa Fe. Crunchy, high in protein, and easy to eat, they’re known as “prairie shrimp” for a reason. But a weird human’s occasional curiosity is a chicken’s bread and butter, or steak and eggs, so to speak. Insects are incredibly efficient at taking resources low on the food chain (poop, table scraps, roadkill carcasses, etc) and turning them into more insects. And insects are prime chicken food. High in digestible protein, live, local, and perfectly designed to satisfy a chicken’s scratch and peck mentality, insects would seem to be a crucial link in developing a sustainable feed system for backyard chickens. But how to do it efficiently? Ideally chickens can forage for insects on their own, when they’re allowed to free range with sufficient space. But that isn’t always enough.

What if there was a simple way to grow and harvest a high level of insect protein, a process that fits into your daily habits without too much extra effort? Well, turns out there is, check out the BioPod.

OK, checkit, this thing is incredibly cool. It’s a new twist on composting, vermiculture, and home grown and sustainable chicken food: a system for turning home kitchen wastes into grubs. It’s very similar to a worm composting system, but faster. You deposit your kitchen waste into their specially designed BioPod, and within 24-36 hours (assuming proper temperature range and other factors) the Black Soldier Fly (BSF) larvae have converted your leftover banana peels and rigatoni into compost and more larvae. The little grubs then crawl out of the BioPod into a collection chamber, which could go directly to your hungry chicks! According to the website:

A working BioPod™ can easily handle the daily food scraps produced by a large family – up to 5 lbs per day. It can even digest pet feces. For every 100 lbs of kitchen scraps you will get 5 lbs of friable compost, a few quarts of nutritious compost tea, and approx. 20 lbs of self-harvesting BioGrubs™ – which are the ultimate fish, herp, and bird food. [I love it when people post actual numbers!]

I don’t know about your family or household, but we easily produce 100 lbs of food scraps in a month, probably twice that in the summer harvest season. That’s 20 lbs of grubs for our chickens to eat each month, and, according to their dry weight calculations,  the grubs are about 40-42% protein. As you remember from this helpful Energy Farms post, soybeans have about 37-40% protein on a dry weight basis, so black soldier fly larvae could easily supplant soybeans in the chickens’ diet. I’d wager a 50 lb bag of organic layer mash that if you laid out a big plate of dried and crumbled soybeans and a big plate of wriggling BSF grubs, the chickens would eat the grubs first, and with relish.

Let’s do some calculations on how much food waste we’d need to convert into BSF larvae to supplant the soybeans in our purchased feeds. If we assume a backyard flock of 5 chickens, and also assume that those chickens will consume approximately 500 lbs of purchased feed in a year, and we assume that 25% of that purchased feed is soybeans, then our chickens would eat 125 lbs of soybeans in a year, assuming it all came from a feed bag. Since it looks like BSF larvae and soybeans have roughly the same protein content, that means we need to provide 125 lbs of larvae for our flock of 5 chickens. According the the BioPod folks each 100 lbs of table scraps yields approximately 20 lbs of BSF larvae. Doing a little fancy math, that comes out to 625 lbs of table scraps to provide enough protein for a flock of 5 chickens for a year. That’s slightly more than 50 lbs of table scraps in a month, a number that’s well within the production capacity of most suburban families. 

My conclusion and why I’m excited: your average suburban backyard chicken enthusiast can produce in their backyard all the protein their small flock requires, from a local and sustainable food source. To reduce any impediment to the excitement this discovery has created, the residential BioPod only costs around $220 delivered. That’s competitive with other backyard composters. 

MAJOR CAVEAT: I have not yet purchased and tried the BioPod, so I do not have first hand experience with this technology. I will have both in the next several months, and will report on what I learn then.

11 comments to Grow sustainable chicken protein from table scraps

  • laurieannbarbour

    I once had soldier fly larvae take over my worm bin but, at the time, I didn’t know what they were and didn’t have chickens. Check out this article about a composter who loves her BSF: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/07/26/HOEIV3JNR.DTL&hw=soldier+fly+larvae&sn=001&sc=1000

  • Thank you for sharing the info!

    I also appreciate your research on local chicken feed. We just ran out of feed and we will be driving to Rivertown Feed for some(what) local goodness.

    Will you share how the BioPod experiment turned out once you have results?

  • Adrian

    This sounds amazing. What about using the larvae as protein for pigs? Could they eat them live? Would it need to be dried first? What do you think?

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  • Johnny

    I bought a Japanese beetle trap and set it up in the chicken pen with the bottom of the bag cut out. The bottom of the bag is just above the ground. When the beetles fall out the chickens get a treat.

  • Jeremiah

    Does anyone see the loop here? you are taking good table scraps 625 lbs worth, feeding it to flies to get 125 lbs of larva…. why not use the 625 and feed it directly to the chickens? Maybe if the flies could survive on only poop this would be productive.

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