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Free live bug idea for the chickens


Joined: Mar 29, 2009
Posts: 30
Do you have crickets or cockroaches in your area? I wanted to share something I discovered by accident this summer. I put a piece of plywood down in the chicken coop one muddy day this spring when I wanted to throw them some scraps and have it stay relatively clean. A couple of weeks later I managed to get back out there to move it and when I lifted it up there were a ton of crickets and cockroaches.

Needless to say the chickens were quite happy. I have moved lumber piles before and had the chickens enjoy the feast, but I never put it together until recently. I really did not know what the bugs were eating. So I went out one night with a flashlight to see hundreds of crickets feeding on the chicken poop. I had no idea they ate that stuff. Barrrfff :--)~

So I laid down strips of plywood with limited success. Then I realized it must have been helped along because it had recently rained when I did it the first time. So I sprinkled the area with water every couple of days as I changed the chickens water, and within a week there were more. Now that I have been doing this for a few months I can turn the boards every three or four days and reveal hundreds of cockroaches and crickets (Sometimes I wait a week to let them really build up). 

The chickens continue to poop on top of the plywood all day so when I turn it over the critters have a fresh supply of food again and they multiply like nothing I have ever seen.

Maybe it’s the heat of the desert? Maybe it’s something in our chickens food that the bugs like after it’s gone through the bird? I don’t really know. All I know is that the eggs seem to taste better and the shells feel thicker and brighter. The birds also look much better. One particular rooster that is a real bug hog is so shiny and perfect he almost doesn’t look real. I mean he looks like a poster or something. It really is amazing to see first hand how diet improves health.

I thought that because they had free run and some access to the garden and lots of scraps that they were as healthy as can be. I can see now that there was room for improvement. The desert just does not normally produce enough bugs that they eat I guess.

I am not sure if there is a downside, I have not discovered it yet. Another upside is that it seems to concentrate the bugs to the coop. I find far less…I mean seriously - I would guess a 75 to 80 percent reduction in what I find in the house. I cannot think of the last time I found or saw a cockroach in the house. I think the chicken poop attracts them all to the coop! Whaddyall think?
Jami McBride

Joined: Aug 29, 2009
Posts: 1911
Location: PNW Oregon
Very cool idea!

I have noticed that bugs gathering in animal areas pulls them from their usual haunts.

I think I will give this a try even though I haven't seen a cockroach in years I know my neighbors have 'em (I raise chickens in the city).

This post reminds me of one I've been wanting to make.... off to start a new thread!

Joel Hollingsworth

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
I made a similar discovery yesterday, but with ant larvae and bricks.

A bed edge made of modern-style bricks with recesses pressed into it was covered with ants carrying larvae when I turned it over.  I don't know how often the chickens could eat this before the colony moved, though...

"the qualities of these bacteria, like the heat of the sun, electricity, or the qualities of metals, are part of the storehouse of knowledge of all men.  They are manifestations of the laws of nature, free to all men and reserved exclusively to none." SCOTUS, Funk Bros. Seed Co. v. Kale Inoculant Co.
Gwen Lynn

Joined: Sep 04, 2008
Posts: 736
This is a good idea, and it can happen anywhere, I'm sure. I'm in NE Okla. & depending on the weather & the season, different bugs will show up under boards, rocks, even plastic bags. Right now it's more like Seattle here. When I walk in the yard at nite I step on snails & I can hear (& feel) their shells pop under my feet. Really trying not to experience that in my bare feet. Just a little icky. I find them under things, along with slugs.

When it was in the 100's 2 months ago, there were crickets, roaches, worms, cutworms, etc. under the same boards, etc. This idea is one of the easiest  ideas I've read about on here. Kudos!

Leah Sattler

Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
wow I never even thought about the crickets and roaches eating the chick poo. I know that near my old barn every scrap of wood I turned over had tons of them. now I know why.


"One cannot help an involuntary process. The point is not to disturb it. - Dr. Michel Odent
paul wheaton

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 17444
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
pic or it didn't happen! 

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Gwen Lynn

Joined: Sep 04, 2008
Posts: 736
I've been pretty handy with my camera lately & I've been trying to clean up my place. If I find a goodly amount of insects under anything in my yard, I'll take a picture...but...I don't have any chickens! Wish I did.

Anyways, a picture of chickens going after those uncovered bugs would be much more dramatic! 

Joined: Mar 29, 2009
Posts: 30
paul wheaton wrote:
pic or it didn't happen! 

Okay my hands are up…you got me! Wow - your BS meter must be smo-o-okin.

I was just sitting around the other day….bored. And I thought, I wonder what I could do today that would be fun? Maybe I could let my kids tear up the house while I take the time to sit down and totally make something up and post it on the internet.

But what to post?

Suddenly chicken poop came to mind!

…..nah not very exciting I thought….and then….(I am looking around to make sure nobody is looking - as if they could read my mind?) from out of nowhere the thought arose….what if there were bugs EATING IT?

*shudder* no way - that is just too gross. I cannot believe that thought even came into my.... cripes - I need help!

But the little red devil was already firmly perched on my shoulder and would not SHUT UP!!

....bugs eating it....makes them breed like rabbits....and then you rip the roof off their home and let the chickens devour them! A little dark, but hey I could soften it up by saying how good it makes them TASTE….no wait…that’s not right….well maybe yes I could add that part ….but…just the eggs...and good it makes them LOOK…yes that’s it….it improves their health…that will sell it and make it more legit. OK!

And so I gave into that disgusting idea and well you know the rest…boards came to mind…plywood of all things? Hmm I dunno and spraying them down with water?? Sick I know.

I promise it won’t happen again.   *wink* *wink*

I hope nobody actually went out and laid boards down in the dirt and misted them with water …..hoping that their chickens would go and poop on them so they could turn them over every few days to feed bugs that live underneath. ROFLMBO (Rolling on floor laughing my butt off) You silly, silly farmers - ah so gullible - but I still love ya anyways! You are all truly precious. 
Gwen Lynn

Joined: Sep 04, 2008
Posts: 736
Noooope...not gullible nor a farmer. Didn't spray boards with water & don't have any chickens. Don't need to spray anything with water around here. It's been raining off & on for weeks now. I got so many little dime sized snails in my yard I can hear them pop when I walk on them. Kinda like bubble wrap that pops & then sticks to your foot. Ewww.

Marty...I have a pretty good sense of silly humor...but...from now on I think I'll take your posts with grain of salt! Guess you got your April Fool's prank in a little 6.5 months early!

As Ralph Kramden (aka Jackie Gleason) on the Honeymooners would (sarcastically) say:

"Hah, hah, haar, dee haar, haar."


Joined: Mar 29, 2009
Posts: 30
Well it looks like that post activated the little red devil and more ideas are flowing…I may as well try and keep the story going and get as much juice out of it as I can….

A couple of more things I remembered while out there today. The boards need to stay in the shade…at least for me here in the desert. And they multiply the most where the board is the most flat….so warped corners don’t seem to make them little critters feel safe? In fact I stacked a few sheets of plywood strips and there were crickets between them - lots of crickets.

Frankly now that I think about it, there are always more cockroaches than there are crickets down in the dirt. I placed some plywood down where the chickens roost for the night….more poo there than anywhere….and almost no critters…why? Because I never get that area wet. Dampness is a key ingredient to this little cockroach concoction.

I think I will keep a stack of 3 or 4 going against the fence just for the crickets and see how that turns out. I guess the cockroaches like the dirt? And the dampness. Crickets like the poo and then a dryer place to….do whatever it is that they do.

Maybe I will test out some plywood stack designs and see which ones keep crickets and cockroaches multiplying the most. Then I will sell those plans for a buck or two and ….I’m rich, I’m RICH! …..naw I won’t keep a dime, I will donate the critter fortune to a worthy cause LOL

Okay I will play along with Paul - here are a few pictures….I was surprised how many there were today because I just turned them yesterday. My guess is that half or more escape and come back when the boards are turned and the chickens leave. It would be wise to find a way to keep them more trapped in the coop because they do escape very quickly. And chickens aren’t…well you know how chickens are.

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Gwen Lynn

Joined: Sep 04, 2008
Posts: 736
The chickens in the picture look happy! ...but are they real...or...photoshopped!?
paul wheaton

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 17444
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
PM stuff should work.  If you have any trouble, take it up in the tinkering forum.

The looking for land stuff should probably go in the rockies forum.

As for the chickens and bugs .... in the pics, I can see the chickens and the boards, but .... where are the bugs?  Do we need bigger pics or something?


Joined: Mar 29, 2009
Posts: 30

As for the chickens and bugs .... in the pics, I can see the chickens and the boards, but .... where are the bugs?  Do we need bigger pics or something?

I can do a larger pic....but the fact is I am using my phone because our other camera just stopped working properly. There is about a five second delay after you push the button on this thing and the bugs scatter super quick - in that amount of time they are on the other side of the board or on their way out of the coop.

It is in the shade and yet light enough the flash doesn't come on and the chickens jump right in on top of them. I also just exposed them twice now in two days so their numbers are getting may just have to take my word for it, or try it out yourself if you think there is any value in it. If you have scrap wood that is at least a foot or so wide it should work to some degree.

If I feel inspired I will go out in a few days and try to have button pushed before I lift the board and see if I can get the flash to work so you can see the huge pile of bugs under the boards. It's really cool.

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Jennifer Smith

Joined: Jul 14, 2009
Posts: 709
Location: Zone 5
Ok well I am willing to try but may have to modify a bit.  Turn board over for a bit and put back in same place...think it will work?

Joined: Mar 29, 2009
Posts: 30
listenstohorses wrote:
Ok well I am willing to try but may have to modify a bit.  Turn board over for a bit and put back in same place...think it will work?

I think it depends on where you are at, what kind of little critters are common around your place and ...ummm....if they like to eat chicken poo.

If I were starting today I would scoop or rake some fresh poo to about half the size of the boards I am about to lay down....not too much, give them some room to live or breed or whatever they do under there besides eat. Oh and I would sprinkle the ground first so that it was damp, not soaking wet, just damp.

Let me see if I can explain that a little better.....if I had plywood or boards that were say two feet wide and four feet long (Mine are about one foot wide and the bugs are always right in the center. If I had wider pieces I would use them)....I would rake about one foot by two feet of chicken poo under where I am going to lay the board. So about half the board is food and the other half is free for them to multiply - preferably in the middle. I think that is where they feel  safe.

I would give it a light sprinkle, drop the board down and wait for a couple of weeks. I would avoid walking on the boards or moving them in any way during this initial time.

I would lift the board, let the chickens feed and then turn it over, putting it down exactly where it was before so that they come back and continue doing whatever it is that they do. My boards are in a little walkway area so they get pooped on a lot, if this was not the case I would rake some fresh stuff in around the edges and lay the boards down in the same spot.

I guess I just turned mine because it was quick and simple - It might make more sense to not turn the boards and just lift them up and rake some fresh poo under and set back down. I will do that next time.

I am also going to rake some poo in a corner after I stack several boards there in the hopes that it will attract more crickets. I will let you'all know.

I cannot think of anything else right now so I hope that helps. The live bug feed really made a rather surprising improvement in my birds and their eggs. It's well worth the effort and I am going to be looking for other ideas to raise living food.

Leah Sattler

Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
the bugs make a huge difference in taste of the eggs! yum.

Joined: Aug 24, 2009
Posts: 106
have to do that.  why didn't we think of that. for years we kept boards around the garden, where slugs congregated. DH would go slug hunting with daughter's pet drake "affy". Lift up the board and Daffy would eat the slugs like candy.
Paul House

Joined: Jun 01, 2012
Posts: 1
I spent the last winter rotating large mattress bags full of leaves around the yard here in Montana so my 5 hens could have bare ground to work on. So, I read this thread with great interest! The bags don't offer a place to roost and poop, but are lightweight, easy to move, and bring up lots of bugs and worms to the surface. Whenever I grab a bag the chickens are racing over to gobble up the wide variety of but protein that naturally rises to the surface after just a day or more. They end up pooping on the bug patch, as well as the rest of the yard, which seems to be enough to bring the bugs to the surface.

I don't see how to insert a photo, but will figure it out. I attached a photo as a file.

The mattress bags are free for the taking and tough enough to last over a year in the sun and weather. Initially they were to cover and insulate the root crops which I harvest in mid winter for the sweetest carrots and roots, but discovered how well they maintain little patches of green grass all winter. Whenever I move them I use the big scoop snow shovel to quickly clear a new spot right next to the current spot. The chickens jump right on the green patch and spend most of the day there if the ground is snow covered, like they're fenced in. It is also nice to have a large, year round source of dry carbon bagged up to use in the compost, and I use the leaves as bedding in the coop, too.

I have lots of friends with chickens confined to coops and runs instead of on grass and there is a noticeable difference in egg flavor, as evidenced by the trade offers that come in! I have been getting an egg a day per chicken since Feb 1, and their other food is compost and scraps of course, with a mainstay of local grown grains and legumes cracked with camelina meal and kelp especially for chickens for the same price as the imported feed.

I also installed this automatic chicken door in January so they would be safe at night once they put themselves to bed: It works great and I opted for the solar panel and light sensor so the girls can be outside as soon as they wake up and stay out until dark. It's great to be away from the house at sunset and know that they are safe. I have no relation to the door company and it may seem expensive but it's worth it to me.

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Abe Connally

Joined: Feb 20, 2010
Posts: 1492
Location: Chihuahua Desert
bugs eating chicken poop is no stretch of the imagination. I have a BSF bin, and they love the stuff.

Now that you've discovered the mechanism, take it a bit further, and have an area specifically for the bugs to live and reproduce. Harvest periodically for your birds, but leave enough to keep the colony going. Maybe some sort of cricket+cockroach hotel that gets regular additions of chicken manure. Sounds like it could be tweaked to produce a lot of bugs, not just a treat.

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Klaymen Strife

Joined: Oct 23, 2011
Posts: 23
Are you not worried at all about the possible effects of having only one layer between chickens eating their own poop?
Abe Connally

Joined: Feb 20, 2010
Posts: 1492
Location: Chihuahua Desert
not really, have you ever seen them in a pen? They scratch around and eat things in their manure all the time. It can't be THAT bad for them.

But, if you are worried about it, feed the bugs to fish, then feed the fish to the chickens.

Personally, I prefer my chickens to be strong enough to handle a bit of manure every now and then.
Craig Dobbelyu

Joined: Dec 22, 2011
Posts: 1188
Location: Maine (zone 5)
I had a thought the other night about harvesting bugs at night near my porch lights. I noticed that a lot of june bugs hit the lights and then drop like a stone to the deck. So I put a 72 cell seedling tray under the light to catch the bugs as they fell. To my surprise, the big beetles can't walk up the sides of the plastic cells so they get stuck til morning. Yesterday I had about 20 or so and this morning there were nearly 30 june bugs still alive in the cells. I just walk them over to the chickens in the morning when I let them out.

I'm sure this could be modified so that It could catch more types of insects and more of them. I think something like a funnel with a light inside and a jar to catch the falling bugs.

[Thumbnail for bug trap.png]

"You may never know what results come of your action, but if you do nothing there will be no result”


- Compost in training
Paul Gutches

Joined: Dec 22, 2011
Posts: 87
Location: Taos, New Mexico
I really like this idea.

We get a lot of crickets in the summer. No cockroaches though. Too dry for them here I think.

I too was initially a little concerned that the chicken poop may be in too rapid a cycle to be consumed by the chickens, but the point that was made about how much poop already gets into their system fresh through their messy eating habits makes a lot of sense.

Here's another possible trick to attract nutritious bugs for your chickens, also discovered completely by accident.

I'd been making various "humus ditches" inspired by sepp holzer, and was throwing different types of organic wastes into them to see how they decomposed.

In one ditch, actually more of an oblong pit, I threw some old dry cat food, some dry beans, poured some water in, covered it in dry loose straw, and laid a plastic fluorescent light cover over the top and forgot about it.

At some point later in the year I remembered it and when I had a look I nearly leapt out of my skin when I saw quite a few dozen large size meal worms writhing virulently in the hot moist pit!

Now, I can't say how long it took for them to get in their and produce so many... but when I get chickens of my own you can be sure I'll be experimenting to figure out what I accidentally did so right.


Permaculture: The Edge is the New Center
Taos, New Mexico / Carson, New Mexico / 7000ft / zones 5,6 / Soil: Servilleta-Hernandez / Avg. 13" precip per annum
John Alabarr

Joined: Sep 25, 2012
Posts: 68
You are brilliant!
mike shore

Joined: Apr 28, 2014
Posts: 1
the cricket eat only fresh manure or dry too?
how I can contact marty hatfield directly ?
John Polk

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 6898
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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subject: Free live bug idea for the chickens