Black Soldier Fly Farming

by Manda H

Published May 21, 2024

As inflation continues to raise the price of commercially produced chicken feed, those of us who are raising chickens are often on the lookout for ways to reduce our feed costs.  In an earlier blog, we shared how to grow your own Mealworms, which are a tasty treat for chickens. We also have the ability to sprout grain, which can supplement our chickens’ diets when they do not have access to grass.

For me? I am a little limited to places where I can raise the mealworms or sprout grains. That led me on a journey to finding an alternative that I would be able to do right in my yard.  This is where I discovered the benefits of raising Black Soldier Fly larvae.

Black Soldier Fly Meyer Hatchery

The Black Soldier Fly

So what exactly is Black Soldier fly? And what are the benefits? and then of course, you may wonder what you need in order to get started.

Black Soldier Flies are found throughout most of the United States. Therefore, you likely already have “breeder stock” flying around in your backyard. That is good news because you do not need to place an order to get started with them.

Their lifecycle is relatively short. They live only about 7 days at which time they will need to find a source of food and lay eggs. Those eggs take about 4 days to hatch. Once the larvae hatch they will continue to eat until they reach about 1 inch in size. They will also change from a whitish color to black. At this time they will want to crawl out of the container so that they can bury themselves into soil for their final transformation into a fly.

Storage Bin for Black Soldier Fly Larva Farming Meyer Hatchery

Choosing your Container

I like using a regular plastic tote that can be easily found at the local store for under $20. You will need to use a second bin, approximately half of the volume of the first container.  One nice thing about totes is that they come with a lid as you will need to keep out extra moisture.

Setting up your Bins

You will want to lift your bins off the ground. Cinder blocks and buckets can work great for this. Your second bin will need to be a couple of inches lower than your main feeding bin. Your upper bin will need some sort of item that the larvae can use to crawl out of the bin.  A scrap piece of wood works great for this part of the project. The piece needs to be long enough to go down to your bedding and then stick up out of the tote a couple of inches. This piece of wood allows for a small opening on top of the bin, which provides access for the flies.  The idea is that the larvae will crawl out and then fall into the second bin. The second bin will be the container where you will harvest your larvae. This is amazing as you will not have to do any digging around and the larvae will place themselves in that bin so you know that they are at the right age for harvesting.

Filling your Bins

Keep in mind as you choose to fill your bins that you want to be attracting Black Soldier Fly and not the average house fly. Avoid items such as meat.  The best option is grains such as oat, bran, and ground corn. You can opt to use items such as fruit rinds.

What you are doing is attracting the flies who will then want to lay their eggs nearby. This is because they feel their offspring will have access to that food for their best chance of survival. 

You will want to add a piece of cardboard in there. Think of it as their little bit of added privacy as they will lay their eggs in the area of the cardboard.

Bin with Black soldier Fly Larva on corn and black fly food Meyer Hatchery

Harvesting and Replenishing

Once your bin gets going you will be able to harvest daily. You can just collect them and feed them directly to your chickens. If you are using table scraps this will result in a relatively free source of protein for your backyard flock of chickens.

Troubleshooting the Bin

Keep an eye on your bin. You will want to replenish it with food whenever it starts to get too low. Choosing lower moisture items can reduce the chances of your food composting or attracting the common house fly. You may need to add more dry materials or reduce the amount of food if you are having issues with spoilage. You may want to keep your bin in an area where your dogs cannot access it because sometimes they enjoy the same items.

Keeping your own DIY Black Soldier Fly farm is a great way to reduce the cost associated with feeding your backyard flock. Black Soldier Fly larvae provide a great boost of protein plus your flock will happily gobble them all up!

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