When a prospective poultry farmer inquires about the prospects of keeping poultry, the first question that comes in mind is about the cost of feeds.
“Do you know how much poultry feeds cost?” one asks.
Indeed, feeds constitute at least 70% of the total cost of running a poultry enterprise. Good feeds must include elements such as proteins, energy feeds and carbohydrates which are key to developing the birds.
The main ingredients of protein are silver fish or soya — which are now expensive. This is why researchers are looking for an alternative.
Poultry farmers have already either bowed out of the poultry business due to the ever increasing costs for silver fish as a poultry feeds. Besides the prices, most of the fish is being adulterated by vendors to maximise profits.
How earthworms can help
A research conducted about why indigenous free-range chicken taste better than caged chicken indicated that eating earth worms contributed a lot to the taste.
Worms tested in the laboratory were found to contain high levels of protein content. This is when the plan to grow them started.
It is easy to grow the earthworms. The only requirement in the production unit are waste, cow dung and other decomposable waste material.
They feed on organic matter, chicken manure and other material. When they feed, they produce high quality organic fertilisers good for crops.
Earthworms are commonly known to be hermaphrodites. This is a creature that has both male and female organs.
According to researchers, earthworms multiply-quickly if they are not over-populated in the development cabin. For instance, if they can be in a bucket or wooden box, depending on a farmer’s choice. A farmer can harvest every after two weeks, provided that they have reached the desired maturity age of three months.
Earthworms make a cheaper alternative for silver fish, which is expensive due to competition brought about by both human and animals consumption. And indeed, many poultry farmers have adopted it.
Earthworm production can also be done by Ugandans as a business.
The biggest advantage is that while farmers can produce earth worms on the farm, no farmer can produce silver fish or cotton cake. The earthworms also have the same or higher nutritional contents as silver fish. A farmer only needs 4kg of crushed earthworms in 20kg of bran.
And unlike in the normal feeds one would need close to 10kg of fish, 10kg of seashells and about 10kg of cotton.
Chickens that are fed on earthworms grow faster and bigger compared to those on normal feeds.
Conditions to consider
Earthworms are night feeders. They also thrive in moistened, damp conditions. Get a wooden box of any size depending on the size of the room. Add soil. Pick a handful of soil from an area where you expect the earthworms as seeds and put it in the boxes. These will act as eggs to enable multiplication or reproduction.
On top of the soil in the box, add rotten peelings or anything decomposable to feed the earthworms. Pour water. This is all done in order to imitate the conditions suitable for the worms.
Since they are kept in the dark, they are usually attacked by rats, termites and red ants.
So to prevent this, one needs to put the boxes on a higher ground with a wire mesh covering it. Feeding the earthworms Unlike other farming activities, rearing earthworms requires rotten substances that can decompose easily once they are on top of the soil in the box where the earthworms are kept.
The earthworms usually take three months to mature. They are harvested when they are of a size of the little finger. A 3×3 feet box can produce as many as 10kg every six months. This is enough to mix at least 50kg of maize bran.
Production increases depending on the number of boxes a farmer is keeping.