Valley Permaculture Alliance

I am really trying to deal with the mess that comes with raising chickens and I need help to keep my sanity.

Today I went to Scottsdale livestock supply and bought two bags of chicken feed because the last bag lasted such a short time, I thought I would save myself a trip and stock up. When I went to take the bags out of the back of my vehicle (an SUV, so no separation from passenger and cargo) the bags were CRAWLING with weevils and ants. I called the store and the woman told me to not worry because the chickens would eat the weevils. I don't want to take the other bag out of the truck because I don't want weevils in my garage and the store closes in 15 minutes so I can't take it back. The thought of weevils crawling all over my truck (we just had the interior replaced, at no small cost, two weeks ago) is not a happy one wither.

I am completely creeped out by this and am thinking I was not cut out to be a backyard chicken farmer.

If any of you have gone through this, have suggestions or have any words of support, please call out now. My hens just started laying one week and one day ago. I like them, but I also want a clean sanitary house. Please send your observations, tips and comments.

Many Thanks,
Monica

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Replies to This Discussion

Hi Monica,
It's true that the chickens will eat the weevils, however I find ants to be more of a problem since I don't appreciate being bitten.
I have 9 hens and 4 ducks so I always buy 2 bags at a time and I've never had this happen. Maybe a different feed supplier is in order.
Your sanity may yet be saved by a small outdoor feed storage shed. This will help keep the mess out of your house and garage.
I'm a retired MD and have found that most of us worry way too much about things being "sanitary". As long as you have a normal immune system, I'd just live life and not worry about germs and crawling critters that are just part of the food chain. I hope this helps!
Jan
This helps! if for no other reason than it makes me smile.

I hate to ask, but since you are a retired MD, can you tell me if there is anything dangerous about us running around barefoot with the chickens having pooped in the back yard? My babysitter says she knows a family that got deathly ill from having chickens... urban legend?
I have never had any noticable bug problem with my feed purchased at Western Ranchman. My husband would have a fit if there was a bug problem in the car, garage or house. I understand your frustration, I would not like it as well. Totally agree with Jan for sanitary reasons it isn't a big deal.
Monica you really are not cut out for chicken raising from the sound of your post seriously they are eevills and totally benign.
Monica, it's not that big of a deal. Try buying your feed somewhere else and invest in a container - like a rubbermaid trash can. Put it in there - with the bag. The one thing is that the longer the weevils are in the feed, the more bug poop gets left behind. Not the best for the chickens - but won't kill em.

I've read that you can put some dry ice in the container with feed... Close the lid and effectively freeze the critters. Sounds extreme but I think it works.

Regardless, don't lose hope!
I've bought items at the grocery store with crawlies in it. Try a different feed store.
Me too. I've had to throw out all my flour, cereal, etc because of weevils. It not fun and its not inexpensive. They got into the cracks in my cabinets in my old house and I don't ever want to go through that again.

I'm going to try the dry ice, I can see at least a hundred weevils on the top of the feed, this isn't just a couple of bugs, it is totally infested. I keep it in a 10 gallon Rubbermaid container. I put DE in there as soon as I put it in buts so far i doesn't seem to have an effect.
It's a good idea to keep your feed in some sort of separate lidded container anyway, not just in a bag in the garage or you will attract pests. The rubbermaid trashcans on wheels with lids are fairly inexpensive and work well. The weevils are not a problem at all, though when there are a ton of them it can kinda gross you out. When the weather is warm (not scorching) there will always be some weevils. They go away in the winter and the summer. Ants are a different story. I would definitely not want those around. Best to nip that in the bud with some dry ice.
In the heat they hatch and spread faster, so I agree that if there is a BAD infestation of them, it's a sign that the feed has been sitting there for a little while. With our recent more temperate weather I'm not that surprised. The feed should have a packing date on the paper sewn to the bag with all the nutritional info. However I'm fairly certain that ALL feed has weevils/weevil eggs, and isn't any more likely to make your birds sick because I don't believe it's a problem of the manufacturer, it's one of sitting around in a warm environment long enough to hatch a few generations.
Fresher is better though. I would be interested if you call the manufacturer, what they have to say.
Monica,
I also bought a bag of chicken feed from Scottsdale Livestock Supply that came with a side of weevils. About a month ago, I made the long trip there specifically to buy the organic chicken feed. While I saw a small amount of them at first, it later turned out to be crawling with them, just as your bag was...hundreds/thousands of them. I wasn't worried about the chickens, but the weevils soon found their way into the house. We've been finding them inside, in significant enough numbers, for a few weeks. The feed bag was too close to the house. This past week, I poured the remaining feed through a funnel into a clear 5 gallon water jug and sealed it. I couldn't believe how many there were. Since the jug is transparent, you could see just how many of them were in there. It looked like an ant farm--kind of neat, really--but I digress. Anyhow, I've kept this jug out in the sun in the hopes of frying most of the weevils. It seems to have worked. I also washed out the area where the feed was kept before, and we've only found a few weevils in the house since I did this. The combination of, primarily, sealing your feed in some sort of a container, and/or exposing it to a little sunlight ("sunlight is the best disinfectant") may take care of the problem. However, when the feed that's left runs out, I'll be buying a different one and from a different location next time.

While weevils are nothing to worry about, most everyone wants a clean, sanitary house. Just because you don't enjoy finding weevils in your cereal or hitching a ride in your car doesn't mean you're not cut out to be a backyard chicken farmer. I share your frustration. I have bought chicken feed from Pratt's Feed Store before and never had a problem with bugs. I wasn't sure if the weevil infestation started at the processor or from the conditions at the store, or both. Thanks very much to you and everyone else for your helpful posts. I'm continually grateful for all the information and tips people share here.
I've had some training in entomology. The pest you describe is probably not a weevil. It is most likely a flour beetle from the genus Tribolium. They are a problem for all of the feed stores, as I've seen evidence of Tribolium infestation at every one I've been to. The best treatment if you have the space is to freeze the food, as that will kill the larvae and adults, no guarantees on the eggs though. The CO2 method method described is effective on other insects such as flies, and may work, although the eggs will probably survive. The adults are very good at getting into your house and infesting your grains and flours as well, however, they are not disease vectors so not to worry, just consider it a protein supplement :) As mentioned already, your best bet is to find the freshest feed available (i.e. from stores that don't have inventory sitting around for long periods of time). I've noticed some of the smaller feed quantities are often sold in clear plastic bags, which will allow you to inspect for beetles beforehand.
OK, this is good stuff. I have a game plan and will not buy extra quantities again. Also, I have a insect identification project to do with my kids. I wouldn't have thought of that if you hadn't said "genus Tribolium". I've heard that keeping pet food in the freezer is healthier too because it keeps it from going rancid.

I am going to try the stores Rachel recommended next time. I was buying the smaller bags of starter food when the weather was turning warm last spring so I didn't get the bugs. I am happy to hear there is organic feed available at other stores.

Thank you to everyone for the tips and encouragement. I think I can keep the bugs from getting in the house and if they don't hurt the birds it will turn out OK.

Thanks again!

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