The "roadkill bucket" method of feeding chickens has been going around the internet for a number of years now, but I finally just got a set up to try it out this spring. I was shocked by how well this really works and thought I would write a post to dispel some the myths about this great system.
So here's the basic idea: You get a 5 gallon bucket with some sort of lid and drill a bunch of small holes in the sides and bottom. You can see four holes in the picture above, but there are probably about 15 in the bottom of it. Next, you go about on your daily errands, but every time you see some roadkill that isn't too totally mangled, you pick it up and bring it home with you. This method is best if you have a short drive home or a pickup truck. I currently have a Subaru, but I generally keep a garbage bag in it just in case and try not to pick up anything that's super rotten or has been hit a million and one times. This method also works with other meat scraps from your kitchen or your local butcher if you're not into the roadkill thing. But on the other hand, I'm not sure why you're reading this post if you're not into roadkill.
Anyways, once you've got your roadkill or other meaty bits, simply put them in your bucket, put on the lid and hang it in with your chickens. Depending on how rotten your meat is and the outside temperature, there should be maggots on it within just a day or two. By day 3 or 4 there will be maggots pouring out of every hole and your chickens will be having a field day eating all of the yummy magical maggots that fall from the sky! Maggots are very efficient at using energy so you will get almost as many pounds of maggots out as meat you put in. After about a week, the maggots will subside. You have two options at this point. The first option is that you simply add more roadkill every time it runs low. The second, and my preferred method, is to empty the bucket out once the maggots have stopped and dump all the bones out before refilling
Happy, maggot eating chickens.
At this point the bones will not have any meat on them, but they will still need a little cleaning up before using them for anything. If you have no need for bones you can simply put them in your compost. If you would like to have clean skulls or bones for tools or crafts you can either let them sit out in the sun to be bleached or let them soak in hydrogen peroxide at least overnight.
BUT WAIT! I know you have some questions you are dying to ask, so here you go:
Doesn't that smell bad?
Yes, it does smell bad, it's rotting meat. But honestly, it really only smells bad if you go close to it during an occasional breeze or if you are directly next to the bucket. For this reason, this may not be the best idea if you live in the city. It's one downside to this, but on the other hand, you get a TON of free chicken food. So yes, it smells, it smells like money in my wallet and eggs cooking on the stove. It smells like sleeping in until 9 am, knowing that I don't have to get up and go to work at some job that I hate just to pay the feed bills.
Won't this attract predators to my chickens?
I can't guarantee that it won't, but it is unlikely. We have not had a single issue with predators since implementing this system, but we also have a very strong and well maintained electric fence. Predators don't generally like to eat animals that they didn't kill themselves, especially ones that are as putrid and rotten as what is going to be in your bucket. We don't like the smell and predators don't either, if they are healthy animals and it is summer time, they should have plenty of other food sources that they don't have to eat liquified, maggot covered meat. They also do not trust human scent at all, especially when it comes to food as humans often mean poison, traps, and guns. I really do not think a predator would be attracted to this unless they were truly starving. That big bucket of grain that you put out for your chicken is much more of an attractant for predators, such as raccoons, than nasty, rotten meat. If anything, it may attract vultures, which will not harm your hens.
Ew, isn't that gross to deal with?
Again, yes, it is sometimes gross, but you know what else is gross? Your whining. Sometimes, agriculture is gross, dirty, or sad and that's just a fact of life. If you don't have enough backbone to deal with that, you might want to re-evaluate your decision to own livestock.
Will it make me or my chickens sick?
No, this will absolutely not make you sick, just wash your hands after touching roadkill. Maggots are perfectly safe to eat, even for humans. People generally don't practice this unless they are starving because of the creepy, crawly factor, but that doesn't mean you can't do it. This will not make you or your chickens sick. Store bought eggs, on the other hand, could make you sick.
Will it make my eggs taste bad?
Nope! We've been doing this for about a month now and our eggs still taste great!
What if my chickens won't eat it?
Our hens shied away from eating the maggots for the first day or two but once a few of the braver ones discovered it, the others were quick to follow. We also put a little grain down so that they would come eat it and notice the maggots. Our chickens are used to eating insects on a pretty regular basis, though, so if yours are not, it may take some creative coaxing. We tried to put a bowl underneath it to see if they would prefer to eat them out of the bowl, but it did not work very well, so we dumped it and moved it away. The maggots also started moving in huge spiral inside the bowl, which was really creepy, so we put an end to that.
Is picking up roadkill legal in my area?
The short answer is that it depends on where you live. Some states have strictly enforced roadkill laws, others have laws but they are not enforced, and even more don't have any laws at all. Read my post Here Are The Roadkill Laws in All 50 States to read a list of state regulations. If you cannot find your state there, contact your local Fish and Wildlife and I'm sure they will be happy to tell you which species are legal to pick up where and when. I mostly stick with opossums and whistle pigs around here, as they are generally considered vermin species and, sadly, nobody pays them too much attention.
Will this work all year round?
Unfortunately no, this will only work when it is warm enough for flies to be around. If you still want to raise insects for your chickens to eat in the winter, consider raising mealworms or earthworms in a heated building.
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