Every morning I throw a treat to the chickens of each coop as I let them out for the day. It was getting cold so I grabbed a handful of scratch before going outside to let the Millies out. Normally I head straight to the coop to open the door, but this morning I stopped to fill a water bucket. As I'm kneeling there with the hose in one hand and scratch in the other I start to feel something tickling my fingers. A crawling feeling. I look down and ewwww bugs! Of course I threw the scratch immediately. Then I decided I needed a picture, so I grabbed the phone and more scratch and waited for it to start crawling again. Yuck! Now the weird parts: nothing appeared to be crawling when I looked into the container of scratch and it was a closed watertight plastic jar. So how did the bugs get in there, and why did I not notice them before? (I filled this container back in winter) Read on for answers...
Most likely the bugs came in the feed when I got it. They were probably eggs at the time. It takes awhile for eggs to hatch and the bugs to mature. Normally in this amount of time I would have went through the whole bag. Actually I had, but this one jar always sat on the back porch and since we don't feed much scratch in the summer it sat there for several months. So the bugs hatched. They used the feed as a food source and multiplied. If you look closely at the grains you can see holes through them. The Granary weevil burrows into the kernel and lays it's eggs inside where it then hatches.
Another common feed bug is the Indian Meal moth. Many people call them pantry moths. Basically they look like tiny gray moths. Sometimes you'll see the larvae instead or a little bit of webbing. They larvae kinda look like grubs...little ones. Like crawling grains of rice.
Ok, so we found bugs now what do we do? First smell the feed. A bad or foul smell could indicate mold or bacteria. Throw the feed away if it smells funky at all. If it's not spoiled you can choose to feed it to your chickens or not, it's up to you. Neither of these are bugs that will hurt the chickens. Chickens eat lots of bugs anyway. In my case I threw the scratch out into the yard and the chickens came running. They probably ate very few bugs since it was all over the ground. It would be more likely for them to eat the bugs in a feeder but again, it's up to you.
Return brand new bags to the feed store. If you just bought the bag and there are bugs take it back! Do not risk it sitting around and maybe spreading to any other feed you have. Take it back and request a new bag.
Check remaining feed for bugs. In my instance the bugs were limited to 1 jar of scratch. Had the bugs been inside the feed tub, I would have needed to bag it up securely so the bugs couldn't get out and spread to other feed.
If you choose to keep using feed after you find bugs in it, put it in a garbage bag and close tightly. Keep stored away from other feed to prevent infestation of other bags of feed.
To prevent bugs: Use feed in a timely manner or don't buy more then you will need in a few months. The older the feed is, the more chance that any bug eggs inside will have time to hatch and multiply.
Store in a closed container. I use a big rubber garbage can for layer pellets. I also have airtight bins for each different type of feed that I use.
You can dust a little Diatomaceous Earth inside the feed bin the help kill off any weevils that may be present. Use the food grade DE.
If you buy small amounts of feed, you can pop the bag in the freezer overnight to kill any eggs that may be inside.
While finding bugs in your chickens feed can be quite unpleasant, it's definitely not the end of the world. It happens occasionally. Where there is food, vermin will find a way to help themselves. Keeping things stored the right way will help keep any infestations to a minimum.