Learning about garden pests – and how to make them into benefits

My husband (yes, bloggers can be married!) had one whole margarita and blamed it for his inability to hold his camera still an hour later. But that’s not what this post is about. This post is about SNAILS. You can see a tiny fraction of the snails that hang out on my house if you go here: Saturday Night Hangover. (Post courtesy of my husband.)

I’m late to the ballgame on learning about garden pests in Oregon (we come from Colorado, which has a quite different climate and therefore different pests), but I learned today just how harmful those brown garden snails can be. But I also know from experience just how tasty snails are to chickens! But does that mean I can only gather a few at a time? And my chickens only get to eat snails at night when it’s raining? No! I also learned tonight that you can grow snails indoors, in plastic tubs. Who knew? Then you have a constantly breeding and growing colony of snails that stay put – so it’s easy to grab a handful to feed the chickens. Snails are a good source of protein, and the shells have calcium too.

So I went out in the drizzly rain tonight and collected all the snails I could find from the house. Porch light was burnt out, so I could only gather from some parts, but I still gathered 50 snails! Eeek! They now live in a plastic bin full of dirt and greens out on the back breezeway. When the chicks are a little older they’ll enjoy the treats. I love free food – even when it’s food for my food. One homestead problem turned into a benefit!

Here are the instructions I’m using to raise my snails:

1 – Have a container – something like an aquarium. Glass or plastic, with a lid the snails cannot dislodge. Put it somewhere out of the way where it will have cool temperatures and no sunlight.
2 – Fill the bottom 8 inches with good soil that is a little damp (but not soggy).
3 – Put edible greens on top of the soil. Anything you would eat in a salad is good – lettuce, cucumbers, etc – as is anything you know they were already eating.
4 – Add the snails. Preferably only healthy snails with undamaged shells. A mix of sizes and ages is fine, but try to stick to one breed for maximum numbers of offspring. The number of snails is up to you – but you want them all to have access to the food.
5 – Each day remove spoiling food, add new food and dampen the soil as needed. Other than that, ignore them.
6 – Adult snails will mate and lay eggs in the soil. New, tiny snails will emerge after a couple weeks. And the cycle begins again.

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