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Becoming familiar with how to Raise Crickets
for usage as Pet Food

If you keep omnivorous or carnivorous reptiles, amphibians
or other small pets, you probably feed them house crickets
as part of their diet. If you would prefer not to have to go
to the pet store and buy crickets for your pets every week,
you may want to try raising your own as many other pet
owners do.

It's not that hard, and it gives you the opportunity to know
exactly what they have been fed and to "gut load" them with
foods that are good for your pets, since whatever the
crickets have in their digestive systems becomes food for
your pet when the pet eats the cricket. Another thing to
consider when you are choosing the location for your cricket
farm is that eventually some will escape, and they do not
stand still to be caught!

Plush Crickets - almost Magical and Enchanting

There are probably as many "cricket rearing plans" as there
are cricket rearers, but here are some recommendations from
others who have raised crickets for their pets successfully:

1. Plan where you will keep the crickets. Cricket eggs need
to be in a fairly warm place to grow, and adult male
crickets make a lot of noise! (Or, rather, if you share the
Chinese love of cricket chirp, they "Sing" a Lot!) With a
cricket colony an odor is also likely. Bear in mind that you
don't have to keep the eggs and the adult crickets in the
same place, since you will need to remove the eggs so that
their charming parents don't eat the babies when they hatch.

Again, it's not complicated. You can keep your crickets in
the bottom of your closet, in your herp room, or in the
laundry room or in the garage if your climate isn't too hot
or cold. You can keep the eggs warm with a heating pad under
their container or simply by putting them on top of your
television. It's just a good idea to have a plan before you
get the crickets.

Although crickets prefer warmer temperatures than those at
which the normal home is kept, seventy-five to ninety
degrees Fahrenheit (twenty-four to thirty-three degrees
Celsius), they will live and breed at normal room
temperatures; you just won't get as many babies. You may
find a simple way to provide more warmth, such as placing
them near your hot water heater, in the warm herp room,
hanging a one hundred watt bulb near their box, or the like.

2. Plan how many crickets you'll need per week. Since
crickets only live a few weeks, this planning is important,
especially if your pets are small and can only eat small
crickets. You won't need that many crickets to get started,
they breed well. You can likely simply start with a second
batch of the normal batch of crickets you buy for your pet
each week.

3. Get the materials you will need to house your crickets
and keep them healthy. For the cricket containers, the
easiest container is probably a small aquarium with a tight-
fitting aluminum cover. Or for less cost, you can buy
"Rubbermaid" type containers or high sided transparent
storage boxes, cut a couple of six inch windows in the lids
and glue metal screening over them for ventilation. But if
you use plastic, be sure to check often that the crickets
haven't chewed their way through; they can chew through
plastic or nylon fairly quickly.

You will need at least two containers for the adult cages
and two for the babies, so that every few months you can
switch containers and thoroughly scrub out the one most
recently used. Line the bottom of the cage with sand or
vermiculite to help keep the cage dry, and replace the
substrate every few months to prevent bacteria growth from
food, feces and dead crickets.

The cricket will need many hiding places in their cage. One
popular method is to use the bumpy parts of empty cardboard
egg cartons (Although cardboard rather than Styrofoam
cartons are getting harder to find here in the USA) stacked
on end and taped or glued together in fours or fives so
there are little hidey places between them, and filling all
but the feeding and egg-laying areas of the cage. If you
can't find cardboard egg cartons, you might use cardboard
toilet paper tubes fastened together in blocks. Once your
crickets are installed, if the cardboard begins to feel at
all damp, increase the size of the ventilation holes and
decrease the humidity. Mold and bacteria will kill your

4. Plan the crickets' daily food and water. A simple bowl of
water is not good for a cricket cage. Besides the problem of
spillage, which can result in mold and mildew growing in the
cage, some crickets will drown. If you are keeping many
crickets you may want to add a small animal drip water
bottle, or buy commercial water gel at your pet store. We
also recommend that you give your crickets bottled or other
unchlorinated water or you may have dead crickets.

You can also make your own cricket waterers very simply. A
small disposable container with a tight fitting lid, such as
a plastic commercial yogurt or sour cream container, will
work fine. Simply cut a small hole in the top of the
container and push through a cheesecloth or paper towel
strip wick that hangs down inside to the bottom of the
container. Fill the container with water and fasten the lid,
and put in a flat area of the cricket cage, where it won't
fall over. The water will wick up the cloth or paper towel
and the crickets can sip it from the wick.

Or, you could simply fit a sponge tightly into a jar lid and
fill with water. The sponge will dry out much faster,
though, and the crickets might eat it, so we prefer the wick
method. Another suggested idea is to give your crickets
orange slices rather than drinking water. That way you are
providing some extra vitamins to your pets as well as
preventing drowned crickets.

Crickets eat a variety of grains, vegetables and other plant
materials. You can buy commercial cricket feed, (But
research the nutritional value of the feed you choose.), or
you can feed them a varying mix of corn meal, barley wheat
and other grains, fish food, root vegetables such as sweet
potatoes, carrots, and potatoes, baby rice cereal, apples,
oranges, wheat germ, squash, and green leafy vegetables.
Simply put food into a small shallow container and put into
the cage. When empty, wash and refill immediately or the
bigger crickets will start snacking on the smaller ones.
Crickets will clean their dishes regularly.

Feeding your crickets a good high protein diet will not only
make them more nutritious for your pets, but will help
prevent their eating each other. If you are feeding a large
number of crickets, an experienced cricket herder has
suggested a mix of dry cat food supplemented with powdered
milk and reptile calcium powder, fed along with alfalfa
pellets and raw vegetable scraps. (Note: Some cricket
breeders put clear plastic tape around the inside top of
their cages to help keep the crickets from climbing out
while they are being fed and watered.)

5. Choose your crickets. To choose your breeding crickets,
pick healthy looking, whole adult crickets of both genders or
slightly more females than males. Crickets are adult and
ready to breed once they have developed their wings. The
male cricket rubs his wings together to make the familiar
cricket chirp to attract a female, and the male will have
two "spears" jutting at angles from his hind end. The female
is larger than the male and will have one long spear-shaped
ovipositor extending from the rear of her abdomen, which she
uses to deposit her eggs into the soil.

6. You will also need to add a breeding box for your
crickets to deposit their eggs. One good idea is to make a
box from a small disposable transparent plastic container
full of good sterile potting soil, (if you are sure that the
soil doesn't have insecticides added), peat moss, or turf
substrate from the pet store. Put it into the cage near the
food and watch for singing and egg laying. Crickets may
burrow in the substrate and may eat some of the eggs. If
this is a problem you can cover the soil with a layer of
window screening, the females can still lay their eggs by
sticking their ovipositor through the holes. Use
unchlorinated water to keep the soil moist but not sodden,
and watch for mold.

For the rest of the story, and how best to hatch and care
for your baby crickets, see the next article on this
website: How to Hatch and Raise your own Crickets for Pet Food.

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