If your pet reptile goes through a lot of crickets at mealtime, ordering them in bulk and then breeding and raising more crickets yourself is a cost effective and easy thing to do. But simply getting the crickets to grow isn't all that there is to having a successful cricket farm. There are a few things you need to do to make sure you raise those crickets right in order to provide proper nutrition to your pet reptile.
What Do You Feed Crickets?
When raising crickets to use as food, remember that whatever goes into the crickets goes into your pet. A favorite analogy of mine is that a cricket is like an empty suitcase so whatever you pack inside it you will deliver to your pet. Therefore, keeping crickets at home for awhile before feeding them (or when you raise your own crickets) has the tremendous advantage of allowing you to gut load, or feed, them before giving them to your pet. Gut loading simply means feeding the crickets nutritious foods so that the nutrition is passed on to your pet. You can buy prepackaged cricket foods as well as products specifically fortified for gut loading prey food. You can also feed crickets:
- tropical fish flakes
- dark leafy greens (romaine, mustard greens, kale, collard greens)
- sweet potatoes
- potatoes (peelings are fine)
- baby rice cereal
- wheat germ
- prepackaged reptile foods
- dry cat food
The fresh vegetables and fruits can be offered to the crickets even if you are feeding a commercial cricket chow. If you are feeding a home made food mix, feed a wide variety of foods including fresh vegetables and fruits and be sure to sprinkle the food with a reptile vitamin and calcium supplement.
Buying Crickets in Bulk
You can mail order crickets in bulk (usually batches of 250 up to 1000), which should save a lot of money if you've been buying small amounts at the pet store. Keep in mind that crickets will only live for a few weeks. If your pet needs smaller crickets they might grow too big before you can use all the crickets so it is a good idea to carefully evaluate how many crickets you go through in a certain time frame and order appropriately.
If you are interested in ordering crickets there are several sources to choose from. Flukers, Ghann's Cricket Farm, Timberline, and WormMan Worm Farm are just a few of the larger companies where crickets can be ordered from in bulk. Different companies often raise different breeds of crickets.
There are also a variety of mail order sources to choose from or your local pet store may be willing to offer bulk purchase discounts. Reptile shows and expos are also usually full of people who breed and sell crickets at a discounted price.
Downsides of Keeping Crickets
Crickets do make noise and have a distinctive odor (but it is not bad as long as the colonies are kept clean) so you have to be willing to live with them. Escapees are almost inevitable, so you must also be prepared for that possibility (and they can be tricky to catch if they do escape).
If you live in an apartment, escapees may affect your neighbors also and they won't likely be happy to share their home with your escaped crickets.
That having been said, it is very easy and economical to keep large quantities of crickets to breed and raise. Getting the colony set up, especially for breeding, will take some time and effort, but once a colony is established, it is pretty easy to maintain.
Edited by Adrienne Kruzer, RVT