Getting Started With Crickets!If you want to give your pet the best nutrition available, healthy, well fed crickets are one of the most nutritious choices there are. Unfortunately, they can get expensive when you buy them ten cents at a time at the pet store! Plus, often the pet store keeps its crickets in unsanitary conditions with no food or water, so by the time they get home, they're hardly fit for anyone to eat. Buying crickets from HealthyCrickets.com in bulk is not only less expensive, but also allows you to provide great nutrition for your pets at a lower cost. However, if you've always just bought a day's supply of crickets at a time, buying in bulk and keeping the crickets yourself can be daunting. Once you get started, though, you'll wish you'd done it years before! Your pet will love having healthy, nutritious crickets every day, and you'll love the cost savings and convenience.
What do I need to get started? You'll need:
A container for the crickets to live in
Something to line the container, and for the crickets to hide in
Food and a source of hydration
The Cricket Container
The first thing to address is the container that the crickets will live in. Crickets are pretty hardy, and are able to live in many kinds of containers. The most important features of the container are:
1 - Ventilation! Crickets need fresh air to stay healthy, and good ventilation also prevents moisture build up, which can lead to mold or disease. Your container must be well ventilated. Poking holes in the top is definitely not enough! Using window screen material in the lid enables lots of air to pass through without letting the crickets out.
2 - Tall sides! Crickets are good jumpers, and the last thing you want is for crickets to be roaming your home. Make sure the container has smooth walls that are hard to get a grip on (for example, a wooden box would be easy for crickets to climb) and that the walls are at least a foot tall if you buy very small crickets, or 18-24 inches tall for adult crickets.
3 - Easy to clean! If your container is easy to clean, it will be one less thing to worry about. Nonporous materials like rubber or plastic make clean up go much faster, and won't get soaked through or retain bad smells.
So what should you use for your cricket enclosure? There are many options, depending on how many crickets you want to keep, and whether you want to make one or buy one. You could use:
A large Rubbermaid tub
A large (20 gallons or more) plastic pail
Aquarium (10 gallons or more)
Plastic "Critter Keeper" containers (available at pet stores - good for smaller numbers of crickets)
Garbage cans with lids (good for larger numbers of crickets)
You will need to modify most of these containers so that there is adequate ventilation. A good method is to cut out a section (it can be a section of the top, or part of the side) and glue or tape some window screen or fine mesh over the hole. Especially if you will be buying smaller crickets, it's important to make sure the crickets cannot fit through the mesh, because they will try! Double check that there are no holes around the edges of the mesh piece before putting crickets into your container.
Once you have decided how to construct your cricket container, you will need to find a good place in your home for it. Crickets don't like cold weather, so they should stay fairly warm - at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit - or they will not live as long. They will enjoy warmer weather too, and as long as the sun is not shining directly on the container, they can stay outside during the summer in temperate climates. If you aren't able to keep the container in a place that is warm all year round, you can purchase a small heat lamp to shine in the container, which will keep the crickets toasty. You should also avoid keeping the crickets in an extremely humid area as dampness will cause disease to spread among the crickets.
Floor Covering and Hiding Spaces
The next thing you will need to address is what's inside the cricket container. While your crickets will come in a small box, sitting on top of one another, they don't really enjoy living that way! If crickets are kept cooped up in a small space for too long, they become unhealthy, and sometimes they will fight and kill each other. So to make sure that all of your crickets are healthy and alive (up until your pet eats them of course!) providing a good environment inside the container will go a long way.
To make cleanup easier, many people put newspapers or paper towels at the bottom of the container. This way you can just pull them out and replace them as they get dirty, and you will only have to actually clean the container once in a while. You should change the newspapers if they get wet or if you can see dirt or feces building up. (Yes, crickets poop!) How often you need to do this depends on how many crickets you have in your container. Some people change out the newspaper whenever they get a new batch of crickets, since it will be easier to change if there aren't many crickets left in the container.
Next, put some materials like paper towel tubes, egg cartons, slightly crumpled newspaper, or other clean, dry trash in the container. It may sound silly, but having these items in the cricket container gives the crickets someplace to climb, jump, and hide, and keeps them from fighting. This also keeps the crickets from being on top of one another all the time, and allows them to use more of the vertical space in the container, so that you can put more crickets into the same container than if they were all just sitting on the floor. (It's also helpful if you don't like touching the crickets, because then you can just grab an egg carton and there will be crickets inside it!) Change these materials when they get wet or dirty.
Food and Water
After your cricket habitat is set up, you can start thinking about what to feed them. Crickets will eat most anything, but since what you feed the crickets goes into your pet when the pet eats them, it's important to make sure that your crickets are not eating junk. Part of the reason that pet store crickets aren't as nutritious as HealthyCrickets.com crickets is that they often aren't feeding them at all, or if they do feed them, they are feeding them junk. Crickets will eat many kinds of vegetables and most grain products, and they love fruit, but shouldn't be fed meat due to contamination issues. You can choose to feed them leftover vegetables and fruits from your own salads, potatoes, melons, ground up dog food, fish flakes, oatmeal, stale cereal, bran flakes, or any other reasonably nutritious food. (Just remember - if you feed your crickets Cheetos, that's the same as feeding the Cheetos directly to your pet!) Put the food in a pie plate or other small dish to keep it from getting dirty and getting the newspaper wet. An easy way to make sure your crickets are getting the nutrition they need is to feed them a prepared cricket diet like HealthyCrickets.com's high quality cricket food. This is a complete cricket diet and you won't have to worry about whether you are feeding them a balanced diet. Not all prepared cricket food is the same, and won't give your pets the same nutrition, so be choosy about what you feed your crickets.
Making sure your crickets stay hydrated is important to keep them alive longer. But just giving them a bowl of water is definitely a bad idea. Crickets will jump into the water and get wet, and then be unable to jump out, and for reasons known only to them, lots of other crickets will then also jump into the water bowl. You will end up with a lot of dead crickets and a big mess. The best method of hydrating your crickets is to give them Cricket Hydrate, which is a substance that soaks up water and turns into gel, and then releases it little by little when the crickets suck on the gel. This is a very safe and effective way of hydrating your crickets without danger, and a little goes a long way. Alternately, you can give them slices of wet fruits like oranges or watermelon, which crickets love, and this will also get some extra nutrition into your pet. You can also put wet sponges into the cricket container, although this is not as good a method since sponges can breed bacteria.
Crickets from HealthyCrickets.com are well fed before being shipped out, but keep in mind that they will have had a stressful day or two on their way to you! For optimal nutrition, put your crickets in the cricket container when you receive them with some fresh food so they can have a snack before you feed them to your pet.
While crickets that live on a healthy diet will provide great nutrition for your pet, you can also purchase calcium dust to add extra calcium to the cricket. You apply the dust by putting a small quantity in a bag, adding crickets to the bag, and then shaking the bag so that the dust gets all over the crickets. Then, when you release the crickets into your pet's enclosure, they will consume the calcium dust when they eat the crickets. You should not dust crickets until you are ready to feed them to your pet, since as you can imagine the crickets don't much like it!
Once you have constructed a well-ventilated, warm cricket container, filled it with nutritious food, and included a cricket-safe source of hydration, you are ready to get some crickets! Our Cricket Starter Kit is a great first-time kit that provides cricket food, cricket hydrate, calcium dust, and odor control minerals, plus 500 crickets to get you started on keeping crickets at home. The whole kit, including the 500 crickets, costs less than buying 500 crickets at many pet stores, but you can use the materials in the kit for thousands of crickets. Get started with keeping crickets today, and you and your pet will be happy you did!