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The smallest livestock you can raise, even in an apartment or smaller space — The Grow Network Community
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The smallest livestock you can raise, even in an apartment or smaller space

judsoncarroll4judsoncarroll4 ModeratorPosts: 3,602 admin

A few years ago, I posted an article I had written on snail farming here at The Grow Network. To my surprise... as I'm often too unconventional even for Permaculture forums, it was very well received. @Marjory Wildcraft even sent me a very nice message saying that even if people didn't care to eat snails, she thought my snail farming system would be a great way to raise chicken and duck feed. And thus, I found a home at TGN.

I'll post the link to that discussion below. I came up with a table-top snail farming system that could really provide a lot of delicious protein for adventurous eaters, like myself. Few people realize that snails came to North America as the most easily portable livestock brought here by mostly Irish, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish immigrants. Snail hibernate/go dormant in winter or dry weather. They tuck into their shells and seal themselves off waiting for spring rains. Immigrants brought sacks of dormant snails to the Americas as survival food. Snails are hermaphroditic. Just two snails can lay thousands of eggs that can be eaten as a type of caviar if salted, or hatch into this little guy:

That, is a day old snail on the tip of my finger. Snails are incredibly sensitive. They need clean air and water, sun and shade and only fresh vegetables/scraps. Any rot or unsanitary conditions will cause them to become diseased and die within 48 hours. They are NOT slugs. Slugs prey on snails. Slugs are nasty things. Snails are actually quite clean. Raising them is really like keeping tiny chickens! They eat your vegetable scraps and egg shells, reproduce and grow into, essentially, land terrestrial clams. You can cook them much like clams or muscles - they become tough it over cooked, but can make a nice stew or chowder. They are delicious with Burgundy Butter!

"But Judson." you exclaim, "I am not a crazy hillbilly... I don't eat snails!!!" Okay, well you have likely heard of worm farming. Now, consider a small terrarium like container of snails in your kitchen. You feed them your fresh vegetable scraps and they make rich "snail compost". But, unlike worms, you can enjoy watching them grow, seeing the little hatchings and keeping them as you might keep goldfish. And, if the SHTF... feed them wheat flour and clean water for a couple of days... then get a pot of salted water boiling for a quick blanch that will kill them and remove all slime. If you plant parsley and chives in your snail farm, it will keep the snails healthy and improve their flavor dramatically.... think clams with a bit of and earthy/mushroom and herb flavor.

Here is the link to that post: Raising Snails for Food... not really llivestock, but.... — The Grow Network Community

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Comments

  • MaryRoweMaryRowe Posts: 513 ✭✭✭✭

    @judsoncarroll4 This is a cool idea. Hadn't thought about it in years, but you reminded me that archaeologists found evidence of large-scale snail farming being done at Catal Hoyuk in Turkey some 9.000 years ago! Snails aren't just the smallest livestock, but probably the oldest as well. Definitely worth looking into.

  • LaurieLovesLearningLaurieLovesLearning Moderator Manitoba, Canada 🍁 zone 3, PrairiesPosts: 4,080 admin
    edited June 4

    @judsoncarroll4 I must have missed that.

    Right now, our worm bin is so small. Putting it in the basement would be too cool for the worms. But maybe snails could handle that temp & eat our extra veggie scraps. Hmm. But, to add those live plants you mentioned for them, I would then need a grow light.

    These are land snails, correct?

    I have a couple fish tanks. Would that work? And then (this might be in the article that I haven't looked at yet), how do I get an initial clean source (I don't want to risk my birds by bringing in internal parasites from outdoors) and how do you keep them contained (lid)? Strangely enough, I haven't seen a snail for many years here.

    Edit: I see you used window screen. Is that enough to keep baby snails in?

    This idea could help out with my ducks, chickens & peafowl (possibly quail too), especially during molting. I also can't keep my birds loose & foraging as the fox would then forage them. Winter months are not conducive to birds foraging any extra protein either anyway. I welcome any knowledge to improve the health and appearance of my birds.

    You certainly gave me something new to consider and possibly experiment with.

  • judsoncarroll4judsoncarroll4 Moderator Posts: 3,602 admin

    Yes, very true! The ancient Greeks had large snail farms, as well.

  • judsoncarroll4judsoncarroll4 Moderator Posts: 3,602 admin
    edited June 4

    Yes on the screens and fish tanks. Parsley, chives and oregano (if possible) work as natural antibiotics for the snails. Snails are so very sensitive, that if they appear healthy, they are. A sick snail dies very quickly. They can produce a new generation with a month or so of warm weather, so you could wait for the second generation. My basic set up was a plastic tote, with gravel in the bottom. The gravel was covered with garden soil and moss. Window screen over the top. Half was covered for shade, half in sun from a window. The snails have to have a way to find shade, and plenty of light. I am sure a grow light would work fine - in fact, I saw a farm on a program that grows them entirely indoors using grow lights. I think some VIt C dissolved in their water would help if you can't grow herbs with them. The guy who has that farm supplied his snails for restaurants. He feeds them with weeds/wild herbs he picks fresh each morning. Clean water and leaving nothing to rot is what is most essential. My design is for two "snail pens" with a trap door between. That allows me to put fresh food and water in one, to draw all the snails over there. Then, I close the trap door and clean out the soiled pen for compost. They like to lay their eggs under the water dish or moss, so just lifting up that layer allows you to check for eggs. The eggs are a tasty little treat spritzed with some salt water. They would probably do fine in a cool basement, as they really can't stand hot temps. Easier than the two pen system with a trap door is to just bag them up when they go dormant in the winter, using a mesh onion or potato sack - hang it it in a dry, shady place - then, clean out the single pen.

  • judsoncarroll4judsoncarroll4 Moderator Posts: 3,602 admin

    Oops, I almost forgot - radishes are the essential snail food! If you can feed them radish tops and/or roots, it will keep them in peak health, whether you grow it in their pens or not.

  • LaurieLovesLearningLaurieLovesLearning Moderator Manitoba, Canada 🍁 zone 3, PrairiesPosts: 4,080 admin
    edited June 7

    I did some more reading and there are concerns with rat lungworm & also meningitis. I am not sure how this translates to birds, but certainly could be a concern for people if the snails had this.

    I remember reading years ago about cultivating certain living things as food for animals indoors and the concern was usually parasites that could thrive in a cultivated environment as opposed to a natural one.

    There was also concern about legality of some large African snails (imports) in Canada and concerns about them becoming pests in crops.

    I read a few different sources. I figured some good ones to check into clean sources could be reptile forums. Some did under the table and some just outright discouraged keeping snails.

    Interesting just the same. For the amount of birds I keep though, it sounds like it would take too much work/time/space to make it worthwhile in my case. Maybe if I only had a couple birds, it would be different.

  • jowitt.europejowitt.europe Moderator Posts: 608 admin

    @judsoncarroll4 @LaurieLovesLearning

    I do have them in my garden. And I did ate some, but some time ago. I tasted them in a restaurant and they looked very similar to the ones in a video with nice herbal butter. After that experience I collected a lot in my parents garden, tried to keep them clean on I do not remember what, put them in boiling water and then removed only the muscle part for a meal, the inside in the shell I threw away and kept the clean shell for stuffing it this tiny eatable part into it and closing with herbal butter. As far as I remember, it tasted good, but mainly of herbal butter.

    i have quite a few slugs in my present garden, thus I keep the snails to keep control of these and I do not eat them. I have plenty of chives and radishes and oregano, so they are strong and immune. They are very interesting to watch. I will show them to my grandchildren once they come

    concerning slugs, have you ever seen a tiger slug - they do eat eggs of the red and black slugs. I keep tiger ones as pets.

    These two in the photo I met in Spain.


  • judsoncarroll4judsoncarroll4 Moderator Posts: 3,602 admin

    Tiger SNAILS, yes, they are amazing! Slugs around here are nasty things. In some places they have "banana slugs" which are horrible. There used to be a "hands on" educational museum near where I grew up. They had a jungle with huge African snails, etc and all kinds of lizards, birds, etc. I wanted to LIVE there... If I had known about sea urchin roe back then, I'd have wiped out their tidal pool!

  • kbmbillups1kbmbillups1 Posts: 573 ✭✭✭✭

    @judsoncarroll4 My daughter has been talking about getting a snail to have in her dorm room next year as a pet. I thought she was crazy but after reading your post maybe not. What do you think about having one in her dorm room? Would it be easy to take care of?

  • judsoncarroll4judsoncarroll4 Moderator Posts: 3,602 admin
  • monica197monica197 Posts: 874 ✭✭✭✭

    Where do you buy your 'starter' snails?

  • I'm pretty open to trying new foods, but I've never been a fan of seafood in general, and snails just seem...nasty. I realize the French would say I'm wrong, but I'd have to be pretty hungry to try them.

    If I ever decide to raise chickens, I'd pull up this thread and take a look.

  • judsoncarroll4judsoncarroll4 Moderator Posts: 3,602 admin
  • toreytorey Moderator Posts: 3,072 admin

    I'm with you @Mary Linda Bittle, West Plains, Missouri. I would have to be very, very hungry to eat snails. And I like most foods. Big fan of seafood. My husband has tried snails and enjoyed them but I know my gag reflex just wouldn't take them.

    I grew up in an area inundated with slugs of all sizes and colours, including the Pacific Banana Slug, one of the largest of the banana slug species that @judsoncarroll4 mentioned. For those of you who don't know this creature, it truly does look like a banana. They can be 8-10 inches long and as thick as a banana. Yellowish tan skin sometimes with black blotches, just like a banana ripening. They are the things that inhabit small children's nightmares; at least mine when I was young. So that is what I think of when I think of snails even though I know they are not the same creature.

    But all the more power to those of you who are able to use this food source and find innovative ways to cook them. Apparently they are a good source of vitamins and minerals.

  • CorneliusCornelius Posts: 370 ✭✭✭

    I have never thought of this before. I will have to look into growing some. @judsoncarroll4 what about a weekend course: Growing snails for TGN?

  • MaryRoweMaryRowe Posts: 513 ✭✭✭✭

    @torey Now, now, snails and banana slugs are entirely different critters....and I can say that, even having been traumatized by a childhood encounter with a giant banana slug, though I had no idea what it was at the time. It's probably my earliest childhood memory--I was only 3 or so, on a family camping trip at some park on the Olympic Peninsula. I had managed to stray off into some bushes, and stumbled across this horrible giant yellow thing that seemed almost as big as I was. I had boots on, I remember trying to stomp it, and it oozed around under my foot without squishing. Many decades later now, I still remember that feeling under my foot, and its big eye stalks looking up at me, and me screaming so loud and long I was choking, and my Dad crashing through the bushes to the rescue.....and then laughing so hard he almost choked too when he saw what it was.....Had nightmares about that slug long after, and won't be surprised if he turns up tonight after dredging up that memory.....

    But all that said, I can contemplate starting up a little snail farm without a thought to my ancient banana slug nemesis. They're just entirely different critters. I'll just be sure not to have any yellow ones.....☺️🐌

  • jowitt.europejowitt.europe Moderator Posts: 608 admin

    @torey @MaryRowe I have never seen a banana slug. I have never heard of these either. I did google. Now I know how they look like. I guess with globalisation and exchange of vegetables and fruit and with climate getting warmer we will get these creatures quite soon. I was growing in the times, when there were no snails. Now they are everywhere...Well, I will increase the amount of tiger slugs to fight the newcomers.

  • karenjanickikarenjanicki Posts: 712 ✭✭✭✭

    That's actually a brilliant idea and makes alot of sense. Where we live we don't have a way to keep livestock so this could be promising. Thank you!

  • monica197monica197 Posts: 874 ✭✭✭✭
    edited June 5

    I was not sure if different snails have different flavors?? Or if there are some that should not be eaten due to toxicity?? @judsoncarroll4

  • judsoncarroll4judsoncarroll4 Moderator Posts: 3,602 admin

    It probably depends on where you live. In North America, we mainly have the common brown snail. in the east, and the double helix (escargot) snail on the west coast - both introduced as food by immigrants. We do have native sea snails. I think there may be a poisonous sea snail, but the winkles and whelks are edible.

  • MaryRoweMaryRowe Posts: 513 ✭✭✭✭

    OK, so I am getting serious about this. So far, I've come up with these two articles and a whole book! worth adding to a list, but just barely starting.... (especially love the photo in the second article.....)




  • judsoncarroll4judsoncarroll4 Moderator Posts: 3,602 admin

    Awesome! Seriously, is there a more sustainable protein? I mean, if you care about such things... I think I could feed the world on snails and kudzu!

  • AngelaOstonAngelaOston Posts: 217 ✭✭✭

    Wow - and I thought my new guinea pig breeding program was small animal farming. You are right, that is the smallest. I think it rven has meal worms beat! Nice job.

  • MaryRoweMaryRowe Posts: 513 ✭✭✭✭

    I just checked---Amazon offers 14 books and ebooks on snail farming, including a "Business Plan for Snail Farming"! And of course there's lots for free on the web!

  • blevinandwombablevinandwomba Central PaPosts: 769 ✭✭✭✭

    @MaryRowe ok, am I the only one who finds that giant snail to be absolutely adorable? It's like an alien rabbit or something. But I also find slugs to be cute.

  • judsoncarroll4judsoncarroll4 Moderator Posts: 3,602 admin

    Snails really are cute once you get used to them. If you get into into snail farming, don't be surprised if you take an interest in snail themed art and collectibles. A lot of that art also features mushrooms, which is a natural connection.

  • MaryRoweMaryRowe Posts: 513 ✭✭✭✭

    @blevinandwomba @judsoncarroll4 Hmmmmmm..... I'm still not convinced of the cuteness part, especially with that giant snail. It does indeed sort of look like an alien rabbit in the photo, but I keep thinking about the slime factor.....

    I am all excited about the idea of a sustainable protein, easy to raise, manage and harvest, and even now gathering reference materials and figuring out where I am going to put a small snail farm of a couple bins or so. I'm sure I will get used to them and even think kindly on them, as I do my worm bin worms....eventually....But I'm not at all convinced they will ever be more cute than slimy....we'll see......

  • LaurieLovesLearningLaurieLovesLearning Moderator Manitoba, Canada 🍁 zone 3, PrairiesPosts: 4,080 admin
    edited June 7

    A note on the second article...you would be best off checking, if you are interested in the large African land snail, if keeping them is even legal. They are not legal in Canada.

    I knew those snails were large, but I really didn't know how big they really are! I played with snails as a kid, but I'm not sure if I would have if they were that big. I wouldn't have dreamed of eating them either since they were tiny and hung out in sloughs. I can't see that tasting very good!

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