Snail farming depends very heavily on the seasons, because snails go into hibernation in colder months and they begin feeding in warmer months. If the summer is too hot, then the snail rest. This all depends on the local climate, with some more appropriate for the most optimum snail production than others. Some snail farms are breeding snails indoors, which enables them to produce snails all year long.
The usual feeding season is from April to October, when snails grow and fatten up. Snails can eat a lot on some days and nothing on other days – depending on the weather. Moistening the soil improves their feeding activity as it makes it easier for snails to move around. When it becomes too hot and dry, the snail usually become inactive, and hide in its shell and becomes dormant until cooler, moister weather returns. The snails estivate in groups on tree trunks, posts, or walls. During winter months snails hibernate, therefore they need to build up their fat reserves to live on during hibernation.
Snails like damp and dark places, therefore they are most active a few hours after sunset, when dew appears and the temperature is low. During daytime snails usually seek shelter under plants.
Some snail can grow faster than others under the same conditions and some will even take twice as long to become mature. In order to be successful in snail breeding you would need to select the larger snails and create a breeding stock.
Growth of snails depends on many factors:
- Quality of snail food
- Population density
- Breeding technology
Snails are sensitive creatures. They are affected by too much noise, touch, unhygienic conditions, vibration, light, and irregular feedings.
Food for snails can be anything from premade grounded mixtures to letting them graze on organic vegetables growing on the snail farm. The necessary component in both cases needs to be calcium. This can either already be contained in the soil or you need to add powdered calcium regularly. Calcium ensures escargot shells grow at an appropriate growth rate to prevent cracking of the shell and damaging the snail. The lack of calcium may also cause the shell to be too thin and also slow the entire growth of the snail. You can serve the calcium in a feeding dish or trough. Be careful that the calcium does not contain any harmful salts or is not too alkaline to burn the snails.
Snails eat solid food by grazing around and scraping it with their radula – a rasplike structure of tiny teeth used for scraping food particles off a surface and drawing them into the mouth. Snails stop feeding once they start mating – usually in the middle of June. After laying eggs the snails continue to eat again and they can be removed away from the eggs to give more space to young hatchlings.
Some farmers feel very strong about raising snails naturally or in an organic way, by letting snails eat the plants that are growing around them. Others feed snails with powdered food and cut vegetables and fruit. Keep in mind that vegetables and fruit must be removed if uneaten as it will spoil and cause unhygienic conditions. There is a difference in the taste and quality of the snail depending on what they were fed and the way they are grown.
Recommended vegetables and fruits as snail food are:
- Cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, artichoke, beans, barley, bindweed, celeriac, celery, cucumber, chive, kale, leek, lettuce, nettle, onion greens, parsley, peas, potatoes, pumpkin, radish, spinach, sweet pea, tomatoes, and turnip.
- Apple, apricot, ripe cherries, peach, ripe pears, plum
- Chamomile, carnation, dandelion, hibiscus, lily
Overall you need to find the right plants to fit the climate and remember that snails prefer juicy leaves and vegetables over dry ones. Their food may consist of 20% bran based and 80% vegetable and fruit based, but more importantly, a farmer needs to provide plenty of drinking water for the snails to eat and grow fast.
Clean drinking water can be served in a shallow container to reduce the risk of the snail drowning. On some snail farms there is a watering system in place such as water sprinklers to keep the moisture at an appropriate level. Before embarking on starting profitable farming such as escargot farming, make sure the land you buy or rent is well drained, as no puddles should occur at any time. The land also needs to be somewhere a bit remote – to prevent noise and pollution.
Read more about feeding and breeding snails in the Guide to Snail Farming.
Snails eat very healthy food indeed!