Gourmet Chickens

The hens in the barn where they're laying their eggs in the hay bales.

The hens in the barn where they’re laying their eggs in the hay bales.

I knew things had gone too far when one morning I stood in the kitchen with a bowl of last night’s rice in my hand  thinking of what I could add to it to make it more appetizing for the chickens.

Ya see, I have this idea that the hens should eat all our leftovers. I think it’s all those prairie movies where the woman in the long dress and apron goes out and spreads food around for the chickens and they all come running and pecking at the ground around her.  Now that I’m thinking of it, I don’t have any idea what those prairie women are feeding the chickens, but for some reason I always thought it was leftovers.  As if those  prairie people had leftovers.  It must have been all that 1970’s TV with all those wholesome,  clean prairie women, their bleached white aprons and hair in a bun that planted that idea in my head.  That and the fact that I grew up in the suburbs and never saw a live chicken or thought about what they ate.

So I was thinking that the oil from a can of tuna would surely get the hens more interested in the rice.  And that’s when realized I was going too far. Like I was actually going to open a can of tuna to pour the oil over rice?  Why not just give them the tuna. The truth is our chickens don’t eat most of the human food I’ve tried to feed them.  They like berries, mozzarella and pasta, fish and (initially to my horror) chicken and eggs.  But other than that they’d rather have laying mash or cracked corn.  I used to think they were just picky eaters, but I’m starting to think that maybe chickens don’t eat left overs.  I mean that would be the logical assumption.  And I’m coming to see that it’s true, but there’s a part of me that just keeps trying.  I mean really, it’s just hard for me to believe that hens don’t like oatmeal, no matter how many times  I have to take the uneaten slop out of the coop at the end of the day.

But I think the tuna oil and rice thing woke me up.  Something has to change.  So from now on when I think of those prairie women feeding the hens, I’ll imagine them tossing something boring like cracked corn.  It’s going to take some time, I’ve had those images of leftovers, chickens and women in long aprons in my head for 40 years or more.  I’m up for the challenge.

But what about all those leftovers?  Maybe we just need a compost pile, or even more fun, a pig.  Pig’s really do eat leftovers, don’t they?

21 Responses to “Gourmet Chickens”

  1. Mary Pierce says:

    Pigs eat just about anything, Maria. They would love your leftovers. A compost pile is always good too, but for organic things, like fruit, veggies, egg shells, etc. I wouldn’t use meats, as those tasty things can attract vermin, like rats, or raccoons, and the like.
    Not to mention, raising your own pork to eat is amazing- the meat is wonderful. But if you are vegetarians and make pets of the animals, that won’t do. I wouldn’t recommend a pig to be another animal on the farm, unless you would sell it when it gets to market weight. Pigs are smart and can be funny and some are friendly, but only as a pet or a leftover eater, not so great, as they can get huge and eventually require lots more food than leftovers. Kind of like Jon’s steer, Elvis. Eventually the truck to the market comes a-calling.
    By no means am I telling you what to do. I have raised pigs and this is from my experience. I have had a compost pile that attracted rats. No advice here from me, just a little tale from my time on the farm. 😉 Just one more thing- probably best to stick with the cracked corn and feed for the chickens. Have a wonderful Spring. Love both of your blogs.
    Mary

  2. Susie Boyko says:

    Pigs are omnivores and will eat about anything that can be eaten. The great thing about pigs is how efficient they are in terms of caloric intake versus caloric output – since they’ll eat about anything and put on weight, you don’t have to buy them hay, grain, special foods – assuming they live where they can forage and eat leftovers – and you get a high calorie animal. Absent religious considerations, about every household in what we call the Third World has a family pig. The downside is they’re very intelligent and affectionate, but if allowed to get big, dangerous – so you end up having to slaughter the family pet before it turns on you.

  3. Sandy says:

    Maybe if you tried wearing a bonnet they would be more receptive to the leftovers? It works for my husband! =o)

  4. Janet Bednarz says:

    Well, Wilbur the pig in Charlotte’s Web ate leftovers, so it must be true of all pigs, right?

  5. That’s so funny about the oil from the tuna jolting you about the chickens. When I use tuna, my cats go crazy – I put the oil or the water from the tuna in bowls for my cats. They lap it up like crazy. Maybe Minnie + Flo would like the oil from your tuna cans?

  6. English sheep gal says:

    Hi Maria, we got our first 2 chickens last July, and I have enjoyed offering them different foods to see what they like to eat. My coworkers seem surprised when I tell them we gave the chickens the bones after a lamb chop, or steak dinner, they snatch them up and squabble over them! Pick them clean, before I find them amongst the straw in the coop and throw them away a few days later. Somehow my friends are amazed chickens eat meat, as if a summer diet of worms, cutworms, slugs, flies and other bugs are somehow not meat? Ours also like sausage.

    When I do our food shopping, I have learnt to pick up a bag of brussel sprouts – we don’t like them, it’s for the chickens! They can’t seem to manage the hard stem parts, but I tempted them out of the coop into some weak winter sunshine, with temps around 20 degrees yesterday by unpeeling a few sprout leaves and sprinkling them on the ground.

    Ours also like some fruits – I save them the cores from my pear, bits of plum and mushy bits of banana. Our 2 chickens will eat small amounts of oatmeal, about 1 shot glass full, mixed with hot water (and chopped sprouts!)or sometimes I add in some scratch mix and chopped corn.

    My best ‘recycled’ chicken food, is from a friend who makes homebrew, and previously threw away all the malted barley after using it. Now he brings me about 5# of it at a time. I freeze it in small margarine and yoghurt containers, and use about 1 tub a week. The chickens love it – it doesn’t have enough nutritional value to replace their layers pellets, but makes a lovely smelling warm breakfast on cold winter mornings with a splash of hot water in it.

    I was thinking of your shadow dancing pics yesterday, when the chickens were out and about, as for a moment we were all outlined on the garage door, I’ll have to download the pic from my phone and see if it came out clearly.

    They know spring is coming here nr Buffalo, NY – even though it’s snowing yet again, and we didn’t get above freezing for the whole month of February, the girls are now back into their 1 egg each a day routine, after some rest on the darker days of winter.

  7. Anne from Montana says:

    Pigs really do eat leftovers, LOL! But you can’t put anything meat-, bone-, or fat-based in a compost pile (that attracts the wrong kinds of critters), otherwise they’re great for everything else. You just build ’em like lasagne–vegetable/fruit scraps, soil, weeds, a little water, maybe a little manure (you guys should have plenty of that!) and repeat.

    Best,
    Anne

  8. Karen says:

    My chicken gets part chicken feed, part leftovers (what I know she’ll eat). Otherwise, leftovers either go into the soup pot or the compost pile, depending on age and appeal. I had the compost pile before I got chickens, but adding
    what I clean out of the coop really makes spectacular compost. So even without the eggs, the chicken is worth it.

    I wish she were friendlier — she killed her last coopmate — because I’d love to have more than one. I guess I’ll have to wait until she stops laying so frequently and replace her with a couple of younger girls.

  9. Erika w. says:

    …and I feel like an idiot as I gently boil potato and carrot peelings before putting them at our wild bird and squirrel feeding station…but they are much appreciated, going so much more quickly. Even the foxes eat them and it stops the peelings lying around to maybe attract rats.

  10. Jill D says:

    Ya know . . . it’s hard enough cooking for ourselves. But when we start cooking for the pets and the livestock . . .

    And as for chickens eating chicken and eggs: For the life of me, I can’t remember what one of Jon’s posts was about, but it prompted me to email him with the heading “People! Birds eat other birds!” They always have; they always will.

    Why do we keep trying to rewrite the rules of nature? Why is it so hard to relinquish the control we never had in the first place?

  11. Maria says:

    And I’m beginning to wonder how long a hen can go just eating her own eggs,Jill.

  12. Maria says:

    Oh Karen You have a real Zombie hen! And our donkeys love eating the chicken shitty hay that I clean out from the coop.

  13. Maria says:

    wow you’ve got it worse that me English Sheep girl. But it seems to work. Would love to see the shadow pics if you can send them.

  14. Maria says:

    Oh they do Janet!

  15. Maria says:

    If it doesn’t work for me, I’ll have Jon try it Sandy.

  16. Maria says:

    I’ve heard how smart pigs can be Mary. Trying to contain them seems to be one of those major problems for pigs, and I’ve heard for some poeple they make good pets, but I guess it depends on the pig. Jon’ and I have decided not to go that route.

  17. Debbie Reed says:

    This is one of the best laughs I have had in a while. Thanks for sharing. I could follow your thought process from the TV reference to the tuna. Again thanks for writing that. Sometimes I can live without those moments of clarity…but then again…we all need to laugh!

  18. Maria says:

    It’s good to hear Debbie. Thanks

  19. Mine love oatmeal and potatoes. These girls love their carbs. I laughed out loud about your tuna oil. I have been known to add a little olive oil on cold days to the leftovers. ( Bacon fat too) The only thing mine don’t get are things like broccoli and cauliflower and cabbage which make their eggs taste off. And they love strawberries and blueberries. I have the mauled bushes to prove it

  20. Maria says:

    You got some good hens there Ellen. Wish mine were less picky.

  21. Lisa Rood says:

    I miss having chickens around the place. I always enjoyed saving the scraps from veggies & fruit to feed them. I felt as though I was putting them to good use, not into the garbage to rot in a landfill. They love the peels of apples, pears, all melon rinds, tops, peelings & ends of veggies, old DRY cereal, crackers (any baked good product really) and egg shells. I think about getting some again to live with my barn cats, horse, donkey and dogs…

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