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What Backyard Chickens Enjoy

August 15, 2009

My garden has been doing so well this summer, I have been so proud of it.  Especially compared to last summer when everything grew about 2 inches high and then just stopped.  I think it has a lot to do with the soil…we have really dusty sandy soil in our yard, and I think I didn’t add enough compost last year.  So this year we went totally crazy with the compost.  We mixed something like 9 bags into our garden, which measures about 11’ x 11’.  It has made a HUGE difference – everything is thriving this year!  We also started creating our own compost in the backyard last summer, but it wasn’t quite ready to be put on the garden this summer.  I’m hoping it’ll be ready for the fall, though.

I love creating backyard compost.  We have two of the green compost cones in the back corner of our yard, and we dump all our food scraps into them.  We filled the first cone up by early this spring.  Once it reaches 3/4 full, you just let it sit still & compost for a few months before you take it out and put it on your garden.  We started the 2nd one after the first one was full & needed to start resting.  I love to check back in on the first cone to see what’s happening inside.  It doesn’t stink at all anymore – it’s full of dark black material (a little wet looking), and you can see an avocado skin laying on the top.  I can’t wait to get it out this fall & use it.  In fact, I should probably put that on my list of things to do before the due date of October 7th, eh?

Anyway, I love the morning ritual of taking food scraps out to the compost bin.  It’s so much fun because the chickens get soooo worked up about it.  I always pick out the prize scraps for them and put those on the ground rather than in the bin.  The run around my feet & make cute little cooing noises in anticipation.  Their favorite foods tend to be sweet juicy ones, which kind of surprised me.  Here are their top picks:

  1. Grapes.  #1 favorite by far. They either choke these down whole (to prevent someone from stealing their grape scraps), or break them in half and eat the halves.  The best is when we don’t break the grapes off the stem so a chicken grabs a grape and gets the whole cluster, then runs like crazy all over the yard dragging her prize along with her.  The others give chase and try to rip grapes off the moving target.  I consider this the height of entertainment.
  2. Blueberries.  Sort of like grapes, but easier to swallow.
  3. Cherries.  Somehow they know not to swallow these whole, but peck them in half to get the pit to drop out.  So smart!
  4. Watermelon.  They love to peck out the inside of a watermelon rind.  They gnaw it all the way down to the thin green skin.

Right now the chickens are starting to molt.  We noticed this because there are feathers all over the yard, which isn’t usually the case!  At first we thought something was wrong, but then we looked it up and it turns out that chickens shed & regrow feathers once a year.  Right now I think it’s Dora that’s molting like crazy.  She’s kind of pathetic looking, because she only has a single tail feather left!!  Check it out.

Dora Tail Feather

You can see the new ones just starting to grow below the sad, lone tail feather.   Here’s Dora & her single tail feather again.  I love Dora, she’s the most friendly of all the chickens.  She doesn’t mind being picked up & pet, and she was the first chicken to discover that if you walk through the open backdoor, through the garage, and into the house, you might find some granola to peck off the floor.  Actually, I really don’t like that she figured that out because it is so annoying to have to either keep the backdoor shut or be constantly shooing chickens out of your house.  But I do think it’s cute how brave & friendly she is.  Betsy wanted to be in this picture too.  Also, you can see my green composting cones in the background:

Dora & Betsy

Didn’t want Betsy to feel left out in the portrait taking department, so she got her own.  I think she’s the prettiest.

Betsy

And finally, here’s Agnes.  Most skittish chicken, and also lowest in the pecking order.  I’ve caught Betsy plucking feathers out of the back of her neck in retribution for eating out of turn, etc.  I sometimes try to distract Betsy so that Agnes can get a treat or two. Poor Agnes!

Agnes

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