Tuesday, June 24, 2008

What they eat

It's fun to introduce the chickens to new foods. Kind of reminds me of what it was like to give my kids their first taste of a new food. Like kids, they play with it for a while, roll it in the backs of their mouths, and then proclaim it good or terrible. Actually, with chickens, even if they don't like it, they'll still peck at it on and off throughout the day. Heck, these birds eat DIRT, so what else won't they try?

I've read that chickens like yogurt, which makes no common sense. In the natural world, when would a bird ever come across a blob of yogurt? And they're birds, for goodness sake, not milk-fed mammals. Still, there you have it: One little bowl of yogurt, and they're immediately dipping their beaks in it and getting it down somehow. (Is there a tongue in there? Must be...)

They also like certain weeds, namely chickweed (thus the name) and they're fine with dandelion leaves and anything in the garden that's bolted. They especially like buckwheat sprouts, too, and they'll even eat grass.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Picky chickens

The chickens have been outside for more than a week now, and seem to be quite happy. They have frequent visitors - including Toby, the cat next door, who terrifies them. And, of course, Gracie is still infatuated with them - or possibly consumed by thoughts of a fresh chicken dinner.

I'm surprised by one thing: They're a bit picky when it comes to food. I thought they'd eat just about anything, but they didn't much care for leftover cantaloupe (although they gobbled down the seeds), cucumber peels or tomato ends. They do seem to like greens, including buckwheat sprouts and spinach.

We had a torrential rain on Wednesday, a good test for the henhouse, which passed the rain trial and stayed dry inside. However, the wood on the front door swelled up, so now I have to pare it down for it to shut properly.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Outdoor birds

I got home Friday night, put the finishing touches on the chicken run, made a crude ramp and opened up the door to the outside world. And the chickens came outside for the first time, skidding down the ramp (a little steep, I'm afraid), flapping their wings, cocking their heads and picking their way through their first outdoor adventure.

A couple of surprises here:

- Chickens love to dig, or scratch, and although I don't think they can dig their way free and escape, I did worry that they'd dig a deep enough hole to make it easy for some predator to get into the cage while we're gone. So I ended up lining the bottom of the run -- where the wood meets the soil -- with bricks.

- Chickens really like to eat bugs, worms and anything that crawls.

- Chickens are in motion from morning 'til evening, every moment of it spent obsessively eating stuff they find on the ground, or scratching the dirt up and then investigating what their claws have uncovered.

- Chickens don't like broccoli.

- Chickens never stop talking.

- Chickens like to fly (or try to fly), and they also like to run. For fun.

- At dusk, chickens go in their roost and go to sleep. You don't have to make them - they just do it.