Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Eat Your Vegetables!

While researching the art of raising happy, healthy, content chickens I learned it best to keep treats near by in the event you need to move the ladies swiftly into their coop or out of harms way.  (Or, if you just want the buggers to come to you like you are the Pied Piper) And for or me, the word treat conjures up images of unhealthy but oh so good tasting morsels of food.  For chickens the treats need to be healthy but what would they consider a treat?

Research suggested the trial and error method in finding out a particular flock or individual chicken might like.     What would be a good chicken treat?  Bugs?  Highly unlikely that I will be toting and handful of beetles or the ever popular meal worms in my pocket. We start with strawberries.  Ladies loved 'em but they were messy and seemed like a pricey treat on a daily basis.  Strawberries would become Special Event treats.  Cantaloupe came next.  Another chicken favorite but again, a messy treat to carry in one's pocket.  Cantaloupe becomes the frozen treat hung in the run on hot, muggy days.

Day after day there is more trial and more error in our hunt for the perfect treat.  More and more I'm beginning to feel like I have a picky flock toddlers who refuse to eat their strained peas.  (No, I did not actually try strained peas on my flock.)

Research suggested the vegetable category.  Most popular on the lists we found:  corn, broccoli, carrots and cabbage.  And so we try bits of cabbage, raw and cooked.  Nope.  Broccoli got the same reaction, a resounding NO.  Carrots, NO.  Finally corn. Who doesn't love corn?  Apparently, my chickens do not.

I begin to think I may have to carry meal worms in my pocket.  An idea that falls significantly low on the appeal list.  Then, one afternoon while the ladies are out free-ranging, I take a peak in the fridge in hopes of something they might like.  The only untried item left is a sad, slightly wilted looking head of cauliflower just past its prime for human dinner.  With nothing to lose at this point I rip off a section of the cauliflower and march out to the happy little ladies.  I clap and call to the girls in my usual manor and eventually one or two head in my directions to see whats up.  I sit in the grass and offer up the white wilty vegetable chunk.  There is a peck and a squawk.  Then another peck and another.  Suddenly the alert has been sounded and I am surrounded by all six ladies madly pecking and flinging cauliflower in all directions.  Its like I've come bearing a tray of cotton candy to little tykes.

We have found it.  Of all things the ladies love cauliflower.  In the weeks since cauliflower has become my calling card.  I don't leave through the back door without it and the ladies know it.  All it takes is a clap and the call for my "ladies" and they come running to me like I am the mother ship.