I’m certainly no expert on raising chickens, but I learn more every day and spend a lot of time reading the forums at backyardchickens.com, one of my favorite sites. Of course, my husband and I didn’t just jump into this chicken thing blindly. I think I read The Backyard Homestead Guide to Raising Farm Animals about three times and then the chicken chapter about six more times after our baby chicks arrived. So I continue read a lot and ask a lot of questions, but I have also learned that our girls have their own personalities and their own tastes in snacks. I have also learned that our chicky girls are spoiled.
Chickens can eat people food, with some exceptions, of course, but they love bread and fruits and vegetables. For some reason, our girls do not love apples, but I still haven’t figured that one out, as other people tell me their girls love apples. Our girls do love breads and veggies and most fruits, but they have one rule for us—these items must be chopped up. I guess we started out that way, and there is no turning back now. If we put a whole piece of lettuce or a piece of fruit in their bowl, they will snob it. We must chop up their snacks into bite-sized chicken treats.
One thing we did that has been a huge help in the snack and food department (and I highly recommend this to anyone with a large number of chickens) is contact our local bagel shop to see if they had any scraps they were just throwing in the trash. Now, this was no easy task, so I don’t want to make it seem like we got a “yes” on the first place we called. We called all kinds of grocery stores and sandwich shops to see if we might be able to get their scraps. Larger stores had policies against such things, and most of the smaller places were already working with local farmers to give away scraps. So it took me a couple of weeks, but we finally got really lucky. It was definitely worth all the calling around.
The bagel shop that shares its scraps with us uses fresh ingredients and makes everything from scratch. Sometimes, when I look in the buckets after my husband picks them up, I think that I might like to eat some of those scraps. There are grapes, tomatoes, fresh lettuce, sometimes onions that we have to remove, and bagels, beautiful bagels. But I never eat anything from the scrap buckets, so don’t worry.
But, of course, then these scraps must be chopped up for our chicky-girl enjoyment. Did I mention our girls were spoiled?
The universe smiled on us with the bagel shop thing in many ways. Coincidentally, our girls loved bagels long before we got the scraps from the bagel shop. Shortly after the girls were able to eat people food, I started heading out to see them every morning. It was late summer, so I would sit and watch them while I ate my morning bagel and drank my tea. Soon, I was sharing my bagel. Soon after, the girls were getting their own bagels, and we developed a routine, a morning ritual that was good for my soul. I hope it’s good for our girls. I think it is.
Every morning, as soon as I get up, I head out to the chicken coop in my jammies with my bagels in my robe pockets. I open the coop door, and as the girls head out in their yard, I start pinching up bagel pieces and sharing. I have to move quickly with 17 (we ordered 15, and the company sent 2 extra for good measure) hungry and spoiled girls, but they are fantastic. They squawk and talk to me (and I’m pretty sure some are being quite bossy), and I have some that will pick a piece of bagel out of my hands so gently that it touches my heart. Of course, some girls will take my finger with the bagel, but some of our girls seem to be gentle spirits. I love them. I love all of them.
After the girls get their bagels, I say, every morning, “That’s for you. Now, let’s see what you have for me.” I head into the coop and collect eggs.
There are usually a couple of girls still in the coop laying in the nesting boxes, so I have to sneak a few bits of bagel in for them. I give them a few pieces, and most of them will stand up slowly and carefully, so I can take the eggs. Every now and then, a girl doesn’t want me to take her egg, but that’s another blog post.
The whole process is beautiful and important to me. We take care of our girls. They take care of us. They give us fresh eggs, which is such an amazing gift. I am so thankful to them that it feels important to me to show our girls appreciation, which includes chopping up chicken snacks every day.
Chickens are truly amazing animals. They have personality, are smarter than most people might think, and give us food to sustain us.
Our chickens have taught me so much about love toward all animals by teaching me how much of a connection there can be between people and farm animals. Plus, when I see how sweet my husband is to our chicky girls, it makes me love him even more–if that’s possible.
I have always been a dog and cat person. Now, I am a chicken person, too. How could I not be in love with these girls?