Feed, by Kim Stod­dart

Kim Stod­dart takes a look at some of the most pop­u­lar feed op­tions for egg lay­ing chick­ens

Your Chickens - - Contents -

If you have ever spent time watch­ing your hens, you will see that in ad­di­tion to eat­ing the lay­ers pel­lets or grain you pro­vide them with each day, they en­joy ac­tively for­ag­ing for food. Whether it is peck­ing at grass or scratch­ing the ground look­ing for bugs and good­ness knows what else, they also love any spare pro­duce from the veg patch that you can pass their way.

A favourite of mine would be the cour­gette or three that got (grew) away, trans­form­ing in mar­row-es­que pro­por­tions on the patch as I strug­gled to keep up with pick­ing them. Chick­ens will hap­pily munch away on these – us­ing their beaks on the tougher ex­te­rior to get to the soft sum­mer squash be­neath. It is ar­guably en­ter­tain­ment as much as food. Like­wise, any spare (bolted) salad leaves or spoiled fruit also go down ex­tremely well, as do cab­bages, herbs, toma­toes and much more be­sides.

Chick­ens will also of­ten jump up in the air to catch flies and can take on (namely eat) crea­tures you might not have thought pos­si­ble - small ro­dents for one. A friend told me that she saw one of her chick­ens eat a bird the other day, and it doesn’t sur­prise me. I adore keep­ing poul­try, but I am un­der no il­lu­sion that if they were big­ger than me they prob­a­bly would bite the hand that feeds them (lit­er­ally), given half the chance.

In­stead, they also get to eat any slugs or cab­bage white cater­pil­lars that I have picked off the veg patch, which I tip into their en­clo­sure be­fore walk­ing away to let them get on with it. I’m too squea­mish to watch, but it is an eat-and-beeaten world, af­ter all. And at least it is mak­ing some prac­ti­cal use of these nui­sance­mak­ing crea­tures on the veg patch. I should men­tion, how­ever, that any black slugs go on the com­post pile in­stead, as they are less of a threat than the oth­ers and they ac­tu­ally un­der­take a valu­able role in help­ing to trans­form plant waste into gar­dener’s black gold.

Of course, along­side this bounty of nat­u­ral small­hold­ing fare, your feath­ered friends will need bought-in edi­bles as well. Here is a look at a few of the va­ri­eties that are widely avail­able to buy…

FOR­AGERS: On the look-out for a bite to eat. Poul­try en­joy ac­tively for­ag­ing for food

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