Part of the appeal of chickens on a homestead is that they are low-maintenance and low-input livestock that create valuable outputs: manure, eggs, meat, pest control…
They feed on kitchen scraps, weeds, bugs, and some grain. What more could you ask for?
The chickens–the big Buffs, Australorps, and SL Wyandottes–are now happily spending most of their days in our mini-orchard eating many weeds and grasses and all the bugs they can find. They still head into their coop and feast on their usual feed as well. And I have them trained to come running when they hear a bell, which signals that there are special treats to be had.
The problem is that I’m having a hard time coming up with those special treats, which should be the kitchen scraps. We just don’t seem to produce any!
Honestly! Our compost bucket is full of coffee grounds, egg shells, banana and orange peels, onion and garlic skins. That’s pretty much it. There are, occasionally, a few kale stems, broccoli stalks, and lettuce heels, and I have tried to put those out for the chickies, but they don’t seems interested. “Really?” They seem to look at me and ask. “Greens? But we eat all our favorite ones everyday! That’s not special!” And the greens stay littered on the ground in the run.
They LOVE leftover porridge, rice, noodles, bread, and cereal. And I do try to save them some. Really. But aside from the bread heels a couple of times a week, those don’t really qualify as scraps. Friends gave us a pile of beautiful mangoes a few weeks back, and there were more than we could eat before they got overripe, and the chickens LOVED those. But otherwise, normally I just buy or make enough for us to eat, or I add leftovers grains to a soup at the end of the week. So now I’m either making extra for the chickens (which makes me happy, but isn’t exactly the economical equivalent of waste!), or I’m not making soup.
Sigh. So now I’m torn. I either spoil the chickens by making them their own meals, or I give them more scratch as treats, or they don’t get any treats. All sad options. 🙂
What’s a wannabe farmer to do?