Learning to Eat

Before getting chickens, I did a lot of reading and asking people about how to take care of them, especially what they eat. The answers were generally along the lines of, “They’re really easy to care for” and “They eat almost anything”.

Which caused me a bit of concern when they didn’t seem to like any special treat I gave them except cabbage (or Brussels Sprout) leaves. And even those they struggled with.

Within a couple of days of bringing them home, the eating of leaves became easier for my girls and it dawned on me that in the first 16 weeks of their lives they’d probably been cooped up (literally) and fed only a chicken feed mix. This epiphany has caused me to revisit some old failures and to persevere with treats that made them initially turn their beaks up.

Yoghurt is something I’ve read about that is really good for chooks. It’s high in protein and has all those great bacteria that are good for hens and people alike so a couple of spoonfuls for laying hens seemed like a good idea.

The initial response wasn’t great. They were not impressed with the way the white goo clung to their beaks. I tried it a second time and, when I went back to check on the treat plate, the yoghurt was gone.

Rosie was slow to get enthusiastic about the yoghurt but Bronwyn (the garbage disposal) and Isabel enjoyed it from their 2nd try. Now the chooks see me coming with the plate and it’s a stampede. All 3 have become fanatical about yoghurt. I’ve learned to set and run to avoid getting caught in the crossfire.

Check out Isabel’s head. She does something approximating a face plant as soon as I set down the plate. She gets yoghurt on her comb, on her wattle, in her eyes, on her back, on her sister’s back, wherever it may fly! Not that she’s alone, the other two also end up well-smeared by the end of their very quick feed. She’s not alone, just the keenest.

From now on, I’m going to try everything at least twice before I make a ruling on whether they like it or not. My first attempt at feeding them Wandering Jew was an abysmal failure but Frank tried at a later time (having no idea of my failure) and he reported they loved the stuff. Ditto, I tried feeding them pupae from the cabbage moth. They took the small caterpillars from my hand and dropped them and poked at them and looked at me like I was playing a practical joke. Now they literally fight over the poor creatures.

Yoghurt has become so popular that I used it to introduce feed pellets into their diet. The pellets on their own just didn’t look like food to my chickens. They ignored the box with pellets and ate only their ground meal. But after a bit of soaking, the pellets tasted okay to them and they eventually got eaten. That said, Isabel is the only one who regularly goes for pellets now so I guess we’ll keep buying meal (they have the same ingredients so it’s really a matter of which the girls prefer).

I guess this is one of those situations that proves the old adage, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.


About Laura Rittenhouse

I'm an American-Australian author, gardener and traveller. Go to my writing website: www.laurarittenhouse.com for more. If you're trying to find my gardening blog, it's here.
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7 Responses to Learning to Eat

  1. gosh your chickens are so spoiled – that looks like my breakfast!

  2. Seasonsgirl says:

    Yoghurt I have heard it is good for them. I will have to try it now 🙂

  3. Love this post. Love the pictures.

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