Chicken Feed

I have never been a big believer in the adage that you are what you eat – and my chickens are really putting paid to any lingering leanings I had in that direction.

When I first got my chickens, I spent hours online researching what to feed chooks and what to avoid. There are all kinds of things out there that are toxic to chickens and I did worry. Then I had my girls for a while and I worried less. They generally avoided things I knew they should (tomato or potato leaves, Clivia plants) and seemed like sensible little creatures.

Well, Bronwyn did have a penchant for paper of any variety but we all have our quirks. I figured paper would digest and probably be okay fibre so I didn’t really care that much.

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Bronwyn the connoisseur

Then some styrofoam ended up in the garden (part of my beekeeping hobby) and all 3 girls went wild for it. They ate every small pellet they could get their beaks on (needless to say I swept up every small pellet I could find). I figured styrofoam would just pass right through the birds and, besides being empty calories, I didn’t think it would cause a lot of problems.

If only it stopped there.

Noooo, Bronwyn has discovered an even better treat which is something I know chickens shouldn’t have: rubber bands. On really hot days we string a sheet between 4 stakes over our leafy greens. We secure the sheet with rubber bands. One day Frank dropped one and didn’t worry too much. I suggested he might want to grab it before a chicken did. As he was guffawing at me and pointing out how stupid that would be, Bronwyn grabbed it. Frank gave chase. There were a few moments of high drama in the back garden before Frank caught the silly bird and pulled the rubber band out of her gullet. She’d managed to get 1/2 of it down before he was able to slip his little finger through the loop still hanging out of her mouth.

We were warned but we kept using rubber bands to secure the sheet and fretted a little when we’d lose one (high winds and hot sun would cause them to snap and/or fly off).

Then Frank found a couple in a bag of chook poo we used to make fertiliser. Obviously someone (Bronwyn!) was finding rubber bands in the garden, eating and passing them.

We are not confident that one of these rubber bands won’t get stuck in a craw so our garden is forever a rubber band free zone. The sheet is now and forevermore secured with clamps.

So how come Frank lost another rubber band in the garden? It had been in a bowl of twine and garden ties that he set within striking range of our chooks. He didn’t see any thieving but he did notice the bowl was missing a rubber band he was sure had been in there.

3 days later he showed me this. He had seen a small piece of what looked like a rubber band peeking out of some chook poo while doing a yard clean-up.

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If you are what you eat, does that make Bronwyn flexible?

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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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12 Responses to Chicken Feed

  1. Eeek, that seems to be an interesting problem. We have yet to have chicken-eating-bad-things issues. But we do have to be careful with the cows, especially with all the construction going on around the barn. Cows will ingest nails and screws and such and can have major issues from it. We run a big push-magnet over the cow pen and barn area often to prevent this at our farm.
    Beautiful picture of Bronwyn by the way, I love the details in her feathers!

  2. She is beautiful …. and voracious. Maybe you haven’t had a problem with chickens eating bad things because you haven’t caught them doing it. Or maybe the hazards in your garden are nails and screws (okay I thought cows were vegans – is “nail” a new type of vegetable I’m not familiar with?) not rubber bands and Styrofoam. My advice is not to test your chooks just in case they are as “brilliant” as mine 😮

  3. Emily Heath says:

    Silly birdies! Wonder if rubber bands taste good to chickens.

    • I guess it must since she keeps going back for more whenever she gets the chance. My chickens are actually pretty finicky eaters – some greens they turn their beaks up at and others they go for like mad. With beetles they often catch it then move it around their mouth then spit it out and pick it up and repeat a few times before swallowing it. I assume they’re trying to decide if they like it. With rubber bands it’s nothing but gobble, gobble, gobble.

      • Emily Heath says:

        Weird! Perhaps the beetles produce some form of nasty defence chemicals.

        • Hah, we have stink bugs that spray a really nasty stinky liquid that burns your eyes. My girls have learned to swallow them whole in one big gulp to avoid blindness!

          • Emily Heath says:

            Urgh! No wonder they like rubber bands, those don’t fight back!

            • That would be very clever of them if they ate rubber bands and stopped eating stink bugs but when we get the rake out and raise it up to a citrus tree (where the bugs live and how we get them out of the tree) I have a real battle on my hands to get to any bugs that we knock out of the tree and stomp on them before the girls eat them. If they are pre-stomped they don’t spray but if the girls wait, one of the other chickens might get the treat so it’s a full race!

  4. This post made me smile. Trust it to be Bronwyn eating the rubber bands.:-)

  5. Lol! What a great post- chickens are always such great entertainment! 😉

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