Friday, October 30, 2009


Time for a chicken update!
Hannah asked what we feed the chickens. That is still evolving. When we first brought them home, we bought a bag of organic chicken feed that our biodiesel station/urban farming center sells. But, as we know, just because something is labeled "organic" doesn't mean it's automatically good for you. The mix was pretty much the hen equivalent of a fortified cereal ~ it had a laundry list of additives that had long scientific names, and also included a whole lot of soy. We try at all cost to avoid having soy in our diet (except for miso and fermented soy sauce), so we knew that this feed mix was temporary for us; what goes into the hen, comes out in the eggs. I found a recipe for an organic hen feed mixture that includes all kinds of legumes (other than soy!) and grains, plus kelp for trace minerals, and crushed oyster shells for calcium. It's made up of whole kernels, nuts, and seeds so the hens have to work harder for it, and it also stays fresher longer as opposed to going rancid (therefore not as nutritious) or dissolving into the dirt. They devour our kitchen scraps, and any greens I toss them from the garden. We also have been able to collect *bags* of produce from the booths at the farmers' markets ~ smushed tomatoes, crushed chard, carrot tops. As if you expected anything less for any animal living under our culinary care: these lucky hens eat well!!!
We let them stay in their little corner yard so that they, and we, could get accustomed to the situation. They figured out where the laying boxes were (with the help of some decoy eggs in there) and we have collected two dozen eggs so far! They also learned over just the course of a few evenings to go into their house when it gets dark (they came up with some amusing places before they got the hang of it, though ~ by flashlight, we found one roosted *outside the chicken yard* up on the eye-level wrung of a ladder!).
A few days ago we let them out into our backyard at large. Sealion built a little hinged door in the corner of their fence, and, one by one, they found their way out. Just in time for the rainy season to coax a green carpet of oxalis from the dirt. I don't know who had more fun ~ the hens exploring the new territory, or us watching them explore. Every day since, we have gone out in the late afternoon to hang out and garden while the hens graze before they retire at sundown. This morning when I peeked out the window, I saw that two of them had jumped the fence and were contentedly scratching and grazing the grasses. So.. I just opened up their little door and left it open. We'd really rather not clip their wings to control where they go, and ours is the only green yard in sight, so we can't see why they'd want to venture elsewhere; their focus is narrow.

And, yes ~ we have named them. Each has her own particular personality, and shared her name with us by and by. Phyllis is the slender "blonde" with the wig of fluffy feathers, Coco is her sister in breed who has dark feathers rimmed with caramel color, Nilla is the white-ish hen of the bigger, more stereotypical barnyard-looking girls. Ana is the black-n-white marbled one, and Sassy (Big) Brown is the roundest tallest and bossiest of the bunch with a gorgeous deep auburn color. Since, Nilla has earned the title Duchess of Dirt for her dirt bath zeal and prowess, and Ana ~ Sultan-a of Scratch, for her style and skill at kicking those strong legs.

Photos: A good look at the handy-dandy door in the fence, Nilla displaying her capabilities as a hen with two fully functioning wings, and the ladies enjoying the loose dirt beneath the redwood ~ perfect for dirt bathing.

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