Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Chickie salad bar

Like everyone else around here, we have a very sad looking lawn indeed.  Quintessential of all Seattle lawns, it's crispy, yellow, and we haven't had to mow it in several months.  Though I don't personally care since I know it'll be back as soon as the rains start, the chickies aren't quite enjoying it as much.

Our ladies love the greens.  They love dandelions, clover, grass, and almost any other leafy green thing growing in the yard.  This also includes my lettuce and kale.  Unfortunately, my lettuce is also completely gone so I can't even provide them with the gross, bitter, overgrown stalks that they like so much.  I would also rather they not eat all my kale.

So last weekend, we took some steps to mitigate the situation and also provide our lovely ladies with their very own foraging space.  And no, we didn't just start watering the lawn.

First we took a trip to Skye Nursery and got a couple bags of cover crop seed.  We got a mixed bag that included ryegrass, clover, peas, millet, and some other stuff.  I also got a bag of buckwheat since I've read that chickies like that too.  We also got several bags of potting soil, chicken manure (ours isn't ready yet), and compost to help with the terrible soil situation in the chicken yard.  At home, we covered half the chicken yard area with a couple inches of compost and manure and raked it into the first inch or so of the dusty, sad excuse for soil that was back there. Then I sprinkled a nice layer of the seeds and raked those in as well.  A nice dousing of rainwater and we were all set to wait for sprouting.

I also planted a few portable trays so that there would be stuff for them to eat when their yard is regrowing.  These actually sprouted much quicker than the yard so they'll probably be eating from those in the next few weeks while the stuff out back grows enough to withstand some serious chicken trampling.

Let's talk a bit about why I feel so strongly about the ladies getting greens into their diet.  First of all, they LOVE it, so why not let them have it?  Also, they tend to eat their eggs less and lay more eggs when their diet consists of more than just their boring feed.  Greens also make their eggs healthier for us.  They are higher in Omega 3's and lower in the bad cholesterol, and the yolks are a brighter yellow when the ladies are able to eat more beta carotene.  From a behavioral standpoint, foraging is totally normal for chickens.  They do it all day long because that's how they would normally eat.  And foraging also provides them with extra protein from all the bugs and worms that are found along the way so their diets are more well rounded, resulting in healthier chickens.  Finally, the more stuff they eat that we can grow, and keep growing, the less feed we have to buy.  So in the end, it can be financially beneficial as well.  So there you go.  If that doesn't convince you, I don't know what will. 

So we'll see if they like it.  It might take a bit for them to get used to, but they like green stuff so I have faith that they will thoroughly enjoy their very own salad bar.  I'm also planning on planting the seeds into my garden beds to help with replenishing nutrients that are clearly missing in this year's garden.

They're just itching to get out there!

And since you haven't seen a cute picture if Nikolai in a bit, here he is, in his new favorite lounging space. Maybe he wants to go on an adventure.

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