Thursday, September 2, 2010

pavlov's chickens

I'm always amused when I see the cartons of eggs in the grocery store proclaiming in bold print "vegetarian fed."  Chickens are not vegetarians.  As a matter of fact they do better if they get to scratch, run around in the sunshine, and eat bugs and worms.  It's part of their natural diet.  And the healthier the chicken, the healthier the egg that it produces.

You can always tell a healthy egg because it's a much better color, it's firmer and holds together better, and, most importantly, it tastes better.  If you don't believe me I encourage you to find a friend who has chickens or pay a visit to your local farmer's market and buy some.

The chickens that you see on the left there are Josephine and Daphne, they belong to my friend Peggy who has joined the growing trend of backyard chicken keepers.  More and more folks are deciding, especially in light of the very scary egg recall that they would like to raise their own chickens.  This way they know what the chickens are eating, how healthy they are, and they'll feel better about eating eggs.  As people join the trend more communities are passing legislation to allow keeping chickens as pets (usually limiting the number, sex - no roosters, and henhouse location).  There's even a website devoted to urban chicken farming.

Peggy shared the following humorous story with me about her chickens, proving that in addition to making you breakfast they can also help reduce waste.

"Embracing a more alternative lifestyle we recycle, garden, compost, and now raise chickens. After being city dwellers most of our lives, raising chickens is new to us, but so far so good. 

For health reasons, we spent many months on a strict diet that did not include grains and our oatmeal had gotten buggy. We thought, 'Chickens love bugs and grain. Why not give it to the chickens?' We tried it out by giving them just a small amount. They gobbled it down as fast as they could. This was also about the time our first hen started laying. As a matter of fact, I had started giving them some of the oatmeal when I collected that one precious egg. 

Now when they see me come out to the hen house, they come running from all points of the yard and patiently follow close by. They chatter at me, as if to say, “You can pour us some Oatmeal now. Right here would be good. We sure like Oatmeal.” One hen even tolerates me petting her, if there is a remote chance she will get some of that tasty treat. 

It's interesting that all the books we have read say that we can expect about 4 eggs per week per hen.   Since they have figured out that they get oatmeal when I collect the eggs, we now get one egg per hen every single day. So we're calling them, Pavlov’s Chickens. As with most pets, we think we are successful in training them, but who is actually being trained, since laying eggs comes naturally for a chicken?  And what are we going to do when we run out of buggy oatmeal?"

If you think you'd like to raise chickens there are a couple of good books to get you started.       

And then, of course, you'll need a couple of good cookbooks to go along with the all the eggs.    

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