The Avian Garbage Disposal

As I look around my house at the plethora of felines laying in food comas after dinner, it gets me to thinking. Perhaps my blog followers would like a taste (har) of what our City Hens like to munch on?

Got any chicken?

Of course I use the term “garbage” in this blog post title MORE than a little loosely. But let’s just say that chickens will eat just about anything. As a vegetarian, I was delighted to find out that my flock will produce the most delicious and beautiful eggs based on a diet of commercial chicken feed plus a few supplements here and there–carrots, rice, bread, etc. I was also mortified to find out that my flock will also attack a rack of lamb with as much excitement as a grizzly devouring a fresh-snagged salmon from its last uphill migration. Chicken bones? Check. Leftover filet mignon? Check. (I haven’t tried that one. Please–I do have my standards.)

Eww. This poses a bit of a challenge for the backyard chicken owner who prides herself on a fat ‘n happy flock of organic hens. How to stay true to my vegetarian roots while allowing my avian friends a bit of variation in their diets? $4.00 veggie burgers just won’t cut it. So we allow a few surprises after family dinners–chicken bones, tiny bags of ham, whatever my family will bag up neatly so I don’t need to come into contact with it–and the chickens have a balanced low-fat, high-protein diet.

So here’s what my chickens have taught me.

  1. They like spaghetti. More than an Italian at a Carrabba’s free-for-all. Cooked, no sauce please. GIVE spaghetti. The beaks fly furiously for this tasty whole-wheat treat.
  2. Scratch. This is the dry, hardened corn mix you buy in a 25-pound bag at the local feed store. Love it? Love is an understatement. They heart it. Throw a few handfuls along the ground and it’s all over: bye-bye human, hello corn.
  3. Speaking of corn, they LOVE corn. Corn on the cob, specifically. And since corn on the cob is almost as high as today’s gas prices, I buy frozen. Doesn’t make for a series of neat beaks when it’s all over, but it does the job.
  4. Rice. A staple of the vegetarian diet, I’m happy to see my hens delight in the rice as much as I do. Especially the black kernels in the wild rice variety. Can one buy ONLY black rice? Why, yes: for only $6.93 per ounce at an organic food market. Sigh.
  5. Fruits and vegetables. Shredded carrots, zucchini, squash. But don’t try to get a nectarine past them–this is not on their preferred diet of treats. (PS: Want to know what’s worse than throwing out an old nectarine and having them ignore it? Throwing out a perfectly new nectarine that I could’ve eaten and having them ignore it.)
  6. Chicken. Yes, chicken. After a recent family dinner, I was provided with a hefty bone of scrappy white meat to bring home. Every vegetarian’s wet dream. Brought it home, threw it to the girls, and — well, imagine a school of piranhas catching whiff of a bloody toe in the Nile. Sigh.

These are just a few of the things our hens enjoy. Aside from the occasional cusp of romaine lettuce hanging from a string, they eat pretty well. Of course, the addition of mulled flax seed and a few doses of Omega-3 fatty acids by way of crushed walnuts and almonds once a week doesn’t hurt those beautiful eggs.

If we all ate like my city hens, we’d be a healthier flock.


PS: For those of you who read the last blog about The Experiment, it must have worked! That, plus two days out of town… The flock was q-u-i-e-t yesterday and today! Though just writing about it will jinx it for tomorrow, I am sure.

Thanks for reading!


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