There’s nothing foul about pampering your fowl this Autumn. Halloween means tricks and treats – and you can be sure of some tricks if the flock doesn’t get some special snacks for the cooler and shorter days.
Autumn weather limits ranging and as the winter solstice advances, the limited daylight means shorter time outdoors, molting and a needed rest from egg laying. Your chickens require some extra care during this change of season and to help them feather up for winter. Here are a few nutritious recipes and some boredom breaking ideas to keep the chickens, ducks and geese well fed and entertained.
Baking for the birds
The little red hen became famous for baking her bread. You can follow in her footsteps by trying a few recipes. Your house will smell wonderful…but the chickens said they’d have to think about sharing their baked goods. These treats are healthy and make a great treat for blustery, stormy days.
Chickens and other poultry love a nice warm bowl of mash. This recipe is easy and it can be fed daily. Simply fill a bowl half way (the grain will double in volume once wet) with the birds’ grain. Place the bowl down for the birds before adding the warm water – they love to eat it while it is being made! Pour warm water over the grain and watch them go at it.
Add extra treats to the mash as well – try chopped apple, grapes, berries, raisins, nuts, millet, oatmeal, sunflower seeds and of course…Chubby Mealworms. For a special treat, wet the mash with warmed milk (non-dairy milks are perfect, too)
Cold days mean its time to add some "heat" foods to the birds’ diet. Corn is a big favorite, and it is really easy to bake a special cornbread for the flock.
You will need:
2 cups of coarse ground cornmeal
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or use all purpose white flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ cup of oil (coconut, almond, olive, do not use avocado oil – avocado is toxic to chickens )
3 teaspoons of sugar
2 cups of milk(or coconut milk, soy milk, almond milk)
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup chopped nuts or sunflower seeds
½ cup of dried Chubby Mealworms
• Preheat oven to 350° and grease an 8x8 pan
1. Stir all of the dry ingredients together including the nuts, seeds and mealworms.
2. Combine the oil, milk and vinegar. Add the dry ingredients and stir until combined. The batter will be cakey and thick.
3. Bake until golden and a tester comes out clean (about 30 minutes). Let the cake cool and then serve a few slices to the flock. The cake can also be frozen and fed thawed.
Fowl fun ball
Purchase a pet treat ball (they make these for chicken, too!). Fill the treat ball with seeds, nuts and Chubby Mealworms.
Simply tie a string around a head of lettuce (choose romaine, green leaf or frisee/escarole), a beautiful stalk of kale or collards - or some fancy dandelion greens. Suspend the lettuces from the coop rafters and let the birds enjoy a swinging salad bar!
Music has charms that soothe...
William Congreve wrote of music’s inspiring tones, but 17th century poets aren’t the only folks curious about strumming strains. Birds are natural musicians, so don’t forget to add some tunes to your chicken coop. Whether you choose to get those talons tapping to a portable radio or have the flock create their own tunes (yes, really!) – it’s time to turn up the volume.
Your birds will let you know which radio station they prefer. They may not bust a move, but they will shake their heads in disapproval of a not-so-melodious genre that warrants a channel change. Experiment with a variety of types, you may be surprised that your chickens are country crooners, rocking rollers, jazzy cats or bluegrass buffs. Generally, chickens enjoy quick tempos, instrumental dexterity and toe-tapping melodies. When the chickens are cheerily listening, you’ve found the tunes that hit the spot!
Try calling out the musical muses in your flock. Chickens will quickly discover the noise-making instruments and begin to turn a tune. Try the instruments that are easy to use and made for small children. Simple drums, tambourines, bells and especially a xylophone are irresistible. Hang the xylophone on a wall or set it on the ground for the birds to hammer out a special sylvan tune.
• Set wind chimes at bird height for the occasional feathered zephyr to bump out a balanced peal! The sound of wind chimes is soothing and relaxing. It is a part of the Asian practice of feng shui. Let the chimes bring some healing Chi to the coop.
The feather spa
There’s no neglecting primping and ablutions just because the days are shorter. Feathers need extra special attention in the fall and winter – the birds rely on clean and healthy plumage to keep them warm…and parasites don’t take a winter break.
Purchase, or scratch up, a bin to serve as their bathing tub. Fill this tub with a silty, loamy soil. Clean dirt from the yard works great. Do not add diatomaceous earth or other dusty materials like peat moss. These are very irritating and will quickly become airborne in a closed coop – and that’s not good for anyone. Plain soil is best. Keep a few tubs of dirt on hand as the tub will need refilling.
Chubby tip: Check the flock for unwelcome insect hitchhikers. Mites and lice plague birds throughout the cold months. Check for creepy crawlies regularly and treat the birds with parasite remedies. Most insect pests will congregate under the bird, near the vent. Part the feathers at the vent and under the bird to check for signs of parasites and the crawlies themselves. You will see clusters of white eggs on feather shafts (lice eggs), dry flaky patches and redness from itching. Dust bathing will not rid the birds of these pests, so be sure to treat with a poultry dust or spray made for use on birds.
Chubby hopes your fall is full of fun adventures - and more treats than tricks! Have some great ideas or videos of your flock playing fair and fowl? Send them on!