It’s snowing. Again. Despite shoveling, the hens’ outdoor space has been reduced to a modest rectangle, enclosed by four-foot walls of white. Less space and dreary days can instigate pecking and feather picking amongst the girls. I’ve been proactive, trying to stave off the cabin fever that leads to bad habits.
Chickens are hard-wired to move about and forage all day. Don’t be tempted, during the cold of winter, to give them a big bowl of warm treats in the morning. They’ll gorge and then stand around. Instead, give them something interesting to do that will keep them busy for hours.
Every day, the students in Ms. Sibilia’s classroom in Florida, watch my animals. They’ve been vicariously enjoying the snow, (and asking excellent questions about the science of weather – these are model students who think!) The class decided that the critters needed a special winter treat. With great generosity, they pooled their resources and sent me a check to “help feed the animals.” With their gift in hand, I went right out to the market. I was thinking of buying a pumpkin, or maybe a big bunch of kale, but what I found was a truly special food for the hens. I only buy locally raised corn on the cob, and this time of year even imported corn is usually unavailable, but I guess that down in Georgia, someone still had a store of fresh ears. I bought four.
I have suet feeders in the coops that I use to provide treats to the Girls. The Big Barn has enough room to have one hanging from a chain. It takes effort to peck at the corn. A challenge is mentally and physically good for all animals.
I don’t recommend feeding quantities of hard, dried scratch corn to your flock. It’s too high in carbohydrates, without useful protein and minerals. But, fresh corn is another story. It’s more water than concentrated calories, and the suet feeder prevents guzzling it down too quickly. The corn distracted and engaged the hens all day. If you don’t have fresh corn cobs, the packaged frozen ears will do (I’d defrost before putting them out.)
The goats ate the husks – one of their very favorite treats.
Pip says All done. Thank you, Ms. Sibilia’s class!