I’ve spent a good deal of my life swimming upstream against conventional mores. That’s the polite version; my husband will tell you I’m stubborn as an oak post. As a result, I tend to do things in unconventional ways or to revert to old-fashioned methods instead of following more modern recommendations. It’s not that I don’t value the inventions and advancements of the 21st century. Well, actually, that’s not quite right. I value some, loathe others and have made my peace with a few that I don’t really like but have learned to live with. For example, I would much rather do my writing on a laptop than deal with corrections on a typewriter. I abhor rap music. I don’t really like cell phones, but since it’s nearly impossible to find a functioning public phone booth any more, I deal. However, a cell phone to me is a communication device and nothing more, and I use it minimally.
The point of this little dissertation is to allow me to lead into the reasons why I feed animals the way I do. Take chickens. Chickens are omnivores. Once upon a time, the home chicken flock scrounged whatever it could find: undigested grain and other bits of grass and weeds from animal manure, random bugs, and leftovers from the pigs’ trough, weeds, and grass, seeds and fruit windfalls. Then farmers began to have large surpluses of grains and soybeans, and Shazamm — the commercial animal feed industry was born. I, however, went my contrary way, feeding my chickens such items as the following:
- Surplus milk mixed with the byproducts of grain milling.
- Clabbered surplus milk.
- Leftover food from the human table.
- Spoiled hay.
- Grass clippings.
- Cheese ends and rinds.
- Hardboiled eggs (this is mostly for extra protein when I’m feeding baby chicks).
- The zucchini that hide under a leaf until they’re the size of the Mount Rushmore.
- Poultry carcasses (they pick off every shred of meat).
- Crushed eggshells (as opposed to oyster shells, although I do toss out a little oyster shell now and then).
- The stuff in the back of the refrigerator that has green stuff growing on it.
- Bread heels.
- Vegetable and fruit peelings and cores.
- Chicken Balls
- Beef, pork and lamb bones with shreds of meat.
- Garden greens, such as chard, lettuce, kale and mustard, that are too raggedy or tough for human consumption.
- Tops from root vegetables such as carrots, beets and kohlrabi.
- Heavily bug-eaten fruits and veggies.
- The acorns that fall into the chicken run from the oak trees.
- Pickles and any pickled vegetables that have gone soft.
- Pomace from juicing fruits.
- Orchard windfalls.
I can’t see any indication that my chickens are unhealthy. They lay well, live long and I rarely have disease problems, so I guess I’ll save my money and continue my contrary ways.