I’m the first to admit that sometimes I can be a complete imbecile. Basically,my skill set is pretty low. I’m not a jack of all trades. I have very few talents, and the few that I have, I try to exploit mercilessly.
As far as anything to do with my new life at Reluctant Farm, I have to google it because I know nothing. So it is with my chickens. My husband prefers to fly by the seat of his skinny-ass Levis. For me, I want to be accomplished – at least in my mind.
Which brings me to chicken feed. When the chicks were little, they stayed in a big cardboard box in our garage with a heat lamp. We had the baby chicken feed, and then I read they could eat other stuff – so I would occasionally toss in some leftover lettuce. Once a mouse happened to crawl into their box, and they pecked it to death. So I figured they were probably not big meat eaters.
When they were finally big enough to go into the magnificent pen and coop that my husband built, I wanted to step up my game as far my interaction with the chooks. And I wanted to feed them the proper “extras” to make them happy with their new home with us and keep their lives in balance.
I continued to toss in some leftover salad stuff, and inhaled everything I could about what I could feed them, and what I should not.
The first evening after the first feeding I went out to see if they finished their snacks and every single chicken was dead. Laying down, head down to the side, dead as a doornail. I almost projectile vomited. What did I do wrong? All 20 chickens down for the count?
I ran down the hill to where Brad was busy with his favorite activity – riding his riding lawnmower. Swear, this man mows lawns incessantly. The grass is so well cut you need a magnifying glass just to see it. He rolled up the hill, and damned if every single chicken wasn’t standing upright, looking at me as if I was the village idiot. I was. They were just sleeping.
Anyway, not to divert from the curious case of the Reluctant Farm Girl and how to feed the chickens, I began exploring culinary treats for my flock. And much to my glee, they loved everything. So I made it a routine. Every morning at 9 a.m. I would come down with my cup of Earl Grey, and their morning snack. It was the highlight of my day – a break from sitting in front of the computer writing, responding to emails and doing all the bookings and marketing for our resort.
I brought down yogurt and they circled it, a bit wary, but once one brave Barred Rock settled in, they all stepped up to the plate and loved it. As the weeks progressed, it became a ritual that the chickens understood. I’d stand on the deck of the house and call “Girls! I have treats for you!” and walk down carrying their brightly colored crocks with their morning treat.
It was amazing – I was the Rock Star. They would cluster around the gate, waiting for me to enter, running around my feet and looking up at me with their cute, one-eyed stare. I was their messiah, bringing messages of hope and manna from heaven. It got me going. Now I would not just focus on what we had for dinner, I would focus on how the chickens would like the leftovers.
Some things they turned their little beaks up at. Radish greens? No thanks. The can of bamboo shoots that I was going to use in some won tons, but I thought they tasted gross? They apparently agreed. But they definitely had their favorites. I brought out soft scrambled eggs, and they gobbled it up. Encouraged, I brought out the leftover rice noodles from my Pad Thai – and I was Katy Perry – they loved me unabashedly.
So I upped my game. Each day I’d come out with two crocks of treats – and I would announce to them what they were having. One day it was salmon carpaccio with an apple/lettuce salad, the next it was homemade potato gnocchi. I’d hide food from Brad just so I’d be sure we’d have enough leftovers for my girls. I made shredded zucchini with the squash I claimed was “too soft for us to eat” but was, in actuality, just fine – I had run out of treats for them and couldn’t face them without something luscious in my hands. I cooked oatmeal, emptied out the freezer of frozen peas, to which I added slivered almonds for taste. I baked 2 dozen bran muffins – we had half a dozen, I froze the rest for the chickens.
In the early days Brad would toss a few slugs over the fence as he passed by, and we were amused at how the chickens would shoot out of the coop and dive on the slimy snacks. So yesterday, in desperation, I thought, hell. I have nothing – but there are literally hundreds of slugs in the grass. I put on a glove, grabbed the crocks, and set out to pick slugs – 1 per bird. I mean, they loved the slugs and I forgot all about that! I no longer had to fret over what to cook or create to keep them adoring me. So I walked in, told the birds that they were getting slugs, which was met with more merriment, more running around my feet, over my feet, running in circles around me, ostensibly waiting for an autograph from “She Who Cooks So Well.”
I put the slugs down. They looked at the slugs, looked up at me, and started clucking. I can only imagine what they were saying. Probably along the lines of “You have got to be kidding? Yesterday you brought us swiss chard and cheddar quiche. The day before you brought orzo with basil walnut pesto. And today you are bringing us slugs?” They started pulling at my pants. I am not kidding. They were grabbing my pjs with their little beaks. I was in a mosh pit.
I had to run out the gate before the mutiny took full hold.
As I sit here, at 11 a.m. I know that Brad ate all the spoon bread I made last night. The freezer is empty of zucchini bread and muffins and frozen corn. I’ve used all Brad’s Oatmeal. We only have 2 eggs in the house. I have several loaves of bread, and I have a can of tuna that was home canned by a neighbor. I’m thinking I can fool them into thinking it’s tuna casserole – which will give me enough time to run out the door before they notice I didn’t actually cook anything for them.
I am so doomed.