The second most effective tool a chicken owner has in her arsenal for manipulating her birds is their insatiable love of food, especially treats.
Mine will do just about anything for a slice of bread, even go into the coop before they’re ready. The stampede that greets me when I exit the courtyard gate, because I might have something tasty, never ceases to both amaze and amuse. I really should get a video of it some time, taken at ground level. If I should be leading them somewhere to put a container of food down, I am always in danger of punting at least one of them across the yard, they get so underfoot. My neighbours frequently comment that they love to watch me cross the yard with ten chickens chasing desperately behind me. TREATS.
What’s the first most effective tool a chicken owner has in her arsenal for manipulating her birds, you might ask? Ahhhh. Sex. Sex is the most effective tool a chicken owner has in her arsenal for manipulating her birds, in my limited experience.
This only works, of course, if you have an all-girl crew, at which time you become the rooster. Once your pullets reach sexual maturity, they become marvelously compliant (at last!), coming when called and squatting in your presence. It’s heady stuff.
Food and sex. The necessities of life.
So…treats. It takes a while for baby chicks to catch on to the idea of treats, and watching them get it is a similar experience to watching a human baby eat his first taste of nourishment that isn’t milk based. Some chicken owners give their chicks yogurt as a first treat, or scrambled eggs, or chopped strawberries. I give mine…dandelion petals.
It is a truly elegant solution. They are abundant and gratis, right outside my door, more than I could possibly use, at just precisely the right time of year. They are packed with nutrients for the babies, and they gobble them up like candy. Who could ask for anything more?
My big girls went crazy for them when they were biddies; I tried to give some to them today and they looked at me as though I were insane. You want I should eat that?!
I cut the petals loose from the base of the flower with a paring knife, about ten flowers’ worth, and placed them in a pile on top of the chicks’ feed dish:
After an initial period of freaking out over something new, chicken-style, they got the idea very quickly:
My favourite part of the shot above is the Silver-Laced Wyandotte in the background eying the dandelion petal on the head of the one in the foreground. I can almost see the thought balloon that says: “Mmmmm, that looks gooooood….”.
There are many flowers that the girls will come to appreciate as they mature. As spring progresses, I’ll bring them violets, clover flowers, lilacs, and phlox. They might share their older sisters’ passion for hosta leaves, if they only had a chance. The big girls have already stripped my garden clean of them, just as they were getting started.
Free-ranging chickens can be hard on the garden, but it is a tiny price to pay for all the happiness I get watching from them living so freely.