Adventures in Chicken Feed.

I obsess about chicken feed.  I know you find that hard to believe (<—sarcasm).  I’m always looking for some kind of wonder-feed that will make my chickens big, shiny, happy and able to bench press a Dodge Ram.  It’s sort of ironic, because my daughter, who’s ten, basically survives on pizza and chicken nuggets and the occasional cereal bar.  She’s one of those kids who decided at some point in her infancy that food with any kind of nutritional value must be avoided at all costs.  At some point I just gave up getting her to try new things because the drama was just too much.  The chickens on the other hand will inhale anything I give them which balances out the feeling that I’m the “WORST PARENT IN THE WORLD” because Emma won’t eat anything green…or anything else for that matter.

square eggs and iI’ve been buying feed for the chickens at a local farm supply store.  I even found non-GMO, organic feed at said farm supply store.  I even went so far as to buy a bag.  However, it did not deter me from my course in finding the BEST CHICKEN FOOD ON THE PLANET.   I have no idea how to judge whether or not it’s the best chicken food on the planet, but I’ll figure that out…or I’ll just buy the kind that looks prettiest.  Which is basically how I make choices about a lot of things.

Yesterday, after Tom’s little stint to the doctor’s office, we came home and hung out for a while.  I have this weird problem with anxiety.  Everything can be perfectly fine and I get so anxious that I’m unable to do anything productive and I sort of spin my wheels and agonize about things that really don’t matter a whole lot.  Tom has come to the point where he can see when I’m getting a little bit too wound up about dumb stuff and he knows that if he gets me out of the house, I’ll calm down because I’m distracted by shiny things.  I also have a tendency to spend money online when I’m anxious, so when he saw me shopping for chickens online he suggested that we go for a ride somewhere and then in the next sentence he said “We could go find that feed store you’ve been talking about.”

Feed store?  I had my flip-flops on and was waiting in the truck before he could find his sun glasses.

I’ve been to a few feed stores recently in the search for the perfect chicken chow.  Last Saturday we went to a local feed store that I’ve never been to before and found that it was a MECCA for animal stuff.  Especially horse stuff.  I used to show horses and had a big beautiful Arabian gelding.  Tom went to the men’s room while I was in this feed store and when he returned I’d already picked out Ariat riding boots, several pieces of tack and was talking to the clerk about fancy over reach boots.  Tom pointed out that I didn’t have a horse and wasn’t getting one.  Thank you Tommy Buzzkill.  So I asked the lady behind the counter (who was totally frazzled because the computer was down and she was having to figure tax on purchases with a calculator) where all the chicken stuff was.  She looked confused and said “We have chicken FOOD…what else do they need?”

Obviously, she knows nothing about chickens.

So we set out for this other feed store yesterday.  I had no idea where it was, but I had an address.  I thought it shouldn’t be too hard to find and I knew that this chain of feed stores had locations all over the south, just not in Indiana…which means we had to drive to Kentucky which really is just over the river from where we live.  I assumed that the feed store would be in the town of Henderson because the address is Henderson.  Let’s just say…I was wrong.  After a half hour of driving in the wilds of Kentucky (it really wasn’t that wild, but it was the middle of nowhere) we finally drove up to the store which was essentially a huge pole building with ten thousand anhydrous ammonia tanks parked outside.  I said something witty like “Look!  They make meth here!” as we pulled into a parking space and then I rocketed out of the truck because I get really excited at new stores.

As we went into the store, a bell rang signaling that a customer (us) had arrived.  There didn’t appear to be anyone around that worked there.  I was instantly disappointed because I really thought it would be a cool feed store.  In the store portion of the building, which was just a fraction of the whole building…and I mean a TINY fraction, there was a big gun safe, a generator and a lot of fly spray on display.  Welcome to Kentucky.  That pretty much sums up the state right there (sorry Kentucky people).  About that time, a short, round, greasy looking guy in a seed corn hat that looked like it had been dipped in grease shuffled out of the back room followed by a woman in a monogrammed company smock and another guy that looked like he lived under a tractor.  I asked if they had organic, non GMO chicken feed.  The round greasy seed corn hat guy chuckled.  The lady told me that she could order it, but it was THIRTY-SEVEN DOLLARS a bag and then she waited for me to be aghast at the price.  I just replied “yep…it can be pricey”.  Greasy Seed Corn Hat said “Jest puttem outside and they’ll find what they need…you don’t need no fancy food.”  I laughed and shot him a death glare at the same time and replied “They’re home eating a yellow watermelon right now.”  Greasy Seed Corn Hat said something he thought was funny that I don’t remember and Living Under a Tractor guy roared with laughter.  I rolled my eyes and thanked them and we were out the door and back in the truck and on our way home. The whole thing took less than 5 minutes.

So the adventure was a total bust.  I continue to seek out the world’s finest chicken chow, which I could totally order online, but shipping is outrageous for a 40 pound bag of chicken feed.  The stuff I have is perfectly fine, non-GMO, organic feed and they love it BUT!  I will not rest until I find them the PRETTIEST non-GMO, organic chicken feed.

You know I’m kidding, right?  As long as they eat it, are healthy, happy and can bench press that Dodge Ram, I don’t care how it looks.

And now…for your listening pleasure….I give you….Cluckzilla (insert applause here)

 

I shared this post on the Backyard Farming Connection Hop #85!

 

 

Cluck Norris.

When I got our first group of chicks, I had no idea what ‘straight run’ meant.  I just told the beleaguered kid at the farm supply store that I wanted three dark ones and three of those “chipmunky” ones.  He just caught what he could, stuffed them in a box and handed them to me and I happily skipped away with the peeping box.  For some odd reason I thought they sold just females.

As the chicks grew, it became really obvious that one was FOR SURE a boy.  He was bigger than the rest, had a larger, redder comb and feet the size of dinner plates.  Before I actually accepted that he was a boy, I lived in a happy land of denial and thought he was a girl and tried to reassure him that no one would care that he had huge legs and feet and maybe he could just wear a lot of maxi dresses.  My denial quickly wore off when I noticed the brightly colored chestnut feathers that he was growing that absolutely screamed “ROOOOOSTERRRR!!!”

His name is Cluck Norris and he’s the biggest guy in the flock.  Vinnie is the other rooster and he’s not quite as big as Cluck.  Cluck looks the part of the main rooster in charge, so we gave him the job.  We didn’t ask for his resume or anything.  Vinnie submitted his resume several times and we have a whole pile of them.  Cluck just stood around and looked imposing, so we picked him to be the guy in charge.

cluck2I’m not really sure Cluck is “in charge” kind of material though.  He’s a very good guard rooster.  Always watching the sky and sending out DANGER CLUCKS when he sees something suspicious.  He’s kind of loner during the day and spends much of the time away from the other flock members, preening or just watching from a distance while Vinnie makes a mess of things with the hens at the other end of the run.  At snack time, Cluck hangs back and looks a little awkward as he stands just outside of the circle of snack gobblers and he might try to grab a small piece of the snack, but usually he just watches.  We’re still trying to convince the flock that they MUST love us and we handle them daily and we include Cluck in that little exercise as well.  He nearly has a heart attack every time.

I think Cluck used to be a lot more macho.  When we had the Buff Orpington Rooster Brothers, they would routinely gang up on Cluck and his response was to run away.  That’s when I think he suffered the major loss of his machismo.  Now that the BORBs are gone, I expected him to just step right up to being a rooster to be reckoned with and apparently he suffered more damage to his confidence than I thought because now even Opal, the smallest hen in the bunch can give him one peck and he takes off to the other end of the run because he’s a big fraidy cat.  Not cool, Cluck.  NOT COOL.

Cluck pretends like he doesn’t like anything the others like.  I think it’s part of his attempt to be terrifying…or more likely, he’s just afraid of whatever they’re doing or that he’ll get pecked on the head for joining in.  When I asked him why he doesn’t join the flock in dust bathing or snack eating, he just looked horrified and walked away.  He’s a chicken of few words.

cluck1It might all be a show because this weekend I caught him dust bathing with the ladies.  It was a particularly hot weekend and I went out to change the water so that they had something to drink other than the lukewarm poop soup that they’d concocted up that morning in the waterer.  As I came up to the run, a bright flash of chestnut feathers caught my eye in “The Dust Bowl” (the dust bath).  He was flopping around and really getting into his dust bath and didn’t even notice me walk up to the run.  I don’t know how he couldn’t have noticed because Vinnie was standing right in front of me doing his “GIMME GIMME GIMME” dance for treats.  I walked around to the other side of The Dust Bowl and Cluck caught sight of me.  He looked horrified and embarrassed and just laid there like maybe if he didn’t move, I wouldn’t notice him dust bathing like a regular chicken.  He finally couldn’t help himself and flopped around a bit more, got up and shook out the dust and walked away like it had all been an accident and he really had just FALLEN into the dust bath and certainly was too cool to have been actually taking one.

I also found a treat that he will run the others over to get to.  Watermelon.  I had been to the farm market for more strawberries and they had melons in from Florida.  It was hot and I wanted something cool for them to snack on, so I picked up a perfectly round, small, seedless watermelon.  At home, we quartered it and kept half in the fridge and I took the rest to the run for the chickens.

Cluck watched from a distance as I tossed the melon quarters into the coop.  Of course, they’d never seen a watermelon before so there was the usual suspicion about what it was and some of the chickens tried standing two feet away while stretching out their necks to see if it would eat them or if they could possibly eat it before it ate them.  Finally, Vinnie tasted it and decided it was awesome and was soon up to his eyes in one of the melon halves.  Cluck could hardly stand it.  He circled around, cocked his head to look at the strange melon with one eye, but generally stayed away from the group.  I went into the coop and swept the work area.  When I came back out, I glanced over at the run and Cluck was face down in a melon, happily slurping up the watery pink contents.  As soon as he saw me, he froze with a sort of sheepish look on his face.  The melon was irresistible though, and he soon forgot about me and went back to creating the World’s Stickiest Rooster Beak by pecking at the melon.  Apparently, watermelons trump pretending like you’re cool.

cluck3Cluck hasn’t crowed yet.  He was hatched at the beginning of March and by my calculations is between 13 and 14 weeks old.  He does cluck, but usually walks around softly peeping.  He and I have discussed this at length and while he feels peeping makes him look sweet to the ladies, I also told him that they’re going to laugh him out of the Rooster Union.  Recently, at bedtime, he stood on the roost bar and assumed what appeared to be “the crowing stance”, threw back his head, opened his beak wide….and nothing.  Not a whistle, not a croak.   He tried a second time and failed miserable and went back to peeping and being pushed around by the other birds on the roost.

Maybe his hormones haven’t kicked in.  Maybe he’s just a gentle rooster.  Maybe I won’t have to wear a full suit of armor to go into the coop when I start collecting eggs because he’s too much of a chicken (see what I did there?) to try to kill me with his spurs.  Maybe he is thoroughly emotionally destroyed because he’s been challenged and has lost so many times.  I really don’t care, because I’m noticing him start to join in with the others when they are just doing normal chicken things, which is a relief because I was starting to think he needed some counseling.

Maybe he just needs to stop hanging around with Vinnie.  Hanging out with that dork would ruin anyone’s reputation.

 

 

**I shared this post on the Homestead Barn Hop #161