Every morning, the chickens gather expectantly behind their door, clucking and warbling, and, if it hasn’t snowed, come streaming out as soon as I open it and gather around me in expectation of a treat. Some of them go straight to the flat bowls of warm water, others will begin pecking and eating from the mix of cracked corn, chicken feed, sunflower seeds, bird seed and oats tossed around the ground. Roger (the young rooster) and the 3 Garys (Barred Rock laying hens) gather around me, cocking their heads, eyeing me up, and expecting more. The Garys are especially expectant, a little aggressive, and come close to pecking at me as if I am food.
I’ve spoiled them. Already. What the Garys really want is meal worms. Since I bought a bag of dried meal worms a few weeks ago as a treat and supplement to their feed, they expect meal worms for breakfast and definitely know their favorite treat is in a purple and white bag. Leader Gary will peck at the bag of meal worms. Follower Gary will soon join in. Me Too Gary will lose interest in water or ground feed and wait for her meal worms, too.
There are 2 feeders, filled with standard, bagged, store bought layer feed, hanging in the coop, in addition to a hanging waterer. They don’t eat much from the feeders. This is supposed to be the proper feed mix for laying hens (or soon to lay pullets), but they prefer to eat from the ground. First, the meal worms are quickly devoured, with the Garys scarfing up the most, then, and only then, will they eat from the ground, and tend to pick the cracked corn, millet, or sunflower seeds. When I toss standard chicken feed on the ground, they mostly skip it in favor of the scratch grains and bird seed.
Since the birds don’t eat much of their proper feed, I’m beginning to wonder if they are getting the nutrients they need. Have I spoiled them too much? Is it like feeding donuts and candy bars to your kids instead of vegetables and fruit?
I don’t know. The Annies and Ritas — 3 Australorp and 3 Rhode Island Red pullets — have grown a lot in the last few weeks. Roger is sprouting pretty green tail feathers and crowed for the first time yesterday. And the Garys are laying 2 eggs/day. If they’re growing, fed, watered, and apparently happy, that’s what matters most, right?
We’ll see. As always, I don’t know what I’m doing.