The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Fresh forage for week old chicks

Chicks and weeds

Chicks and wormsOur Light Sussex chicks eat like crazy, so I decided that six days was plenty old enough to try them out on forage.  I don't want to put the chicks on pasture yet for fear of predators snagging such tender morsels, so instead I brought the pasture to them.

First try was some compost worms dug out of the worm bin.  I figured redworms might be small enough for a tiny chick to handle, and I've seen our mother hen feed her chicks worms at this age.  But while our chicks were interested and carried the worms all over the brooder, I don't think they managed to consume any.  Maybe the mother hen breaks the worms into smaller pieces?

Next, I brought in a weed bouquet.  Our adult chickens love broad plantain, clover, and sourgrass, so I included them all (along with some grass and violets that came along for the ride.)  The chicks might have eaten some of the plantain seeds --- it was tough to tell whether Weed bouquetthey managed to peck any out in the midst of the melee --- but what they were clearly consuming with great pleasure was the sourgrass buds, flowers, and flowering stems.  Looks like there's at least something fresh that motherless chicks can eat by their lonesome.

Modern chicken-keeping books warn you not to feed your chicks too much greenery at a tender age, but such advice smacks of doctors scaring young mothers away from breast-feeding for fear of malnourishing their babies.  In contrast, the hundred-plus year old chicken books I've been perusing this year stress the importance of fresh forage for chickens of all ages.  Hopefully a few more weed bouquets will get our chicks in foraging mode before I turn them onto pasture.

Our chicken waterer has kept the chicks occupied in the rare moments they weren't eating, sleeping, or perching on top of the brooder.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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