My gut feeling said that our
Light Sussex broilers were better foragers than either of this year’s
other breeds — Black
Australorps and Cuckoo Marans. The numbers argued
otherwise. Black Australorps won the feed
conversion rate race, followed by Cuckoo Marans, with Light Sussex
trailing in a close third.
Part of this dwindling
efficiency could be that wild prey are most bountiful in the
spring. Despite harvest bounty, October and November chickens
have to work harder to find their grub.
But will they eat it
when they find it? When they were two months old, I had to shut
our Light Sussex broilers into the forest garden because they were
starting to scratch up our young garlic plants. I felt sorry for
them, so I turned over some hugelkultur logs, the undersides of
which were wriggling with huge grubs and luscious worms. Our
Light Sussex came running when I called, but seemed a bit confused
about what they were supposed to do next. They pecked at the
grubs then moved on to something more tasty, even though our
Golden Comet hens used to think these fat grubs were the world’s gift
nature of Light
Sussex chickens does make them fun to be around, but I suspect it also
keeps them from trying new things. They look to me, and if I’m
not pecking up those grubs, they don’t either.
Of course, a mother
hen could turn the tables quite nicely, teaching her flock to
forage avidly on things they’d otherwise ignore. That’s why I’m
keeping a small Light Sussex flock for further experimentation even
though they lost the race (and even though we have to house them
separately so our two cockerels won’t fight). Maybe next year I’ll
have a different story to report.
our hard-working chickens healthy.