Author: Anna Hess

Grazing chickens with cows

Chickens cleaning up spilled feed

What’s the recipe for ultra-low chicken feed costs? In the spring, at least, our neighbor’s flock barely wants to touch anything other than high-energy (and cheap) scratch feed because they have so much greenery and so many bugs to harvest out of the wild.

Feeding the cows

It doesn’t hurt that she also keeps cows, who sometimes spill a little feed, always have hay handy, and attract lots of worms to their patties. The goal is for the chickens to at least pay for themselves, and in the spring I’d say they definitely do.

Why do roosters crow?

Crowing rooster

Did you ever wonder why roosters crow? Cliff Notes version: Their goal isn’t to wake the farmer up in the morning.

Just like the song birds who drop by your bird feeder, male chickens use their songs to alert other roosters of their territory. So we shouldn’t be surprised to find that the most dominant rooster is the first to crow in the morning, with later crowers coming in descending order down the dominance hierarchy.

But why in the morning while city slickers are trying to get a little hard-earned rest? Scientists have figured out the how of this behavior — circadian rhythms within the chicken’s body tell them when to crow, even when they’re stuck in total darkness for up to a month at a time. As for the why — maybe hens just like it that way….

Turning a bucket chicken waterer into a feeder

Galvanized bucket chicken waterer

I dropped by my mother-in-law’s coop the other day and took a look inside. “What an interesting feeder,” I said. “Where did that come from?”

She explained that the feeder had actually started life as a waterer. But the lip broke off, which meant the gravity-feed contraption no longer worked as intended. So now she fills the bucket with pellets as a low-tech gravity feeder. A great example of Appalachian ingenuity!