Years ago, my father told
me that his chickens loved to eat curly dock. I kept an eye on my
birds, and they were totally uninterested in the wild plant, so I
figured my father had misidentified his weed, or his chickens were just
But then our most recent batch of chicks hit five weeks old…and started demolishing the curly dock growing around our greywater wetland. This reminds me of how chicks of the exact same age went ga-ga over young comfrey leaves,
and makes me wonder if there’s some nutrient chicks particularly need
at that age that makes previously unpalatable plants seem delicious?
More likely, the sudden
interest in new plants is due to our chicks hitting the exploring
stage. Sometime between four and five weeks, chicks tend to stop
sticking so close to home and they start wandering more widely, usually
in mini-flocks of three or more. Soon thereafter, the chicks begin
scratching up mulch in the garden, which is when I move them out of the
backyard and into a pasture.
In the meantime, though, the chicks are awfully fun to watch during that
couple of week period between when they start to explore and when they
start to get in trouble. They’ve definitely left the cute stage
behind in favor of molting scruffiness, but their antics only get more
They even inspired me to clean off the back porch and move my
wood-stove-watching chair out to become my chick-watching chair.
Now that’s pretty impressive — chicks fascinating enough to make me