I tend to snort when I see posts like “10 Enrichment Ideas for Chickens.” Apparently others find the topic less snort-worthy; Google shows 907,000 results for the search “bored chickens.”
Yet here I am, cooking for chickens.
No, I’m not standing at the stove in a vintage apron whipping up a Vegetable and Goat Cheese Terrine to offer my pampered poultry. But I am checking on a big pot of food I’m cooking for our birds.
Wasting nutrients bothers me. There’s very little food tossed out in our house. Many leftovers go to the animals. So do garden flubs like cracked tomatoes, giant cucumbers, and strawberries with bug bite marks. But some foods aren’t chicken-friendly unless they’re cooked.
Most of what I cook for the birds are potato peels. Chickens can’t eat them raw. (And they shouldn’t eat any potatoes, raw or cooked, that have a hint of green. The color indicates the presence of a toxin called solanine.) But they happen to love cooked potatoes. After cooking potatoes for my family, I use the same starch-rich hot water to boil the peels for them.
I also save onion ends, rutabaga peels, and carrot peels to boil. Our chickens largely avoid these vegetables in the raw state, but gobble them up once they’re cooked.
I cook other fowl things too.
Like any creature, chickens lose interest in a particular food if given it too much of it. During our yearly applesauce-making marathon the chickens eagerly eat peels from the first bushel of apples we process. Once we’re onto the second bushel they ignore the peels completely. So I save the rest of the peels and cook them the next day. Those tender cooked peels somehow renew their gustatory enthusiasm.
When I cleaned out the pantry I found packages of pasta bought years ago at an Asian market. I’m the only one in this family who likes clear mung bean noodles or greenish yam noodles tossed in a stir fry, but I’m trying to limit refined carbs these days, so I’ve been clearing out the backlog by boiling these noodles every now and then for the chickens.
I’ve also unearthed legumes I grew and dried years ago. Probably not viable as seeds, but great to cook into soft and edible food for our fowl friends.
So, yes, I’m cooking for chickens. It feels productive, even satisfying, to turn uneaten nutrients into something edible. Besides, I find a warm pot bubbling on the stove adds a little welcome heat to the house on these chilly evenings. But….