It's time for me to recognize that my girls are food snobs. Oh sure, they love the treats we give them---bread, pasta, rice, melon rinds, and those scrumptious smushed Japanese beetles that we pick off the raspberry plants. But just this week they've proven themselves to be as fussy and lazy as spoiled cats.
When we first began raising chickens, our poultry consultant recommended that we feed them food from a reputable company such as Purina. He discouraged us from buying the bags of cheap feed at the farm store. Like dog and cat food, poultry feed comes in a few different formulas for different stages of life. There's chick feed, of course, followed by different blends for egg layers or for birds raised as meat production. Our first girls started out with Purina chick grower and then moved on to Purina Layena.
After a while, I became aware of genetically modified crops, and I realized that Purina very likely uses corn that has been genetically modified. We switched to organic hen food, alternating between two brands. We tried Organic Pride (from Mounds) and the Willy Street Coop's own soy-free organic blend. In the end, we decided that Organic Pride had less waste at the bottom of the bin and the girls seemed to prefer it.
Just in the last month, egg production has been down significantly. Two of my girls have given me an egg or two per week, which is pretty poor. I know they lay fewer eggs in extreme heat, but this month has been pleasant. We decided to change their food to see if that would make any difference.
Early this week, we scooped the Purina feed into their food dishes and watched them run frantically from one dish to the other. All four hens eyed us wildly, certain there was some kind of horrible mistake. They returned to the hanging food hopper, the only dish with a bit of organic feed remaining. Then they sulked in a corner and refused to eat until their evening ration of Japanese beetles.
So. That's the way it's going to be? We returned to organic feed and the girls dramatically swooped in to fill their little crops. I'll give the Purina to a neighboring chicken farmer. But the cleaver and soup pot await those who do not lay eggs. Nope, I'm not kidding. We're limited to four hens and they're not simply pets. I hope they're paying attention to my daily pep talks!