Thursday, January 26, 2012

Winter Snacks

In the winter we feed the chickens a little treat, especially on cold days. We cook up 1/2 cup of barley and feed it to them while it is still a little warm. Anyone who has used barley knows it expands when cooked, so 1/2 cp becomes close to 3 cps after making it a great cost effective treat.

We do this for a couple of reasons. First, the chickens really slow down laying in the winter and we have found that warm barley helps bring it up a little. Second, we have an egg eater or two in the flock and for some reason the incidents of egg eating goes down when we feed them barley. And third, everyone knows something warm in your stomach warms your whole body and outdoor chickens need extra warmth whenever possible.

Today I decided to add a little something extra, and got a rather interesting and somewhat disgusting surprise. Today when I cooked the chickens barley I added a 1/4 cp of yellow flax seeds. We add flax to a lot of our salads and stir fry meals and find them to be quite tasty so I thought the chickens would enjoy them too. I figured the protein would also be good for them, and I know the oil in the seeds is good for their eggs.

The discovery came when I turned of the heat and gave the post a stir. The liquid was thick, thicker than normal. Barley has a coating on the kernel, much like oatmeal, that causes it to clump together one it cools off. But this was still boiling and it was far thicker than normal. I assumed it was from the flax seeds, ignored it, and set the pot aside to cool before I took it out to the chickens.

After some time had passed I stirred the pot again and found the liquid was now the consistency of uncooked egg whites. Apparently it got thicker as it cooled and now the cooked barley and flax seeds were suspended in this mess. In essence I had created the perfect fake snot complete with boogers. This is something I never suspected would come from boiling flax seeds.

I wasn't going to waste the barley or the flax seeds so I took the pot out to the chicken coop and poured the mess into the wet food bin. At first even they seemed a little leery of this new concoction but after the first brave hen tried some and went back for more it became the normal feeding frenzy. I think tomorrow I'll just sprinkle the flax seeds on top of the cooked barley. No more snot for me or the girls.

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