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Fooling the Chickens – The Shoestring Herbalist

Fooling The Chickens – The Shoestring Herbalist

My chickens are pretty smart. They figure out how to hide their eggs. They can jump the fence despite my husband’s barriers. They know how to get into my new garden beds when my back is turned. Outsmarting them is not really my forte.

I do have a few tricks up my sleeve. I know how to train my girls not to peck at the eggs. Egg eating is very common in chickens. Commercial egg farmers set up the cages so that the egg drops immediately out of reach of the chicken once it is laid. Small farmers that raise chickens for extended family use collect their eggs early and have lights on timers to moderate chicken laying times. I have a golf ball.

The golf ball stays in the nest of choice (theirs not mine), all year round. As far as the girls are concerned, it is an egg. The golf ball is hard and round. If they peck at it, it does not yield. Egg pecking is not rewarded with eggy goodness.

When I find egg pecking behavior, I add comfrey to their feed. Comfrey is high in calcium, protein and other important nutrients. My girls get access to fresh comfrey in warmer months but in the winter, I add dried comfrey bits to their coop feed. It is cheap and easy supplement.

I keep a spare golf ball for use in emergencies. Every 5 years or so, I get a new chicken. This chicken may figure out my little trap and I find little holes in the shells or worse: eggy mess in the nest. This means that I have to bring out the big guns.

I leave the eggs until noon and then replace them with the other golf balls. At first, there were 4 eggs and 1 golf ball. The sun reaches its apex and there are magically 2 golf balls and no eggs. These golf balls are very unsatisfying to peck.

Obviously something happened. To you and me, 5 round items are much different than 2 round items. I am not convinced that my chickens can count higher than 2. As far as I can tell, their counting is relegated to one or many. I am open to being wrong. It has happened before.

If I do end up with a chicken who capable of counting and does not fall for my golf ball swapping trick, I will get more golf balls. If this new chicken turns out to be bird with higher math skills, I will fire my accountant and hand the chicken my tax forms. I bet she would be cheaper to employ. She would probably work for chicken scratch as long I measure it out right.


Sue Sierralupe

Sue Sierralupé is a Certified Master Herbalist, Master Gardener and Sustainable Landscape Specialist. She is the clinic manager and lead herbalist at Occupy Medical clinic. Sue is author of The Pocket Herbal: Medicinal Plants that Changed the World and co-author of The Practical Herbalist Herbal Folios series. Follow her blog at Herbalism Manifesto for commentary on herbs, parenting, nutrition and a whole lot more.

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