Saturday, May 7, 2011

Feed your Chickens for Free!

A neighbor brought me a load of well-rotted horse manure a week or so ago.  I thought he was only bringing me manure, but when I began digging in the pile I found dozens of fat white grubs that will, in a few weeks, pupate into Japanese beetles, and I am nearly as happy about the grubs as I am about the manure.

When I dig in my garden, I keep a container nearby in which I deposit grubs I uncover.  My daughters and I feed them to our chickens, and it's a great way to train the chickens to hand feeding and to gain some entertainment in watching the chicken antics that result.  One grabs a grub and runs off, pursued by most of the rest of the flock as they try to take it from her.  Some of the brighter ones realize I don't usually come with just one grub, and they wait for me to give them some. 

Grubs are a wonderful source of protein for your chickens, and they have no redeeming value except as chicken food, unlike earthworms.  I have fed my chickens so many grubs they don't particularly like worms, which is a good thing, I suppose, because I would rather the worms stay in the soil and improve it. 

But turning grubs into chicken eggs and meat is fine with me.  Dig through your compost or manure pile, or keep a container handy while you dig in the garden.  Small children are great at completing this task, if you have one handy.  They especially like feeding the grubs to the chickens.  If your chickens are free-range, they might discover these sources of grubs themselves.  I keep mine inside a portable electric fence to keep them out of mischief.  Don't wait to obtain this source of food, though.  In my garden, Japanese beetles appear in late May, and some of the ones I dug today looked so fat I thought their skin might split, a sign of their impending transformation into the gardener's worst enemy.   

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