One of my enduring pleasures this summer is picking fat green tomato hornworms from my tomatoes and feeding them to the chickens. It sends them into a frenzy of excitement as they each try to get part of the caterpillar. I used to heave the caterpillars over the garden fence with the assumption that they would not find their way back to the tomato patch, because they are too large for me to stomach stomping, but the chickens make quick work of them.
Unfortunately, they do not like Japanese Beetles, although they love their grubs, as I have mentioned in previous posts. After throwing adults into their pen and watching them fly away as the chickens looked on, confused, I began knocking them into a bowl of water so the chickens could go "bobbing for beetles." Because I am not sadistic, even given my aforementioned pleasure at feeding tomato hornworms to the chickens, after I found them still swimming desperately in the bowl for an hour, quite uneaten by the chickens, I added some dish soap to the water. It kills the bugs quickly, and I presume, does not harm the chickens. In either case, after some initial fun in grabbing the beetles, the chickens have decided they don't like the taste of beetles, and so I have gone back to drowning the beetles in soapy water, without offering them to the chickens, as I do every summer. I guess the adults are too crunchy for them.
They peck at snails and eat out their soft bodies, and they like slugs. And as they scratch away in the ground I know they are devouring many little creatures. They also dislike squash bugs, and adult potato beetles, I guess because the squash bugs emit a foul odor I can smell, and I presume, also taste bad.
When the corn earworms arrive, I'll feed them to the chickens, and I remain vigilant whenever I dig to feed any grubs or larva I find to the chickens. I have spoiled them and they now come running to the fence, clucking away, when they see me approach, saying "What do you have for us this time?"
Labels: chicken pest control, chickens, corn earworms, Japanese beetles, potato beetles, squash bugs, tomato hornworms