The Hens’ Thanksgiving Feast


One of our farming tasks this time of year is to harvest whatever else we want from the gardens before turning them over to the hens.  We planted a winter garden this year, so will continue to have kale, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, beets and parsnips, but meanwhile, I harvested the rest of the bell peppers, and beets and cabbage from the main two gardens and then opened the hen house door that leads to the gardens (each hen house has two doors–one to the summer yard and one to the garden).  The hens were already outside for the day, in their summer yards, which by this time of year, has Very Little of nutritional value left in them.

A few hens followed me into the hen house hoping for treats, and they were the first to hop out the newly opened door into a world of treats they’d been eyeing all summer but couldn’t access.

The striking thing is, these birds could have easily flown over the fencing that separates their summer yard from the garden, but they don’t.  Perhaps it’s because they spend their first year in a summer yard with a fenced top to keep them safe from hawks that prey on young pullets.  So maybe after flying high enough to bump into the top a time or two they don’t think about trying to fly over the summer yard once we move them.  Hens do have intelligence–they know to sleep up high at night, and to lay their eggs in nesting boxes rather than the poopy mess under their roost.  They know good food when they see it.  But when it comes to figuring out puzzles, like how to get from Point A to Point B, well, that’s not one of their strong points. A number of hens never did figure out how to get to the feast. They saw their sisters enjoying tomatoes and cabbages just a few feet away, but couldn’t figure out how to get there.  They’d pace back and forth on their side of the fence looking for an opening–that’s a few of them in the upper right picture.  So for them, the feast started today, when the only door open was the one leading to the gardens.

I’ve seeded the summer yards with a pasture grass mix, and it will have the rest of fall, winter and early spring to get established before we send the hens back to it.  By then they will have cleaned up the summer fields, spread and worked in some good chicken manure, and so helped ready them for planting.

Meanwhile, I enjoyed watching how enthusiastically they took to chomping down tomatoes, cabbage leaves, and scratching in the ground for grubs, slugs and other bugs appealing to their carnivorous side!


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