By that I mean, they get to enjoy our scraps, the next day. Not only do we turn those sticky, fatty, leftovers, into another hearty meal for our chooks, but it's also, a more environmentally friendly way to clean up after ourselves.
Roasting pans from the night before
If you have stale bread, or crusts too thin to eat, put them aside and use them to wipe out the roasting pan. We generally use two roasting pans to feed our family of four. One used pan collects all the scraps, and the other is washed out with boiling water first. Then the water is tipped into the other pan, and wiped over with some bread to make it clean. No need for kitchen towels.
We like to dice our bread afterwards, using a large chef's knife, to make it easier for the chickens to eat. Though you don't have to, if only planning to feed the bread to the chickens.
All traces of fat are gone
You will find bread is a lot more absorbent, than paper towels. So it sucks up all that fat, leaving very little residue behind. We're fortunate to get our bread scraps from David's workplace. They do a lot of sandwich trade, and ditch all their crusts. We have six hens and one rooster, so we roughly portion them each a slice.
This substitution trick, using bread instead of kitchen towels, can also be used elsewhere.
Just add water
David always smears the skin of our roast chicken, in a blend of oil, flour and various spices. It's dried in the bowl by the next morning, so we pour in some boiling water and swish it around to clean. Once poured into the other roasting pan, you can clean out the bowl with more bread.
You can even use the bread to clean up the dinner plates, because a slice of bread can soak up a lot of residue
As we have a septic system to treat all our water, we need to avoid putting any fats or oil down the sink. That's if we want it to last. Feeding our chickens this way, however, helps us in that endeavour. If we weren't using bread, we'd be using kitchen towels.
When making up our chicken scraps, we always find other things to put in their food as well. Like the bacon rind we cut off our bacon. The chickens always enjoy looking through their food for any bits of meat. It's the first thing they do.
We also like to use vegetable leftovers as well. Which is where David's workplace, comes in handy again.
Dicing tomato ends
With a lot of sandwich trade, you're going to use a lot of tomatoes. So when David is prepping the tomatoes at work, he puts aside the tops and bottom, in a bucket. Then when they arrive home, I chop them up and disperse among the chicken food. When there's an extra large surplus of tomato scraps, I'll put some in the fridge to keep from growing mould, and use it the next day, and so on.
Ready to grate
Whenever there is reduced produce at the store, we grab it for us, or the chickens. In this case we had carrots which were marked down for quick sale. I gave the chickens the carrot tops the day before, and grated a few carrots to go in their daily mix of food. I did this when I realised we had better carrots in the fridge, and the chickens could have these.
When making up food, we like to use a lot of vegetable scraps. It gives them a more balanced diet.
Ready to chop
Which is why I'll always include some form of green vegetable as well. In this case, it's flat leaf parsley, which is growing wild in our yard at the moment. I might as well put it in the chicken food, if we cannot get around to eating it, before it goes to seed.
Other options for greens, are celery leaves if I have them, grated zucchini in the glut season, and the stiff outer leaves of lettuce, which I slice thinly. I've even been known to cook our frozen peas, if I don't have any other green vegetables to put in.
Cooked for 2 minutes in the microwave
Just as a winter treat, I feed the chickens, a cup of cooked traditional oats too, which I purchase from the supermarket. Oats are a warming food in winter, which is why I will only give this treat during the cooler months.
All these bits and pieces, are gradually added to the original scraps pan, before mixing it all together.
You may be wondering why we go to so much trouble to feed our chickens like this? There are several important reasons. Firstly, we invested in chickens to grow our own eggs, and during winter they have the extra chore of keeping warm. So by feeding them hearty meals, we continue good egg production throughout winter. In fact, its summer, where our chickens go off the lay. As it's too hot and stressful for them.
Another important reason to feed our chickens this way, is because they live in a permanent coop. They only get the nutrients we feed them. If we don't feed them a balanced meal, they cannot go anywhere else for it. A meal like this is also a lot more interesting to chickens, than a feeder with layer mash or grains - even though ours still have one in the coop.
The reason its more interesting to chickens, is because they get to hunt around for their favourite morsels, and compete with each other in the process. Which helps to keep them mentally stimulated. If your chickens can free range or are moved around in a chicken tractor, it's not so important. For those with chickens in permanent coops however, we have to bring the stimulating environment to them. Sharing interesting and varied meals, is how we do that.
Ready to serve
Besides all those reasons, it's more environmentally friendly to feed our chickens, by getting an extra meal out of the food miles, we purchase for ourselves. The rubbish collectors, don't even get to cart our food scraps away, because we're turning them into eggs at home.
Our chicken scrap meals, vary with the seasons too. In winter, its a lot of roasting fats and vegetables. In summer it's more fruit, veg and seeds from the excess produce we consume and grow. Between winter and spring, it's the season for prime weeds here. That's when they are at their nutrient best anyway. We get weeds year round (therefore, so do the chickens) but between winter and spring, is when they are at their prime.
I'm always looking for new ways to feed our chickens, so I'll probably always have something to share on this subject. Do you feed your food scraps to the chickens?