Before I lived at Beulah Acres, I always bought eggs that said they were from “free range” or “cage free” chickens. I had the vague idea that these eggs were healthier for me–which is possibly true–but mostly I was thinking of the chickens. Chickens don’t belong in little cages. Chickens need to strut around on little T-rex legs, scratching and pecking and looking startled whenever they see, well, anything at all, really.
Of course, I no longer buy eggs. My refrigerator is full of eggs. And they are from cage-free chickens. Our chickens–all three of them–wander around the yard. (We had four of them a few days ago–but then my sister’s horrible dog bolted out of her house and killed one of them. And, yes, this would not have happened if she had been in a cage. Quality of life versus quantity of life. I know which I’d choose). They wander around the neighbor’s property. They cross the road (don’t ask why) and hang out by the railroad tracks.
Would you like to know what free range chickens actually eat? Chicken food, of course, which is mostly cracked corn and these little round, orange-colored seeds that they all avoid. They also eat goat food–any grain that our goats drop is automatically chicken food. And bugs. Lots of bugs. They scratch around under the straw in the goat pen and under the leaves covering the winter ground, and they eat any creepy crawlies that they find. In the summer, they eat tree frogs. I have also been assured that they sometimes eat dog poop.
And leftovers–pizza, pasta, vegetables. There may have been an incident involving some KFC.
Currently, however, their absolute favorite food is Purina Kitten Chow. I had to put my kitten’s food up on my porch railing to keep it out of chicken reach. If they were smarter, they’d realize they could still get to it–they do have wings, after all. Fortunately, they are not smart. But they come running every time I feed Winnie, and they’re so cute with their crazy chicken eyes and adorable chicken feet; so I throw them some kitten chow.
Does all of this make their eggs healthier for human consumption? I have no idea. Does it make them happier chickens? Yup.