There is something really amazing about autumn. Gorgeous colors, cooler temperatures, bonfires, warm meals, fall decorations, all used to enhance our daily lives. Did you know your chickens also love autumn?
Falling leaves: Chickens love leaves. The drier the leaves, the happier the chickens. They love to forage for bugs in piles of leaves. They love to scratch the leaves (I think they also love the crunchy sound of their feet in the leaves). All of this equals a nutrient rich ground cover and mulch for you to use in your gardens! We have a large yard with lots of 100-year-old trees, so we have plenty of leaves for our girls. Even if you have a small yard, your neighbors will love to have a place to dump their leaves. You're doing them a favor, too!
Cooler Temperatures: My chickens are very active this autumn! Chickens are usually pretty hardy and will adapt to their environment. In the summer, they seek shade, cooling dirt baths and water. In the winter, they huddle, stay inside the coop and out of the wind. The fall is pretty invigorating to them. With the cooler temperatures come more energy. My girls are running around, playing, scratching and squawking. I am having a lot of fun both watching and playing with my girls this fall.
Bonfires: Chickens love dirt baths. I know...bathing in DIRT? How are they getting clean? The grittiness cleans oils off their skin. Think of how good you feel after scratching your back. It's a similar feeling for chickens. Dirt baths come in many forms; soil, sand, diatomaceous earth...and ash from your bonfire. I typically shovel a few scoops of post bonfire ash into their bath tire for them to enjoy. **PLEASE NOTE** please allow time for the ash to cool. I usually wait at least 24 hours so my birds don't burn their tender skin!
Warm Meals: As much as chickens love cool, icy meals in the summer, they love warm meals in the winter. I heat their treats just a bit before giving it to them. They love warmer leftover vegetables and Quaker Oatmeal. I simply make the oatmeal with hot water and bring it out to them in their bowl. Don't add anything; just feed them heated oatmeal. YUM!
Fall Decorations: Fall decorations are great for chickens. After Halloween, my friend donated her Jack o'lanterns to my chickens. They have feasted on them for a week! The flesh and the seeds are really healthy for chickens. The Indian corn you see in decorations is a delicious treat for birds. Soften the kernels just a little bit. Chickens love apples. Just chop them and get rid of the seeds. Seeds contain cyanide and could make your hens sick. The straw leftover from hay bale decorations make a wonderful bedding alternative in your coop. I use sand in the floor of my coop, but I use straw in the nesting boxes. This is a pretty inexpensive time of the year to get hay bales; even better if your friends used them for decoration and are willing to donate them to you.
As you see, chickens thrive during the fall! Take the time to reap the benefits of autumn's natural abundance, and enjoy this time bonding with your chickens. Before long, it will be time to winterize your coop in preparation for cold, snowy days.