Thursday, February 2, 2012

[The] Baking Is For the Birds

Now, I realize that some of you are going to think I'm off my rocker. I can't say as though I blame you. I've been doing all sorts of weird things with food lately, (like using them in the bathroom!) but now I am baking for my chickens. {insert eye roll here} This endeavour in the kitchen is not a labor of love, but of necessity.

See that hen up there in the picture. Let me introduce you to Bigfoot. (We have monster truck fans in the house!) Bigfoot and 3 of her flock mates have recently taken up residence in our basement. It seems as though the rest of the flock (that we not-so-lovingly refer to as "the jerks in the coop") were bored during our last cold snap, and decided to peck at some of those lower in the pecking order. We lost 1 hen to this horrible behaviour. My DH had gone out to the coop one evening to check their food and water, and discovered our dead hen. She was laying half in/half out of a nesting box. We had no idea how she had died (at that moment anyway) but she had been pecked. Whether this had occurred before or after the time of death, we were unsure of. (In case you are wondering, we are currently thinking of opening our own Chicken Scene Investigation practice. Kidding! :0) We chalked it up to the inevitable fact that livestock die, and moved on.

The following week I was alarmed to have Teddy Bear come screaming into the house that he saw "meat" on one of the chickens and he was very upset. I ran out to investigate, and discover not 1, but 2 very injured hens. So we set up chicken triage quarters in the basement and have been making the jerks in the coop go out in the run every day. We still ended up with yet another injured girl, but fortunately my DH discovered her early.

I did quite a bit of research on line about why chickens turn to this disgusting behaviour, and there are many. I'm pretty sure that the answer to our riddle is quite simply boredom of being cooped up. (No pun intended) So I looked for suggestions to help this. Most of the articles I read suggested offering the chickens something else to peck, rather than their fellow flock mates. I remembered seeing a Purina Flock Block at our local Tractor Supply Company, and thought that that would be a great idea for the chickens. But it would be a very bad idea for our budget! So I went about finding a recipe for a homemade "flock block". It was not easy, I really had to sift through a lot of links that the search engines brought up, but I finally found 2 different links, both on message forums. Here they are: Alberta Chickens you will have to scroll down a bit to find the recipe. Backyard Chickens I've read quite a few of the other pages from these links and found many other good ideas, and some really bad ones (like the one where a neighbor suggested giving them Styrofoam to peck at or putting Vick's Vaporub on the injured birds.)

This is what I did to make my own "flock block".

And here is my recipe:
2 C. oatmeal
4 C. birdseed
1 C. cornmeal
1/4 C. olive oil
3/4 C. molasses
1/4 C. water
1/2 C, honey
1 small apple, chopped
1 egg, shell crushed and added as well

I mixed the dry ingredients well in a large bowl.

Then I added the wet ingredients, and the apple. I also added half of a peanut butter sandwich that my middle child did not eat at school yesterday for his lunch.
Using a rubber spatula I spread and packed the mix into 2 very well greased loaf pans. (I used Crisco, but lard would be a good choice, too, if you have it.)

I used a bamboo skewer to make a hole for hanging before I put these in a 300* oven for an hour and a half. Then I turned off the oven and let them stay in there for another 30 minutes. I then removed the blocks from the pans and set them on a cooling rack. Unfortunately, one of the blocks broke in half despite my efforts to carefully tip it out of the pan.

I put the flock blocks back into the oven to dry further and left them in there until the oven was completely cool. Now it's time to give one of these to the jerks in the coop. I put an old shoelace through the hole of the block that was not broken and headed out to the coop with it. It broke in half. {sigh} So I hung up the half with the shoe string and put the other half on the floor of the coop by their feeder.
The Jerks in the Coop.
I couldn't wait around to get pictures of the chickens pecking at the block, but by the next day, it had been completely consumed! They liked it! I kept the next block for if we have another cold snap or (dare I hope!) a snow fall where the chickees would be confined in the coop again. We had snow (for all of 2 days!) earlier this week, so I put half of the second block in the coop. My DH had also built a shelf in the coop to give them some more room. These two measures seem to be helping.

I left out the sugar, salt and reduced the baking soda for the chickee's corn bread.

Above is Star, chowing down. Pictured below is Flower, who for once was quiet!
(Can you guess who named these girls? I mean, really! Star and Flower?)

And now for some more gratuitous photos of our kitty cat Merlin. She was absolutely fuming that I was making those bird brains a treat and won't even bothering to open her a can of tuna!
"Is that for me?"

"What do you mean "NO"?!!!???!!!"

Watching from the top of the basement stairs as the girls in the
basement chow down on corn bread.
"Just leave that cage door open for a minute and I'll get my own chicken treat! MWAH-HA-HA-HA!"**

*I do honestly realize that all of this pecking is a part of regular chicken behavior, as horrible as it is, and not a matter of chicken personalities!
**I really have no idea what Merlin was thinking, but I think it's a pretty safe bet that I'm pretty close!

I'm hoping this is helpful for all of my fellow chicken owners. If you don't own chickens, though, and are fond of feeding wild birds, this would be a great idea to make for them as well. Have a lovely day, Friends!



  1. You're not off your rocker. That's something I would do, too. I think they are great ideas.

    Your cat is gorgeous, by the way.

    PS--the chicken saddles are all over the internet. I didn't use a pattern perse, but I did go by their dimensions. I still have to do a little fitting for a couple of the girls, as they prefer to wear them over the shoulder instead of on their backs!

    1. Thank you so much Jocelyn, for getting back to me. I scoured the internet for patterns, and found a few. I'm going to start as soon as I'm able to on making them. I've got at least 2 ladies with bald spots started, so they'll be the first fashionistas! Blessings, Kelly

  2. HI Kelly,
    I don't have chickens, but I do like that flock block. That would be a good idea for the birds here in wintertime, so they can find food. My friend Linda, over at Prairie Flower Farm blog has chickens...and she might have some helpful advice for you. You're nice to make them special treats, and I"m sure little kitty would have wanted to help with quality control :) :) My dog Rosie, would be the same way. She has to sample everything :) :) Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather :)

    1. Hi Heather! Nice to hear from you again. I love feed the birds around our home. I have 3 feeders hung around in the yard in various spots. My younger son made pinecones spread with peanut better and birdseed and a suet feeder for Christmas, so they are hanging on our big evergreen tree in the front yard.
      And don't let my kitty cat fool you, she is spoiled with a capital S! She gets treats every day! Blessings, Kelly

  3. What a great idea. I saw this as a pin on Pinterest, and I can't wait to try it! Our chickens (we only have two) are BFFs so I hope they don't peck each other!

    <3 Alisha from

  4. If you have squirrel problems like us add cayenne pepper to your mix. The birds don't have the receptors for hot and squirrels do!

    1. Thanks for sharing that Rose! We've never really had squirrels around our property, but I've seen mice tracks around the run. I wonder if it would work for them, too?

  5. We had an awful problem with pecking and picking a few years ago and I had a couple chickens die and a coop full of naked chickens. A lot of people say it's diet but I believe it's boredom and I also think that Rhode Island Reds (not sure if that's what you have) are more prone to it. Anyway if it's still a problem you could try this...

    I haven't had a problem with pecking but I'd like to make something to keep them occupied while they're cooped up (I'm so witty) this Winter. I'm going to try your homemade flock block. Thanks!

    1. Karla, thanks for stopping by! Last year we only had the "Big Girls", and they are a mixed flock. And there are 3 Reds, but one of them was one of the victims! I'll check out those pinless peepers if we have trouble this winter. Thank you for sharing!

  6. You can also just hang a head of cabbage in coop not very expensive at all.

  7. I have 9 chickens & 9 ducks and am taking care of a friends chickens while they are on vacation. I am going to make some flock blocks. Was just wondering about using a 9 x 13 pan. I am sure it will work I will grease it then use parchment paper. Just a thought, it might work. Thanks for the recipe

  8. I going to make you flock blocks but because you noted that your's broke, I'm going to put a hole on each end. I'm also going to use chicken scratch feed instead of bird seed because that's what I have on hand. Thanks for the recipe.

  9. I'm sharing this on FB now...I would love if you would come link up to the From the Farm blog hop that started just yesteday!
    Fresh Eggs Daily

  10. We haven't had pecking problems but I do give them things to do during the winter. I have a bird treat holder that I hang in the coop and stuff with greens, fruit, sprouted bean, etc during the winter. You can also use an old berry container (plastic boxes with holes in them) and put small treats in it so that it will take them awhile to get them out.

  11. Just wondering about your "chicken math". How many birds in how much space. I added to my flock and want to prevent overcrowding issues. Mine have daytime free choice of coop and run combo with several towers and ladders to fly up into. My crew is 6 hens and a roo with a floor space of about 20 sf coop and about 84 sf run.

  12. Awesome! I am going to make this for my sweet chicks. :)

  13. To Kelly: To keep mice wayou: mice do not like mint fresh or dry. They also do not like balsam fir, possibly needles or ground branches.
    You also might want to check out herbs for chickens in their nest

  14. To Kelly: To keep mice wayou: mice do not like mint fresh or dry. They also do not like balsam fir, possibly needles or ground branches.
    You also might want to check out herbs for chickens in their nest

  15. Great recipe and I love your sense of humor!