Avian Aqua Miser: Automatic, poop-free chicken waterers

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Chickens enjoy jewelweed seeds


Jewelweed seedpodWe left a big patch of jewelweed growing behind the trailer this summer because a hummingbird had claimed it as her property.  At every meal, we enjoyed watching her sipping nectar from the orange blossoms, then flying to a nearby trellis to guard her patch from interlopers.

As the weather cooled, though, the flowers must have stopped producing.  Even though a few blooms hung on, the hummingbird only made an occasional appearance by the third week in September, so Mark decided to clean up the area as he passed by with his weedeater.

Half an hour later, our free range chicks were going crazy scratching and pecking amid the jewelweed debris.  What were they eating?

Chicks eating jewelweed

Jewelweed seedA search of the internet suggested that jewelweed seeds are edible, not only to chickens (and rabbits and deer), but also to humans.  "Touch-me-not" is another name for jewelweed because the pods spring open when touched, sending seeds in every direction, so you have to be careful if you want to harvest them.  For my taste test, I captured a seed pod in my hand and squeezed lightly until it popped open.

Jewelweed flowerThe seeds are larger than I would have thought, perhaps a third of the size of a pine nut.  I've read that jewelweed seeds are tastiest when fully mature and brown, but most of the ones I found were still green.  They are reported to taste like a walnut, but I felt they had a bit of a puckery tang of a pecan shell (perhaps because they weren't fully ripe).

Our chickens didn't seem to mind the puckeriness, though, making me think that jewelweed would be a good plant to encourage in shady, damp spots in the forest pasture.  Yet another wild food to add to the list of chicken favorites.

Our chicken waterer provides clean, refreshing drinks in between our flock's forays into the wild.

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