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Dumpstered Chook Treats

Dumpstered Chook Treats

Having a baby really cut into my dumpster diving, and not for the reasons you’d think. It’s no biggie to leave her home with dad, whilst me and my dumpster-lovin’ girlfriends go dive. But, unfortunately, dumpster diving degrades our diet.

Everything changes when you have a baby. I didn’t used to care so much about the quality of food I put in my body and fed those around me. I mean, I cared, more than most I guess, but saving perfectly good food from the waste stream (waste flood would be more accurate) trumped the healthfulness. I would try to buy organic, when I was buying, and then happily consume all those pesticides, antibiotics, additives, etc, when I “shopped” the trash.

Then I got pregnant. Polluting the tiny, fresh life growing in my belly didn’t seem worth the earth-saving trash rescue. Now I have a baby outside and a baby inside. Such clean slates. We eat 90% organic and/or wild food. We don’t have tons of extra cash laying around, but I afford it by buying all my organic staples in bulk, doing all the subsistence gathering I can (all our meat and fish is local and wild) and buying almost no pre-prepared foods. I make just about everything from scratch, including all of our bread, granola, even organic ice cream, to satisfy our very sweet teeth.

That said, I’ve recently had renewed interest in the dumpster as a source of treats for my good egg laying girls. When my hens finally started laying, my lackadaisical chicken care took a leap for the better. Hard not to appreciate them more when they’re giving me all their unborn children…

I had long since run out of my 5 gallons of dried carrot tops (which worked by the way, they did seem to eat them), and my frozen salmonberry seed ice-cubesicles ( a by-product of summer juice making). Chook treats were down to a scoop of barley and a handful of crumbled dried seaweed plus whatever meager days worth of veggie scraps.

The good grocery store in town, the one run by locals, the one with a surprisingly large selection of organic stuff, and a dumpster hardly worth diving, agreed to save me lettuce and cabbage leaves. But there wasn’t much. Not enough.

The evil grocery store, the one run by some big conglomerate, who’s policy actually includes never for any reason giving away expired produce, the one who’s dumpster is perpetually full of piles and bags and boxes of still perfectly good food, was beckoning.

The other night, while hubby dutifully put the baby to sleep, I thought I’d just pop down there by myself. I almost never go dumpstering alone. Mostly I’m paranoid. It’s freaky to have your head down in a dumpster with no one on watch. Especially this dumpster, which is surrounded (I kid you not) by it’s very own 12 foot tall barbed wire fence, who’s gate they only occasionally lock. Go figure. But also it’s just a pain in the ass getting stuff out with no one to hand it to.

I should have called a friend. But I just wanted to run down real quick, look on top for produce, not hunt for junk food I shouldn’t eat.

Why, why do I never learn?

The Big D was stuffed to the gills with milk (some of which was organic!), half and half, canned tomatoes, boxes of granola bars and organic oreos, bags of carrots, apples, lettuce, and a whole heap of corn on the cob! Being pregnant, I couldn’t lean down and fish stuff out. There was no getting around it, I had to go in. Getting all that crap out and into the car as fast as I could was a work-out. Actually I left a lot. But still came home with four giant boxes of goodies (and baddies– I hope nobody pays real money for those “O” brand organic oreos).

So my feathered ladies have been happily getting fat on genetically modified corn for days. The grapes they adored. The carrots they’re not touching, too hard I guess. I’m sure this degrades the quality of my eggs, but c’mon. I gotta draw the worry line somewhere.

I read on Ghost Town Farm, one of my favorite homesteading blogs, about raising pigs on largely dumpstered food. That’s inspiring. I’d like to see lots more about raising food animals on dumpsters. It seems a sound urban waste tactic.

While you’re thinkin’ on that, here’s what to do with those 8 boxes of weird tasting fake oreos—

Cookies n’ Coffee Ice Cream

(True you have to have an ice cream maker for this, how extremely un-ludite)

½ c. espresso or strong as possible coffee

½ c. sugar

1 ¼ c. dumpstered half and half

½ c. heavy cream

2 t. vanilla

1 c. crushed crappy fake oreos

Put the cookies in the freezer first thing so that they’re frozen by the time you need ‘em.

Brew the coffee, mix in the sugar till dissolved and set out in the snow, or in your fridge to cool.

When the coffee is completely cold, mix in the dairy and vanilla and pour into your ice cream maker. Freeze as directed. When the soft ice cream stage is reached, stir in the cookies and freeze till hard. You could eat it right at the soft stage of course, you can eat it whenever the hell you want, but it’s better when the cookies have a chance to suck in a little ice cream.


A dear and old friend of mine, quite computer savvy herself but still with a good grasp of what it’s like not to be, just pointed out the lack of commentables on this blog.


Seems I had the default comment setting on No Comments Allowed.

Otherwise she would have been able to post her comment to my last blog saying, “But I don’t have any dirt that’s not frozen into one solid-ass popsicle! And since all my vegetables are coming pre-trimmed out of my freezer from last summer’s garden, I don’t have much in the way of scraps either.” She even admitted to buying her poor chooks, currently laying right through the -20 degree weather in her unnamed city, a head of iceburg lettuce. (As it was, she was forced to call me with these comments. On the phone.)

So here’s my advice for anyone in a similar situation. If you’re buying iceburg lettuce, you really need to be sprouting! And you don’t need garden dirt to do it! Sprouting is so easy, and so cheap. Makes good green food for both chooks and folks alike.

Go on down to your local feed store and get some whole oats,  barley or wheat. A mix is fine too. Simply fill a big jar one quarter full of grain and then half full of water. Let sit overnight, then pour out into a colander to drain. Keep the colander on a plate or in your dishrack and rinse thoroughly once or twice a day. Any grain will work, though different grains take different lengths of time to sprout. And you’re not making long, green sprouts like the alfalfa ones at the store– these will just have a little white stub of root poking out. But they’re still a living food, and very nutritious. In 3-5 days, when the little pokey out part is 1/4 – 1/2 inch long, feed to your hungry chooks!

If you don’t want to keep a colander tied up, get a little sprouting lid. They screw right onto a wide-mouth Mason jar, so you can drain the jar. Then you just have to leave it upside down so it can drain, like in your dishrack. Get 4 of these going and your chooks can eat fresh sprouts every day!

For a more sophisticated set up, see Harvey Ussary’s great site, The Modern Homestead.

And anyway, I’ve been wondering…. I’m assuming the garden dirt I’m giving my chooks with their sprouts works as their grit, but does it really? It’s almost all fine material, like sand and smaller. Do they need bigger pieces of rock? Anyone? Anyone?

It’s mid-December. Nothing green in sight. But my chooks are eating fresh live food– sprouted barley!

I didn’t make this up, I read it on Harvey Ussary’s great site, The Modern Homestead. He has lots of good chicken info, and not just your standard stuff either. He really encourages you to mix your own feed and stop putting industry waste into your chickens (and thus yourself). But he also thinks chooks need live food, so he sprouts grain and even raises earthworms.

Although it sounds pretty posh-yuppie to feed your chooks sprouts, Harvey maintains that nothing is more natural, because left to their own devices chooks hunt down fallen seeds on the ground which are often sprouted.

On his site he explains how he does it– with a lot of buckets and schedules. Which would be important if you had a big flock. But I just have 6 hens, and not a lot of extra time. The way I’ve been doing it works almost as well with almost zero extra effort.

chook-bucketIf you have chickens, you already have a bucket on your counter for chook scraps.  Step one is complete! Now just get some whole grain from your farm supply store- wheat, barley, oats, or a scratch mix- and hack a bucket of dirt from your frozen garden beds. Put these two in a convenient location. Now next time you empty your chook scrap bucket, throw in a small handful of dirt, and a big handful of grain. Run just a little water into the bucket, sloosh it around till it looks like mud. Then just leave the bucket on your counter and proceed as usual. When the bucket’s full, or once every few days, go feed your chooks their fresh rations: veggie scraps, sprouted grain, and the dirt they love!

sprouting-barleyIf you fill your scrap bucket up too fast, and the grain only gets one day, no harm done. Even just soaked grain is more nutritious. Harvey feeds 5 day sprouts, so I guess that’s optimum, but it’s no magic number, any stage of sprouting is more healthful and digestible than dry grain. After 2 or 3 days, the grain is softened and has little rootlets poking out, and certainly tastes better than dry and hard.

If you used my lazy method but left it in the bucket for 5 days it might rot, since it has no drainage. I’m not really sure, cuz my bucket always fills up within 3 days at most. Really you shouldn’t let the veggie scraps sit more than that anyway. But I will say that I think your good healthy garden dirt would protect some against rot.

One more note about live food in winter: I covered my garden beds with plastic hoop covers this year (known here as “garden condoms”), and so am still harvesting kale and leeks. One unaccounted for benefit is the outer leaves and stems from my kale plants being still available as chicken food. I also, when I pulled my cabbages a month or more ago, I stuck the big outer leaves in a bucket and left it by the coop. It’s been cold enough that they still look freshly picked. Whenever I don’t have anything else, I throw ’em a couple of those.

I ought to say, for the record, I am not yet feeding my chooks the home mixed feed that Harvey recommends. It’s hard enough for me to get decent processed organic feed here, let alone all the seperate components. I do dream of someday…

“It’s a sad and stupid thing to have to proclaim yourself a revolutionary just to be a decent man.”

-David Harris

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