Chicken Gleaners

Day 145 of 365

We’re supposed to have our first freeze tonight. Today, while I cleaned the chicken coop, Ron picked any last bits of anything left in the garden. There was not much left. But in the side garden, he got more tomatoes (we had tomatoes everywhere this year) and Brussel sprouts. In the main garden, the only things left were some green tomatoes way up high on the plants and the peppers. Thankfully, the chickens left the peppers.

In the Fall, after the harvest, we let our chickens in the garden, and they become gleaners. It’s fantastic to watch them work. The love, love, love getting in that garden. You can see the joy on their faces when they realize the gates have been opened for them. For two weeks, the chickens have eaten left over lettuces, all of the beet tops, about a million dropped Sun Gold tomatoes–and the cucumbers have been thoroughly abused by chicken beaks.

This process helps us too. First and foremost, the food left in the garden does not go to waste, and the chickens eating fresh veggies all day cuts down on the chicken feed bill, which given the cost of feed right now, is no small thing. But the chickens work magic in the garden. They scratch around. They eat grubs. They poop in the soil. All of these things will help our garden next year. It’s just another way we are so thankful to those birds. Truly, they are partners for us.

When I was finished with the coop, I went to the garden to talk to Ron and get the green beans for seed saving, it was wonderful too see up close what all the chickens had eaten. Ron and I noticed the chickens mostly left the kale. They were kind of eating the bottom leaves, but only because the other stuff was gone–and it wasn’t like they really enjoyed it. Ron loves kale. I do not love kale. I think this kind of breaks his heart, but he was reading some article the other day that said scientists studied babies in the womb to see their reactions to food the mothers ate. It turns out, when the mothers ate kale, the babies made a face like they didn’t like kale either. “Nobody likes kale,” Ron said noticing the chickens had left the kale.

It was so beautiful out there. As I picked the beans for seeds, I took in the melancholy of the garden. Everything is about to go to sleep. That garden has fed us. It has feed four farm share families. It has provided gifts to neighbors and friends. It has fed our chickens and ducks. What a magnificent thing, right?

We eat almost exclusively seasonally and locally. Our weakness is bananas. We just can’t stop eating bananas. But, mostly, the only fresh fruits and vegetables we eat come from our garden or local farms. Now, it’s going to be time for frozen veggies, which is still good, but I still feel a melancholy saying goodbye to the freshness of our garden. There is no food in the world that is so good to me.

And I noticed the chickens, how much they have changed over the course of a summer. My babies are all grown up and just magnificent. I will be sure to get some pictures this week. They are gorgeous birds. Ruby’s babies are fantastic too. And, of course, Beatrice, our little miracle chicken from the miracle egg is getting to be a big girl too. At the beginning of the summer, I lost my Broody Hen, one of my original girls. Yesterday, I lost Phoenix, a bird I hatched myself and watched her grow up and old. Both of these hens died of ovarian cancer. They lived long lives, but there is a price they pay for the eggs they give us.

But I have learned that life goes on on the farm, and it won’t be long now before Piatigorsky will lay her first egg, and I will be so grateful to her. I will do my best to help her live a long and happy and healthy life.

It was a good summer. It was a tough summer. I’m sad it’s over though, one more season put to rest.

But, while I feel sad, I am grateful. I’m going to get my husband back. I lose him to the garden every summer. I lost him extra this summer because of the drought. But he’s been in the house more. He’s writing some, quite a bit actually. Of course, he’s already made sure his wood box in the basement is full, and he made kindling today.

I am very thankful for this life.

3 thoughts on “Chicken Gleaners

  1. A lovely read Crystal!
    I love you and Ron’s heartfelt discription of summers end on the farm. 💗
    I’ve shared Ron’s writing with my daughter and her boyfriend (who is a Mainer, Unity College grad). Remember they bought a farm last year.He loves the farm and is so smart about all he does. He said Ron’s piece was great and that he could definitely relate to it. Now today, I sent YOUR very timely information on gleaning chickens. …… remember the 10 acres of blueberries…. a small apple orchard ( which a baby black bear has been spotted twice this week eating apples in).
    Well my daughter is the chicken Mama, around 30 chickies. The chickens have been eating lots of produce but I love all the pluses of setting them loose in the garden…. so I sent that info to the newbees.
    Anyway… thank you both for sharing your loving connection to Maine, farming and animals. I look forward to your writing each day. 🤗


    1. Oh my gosh! This note makes my night! This does my heart so much good, and I love the thought of your daughter’s chickens getting to glean in such a fantastic garden. Also, that’s so cool your daughter’s boyfriend went to Unity! It has always been such a cool school.


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