I really love the intersection and overlap between my various interests--like the connection between gardening and cooking or cooking and parenting or...(the list goes on.) But now with the introduction of chickens into my life, I've realized there's yet another hybrid zone of interest I can cultivate--the cross between gardening and chickens. Last week I started thinking, "I wonder what plants I should specifically grow that the chickens would like to eat."
Thanks to the joy of the Internet, a quick search resulted in a great article in Acres USA magazine about plants for poultry (download PDF version here). I learned a lot of interesting facts--like nasturtium (which I've grown for the edible flowers) also being an antiseptic, vermifuge (de-wormer) and insect repellent. But the most interesting discovery was about stinging nettles.
I've always been intrigued by nettles because there are so many delicious pasta recipes calling for them yet they are not exactly commmonplace in the produce section. And now to discover that they are excellent feed for poultry--not only because they are a preventative against worms, because moreso because they stimulate and increase egg production--wow. That's all I needed to read before I was immediately tracking down someplace to buy the seed.
Most of the organic seed companies I usually order from have a pretty diverse and wide-ranging selection but stinging nettle still isn't on the radar for most of them. I ended up tracking it down at Sand Mountain Herbs in Alabama. Yesterday when my order arrived I was delighted to find the seeds in plain brown envelopes with handwritten growing instructions from the owner, Larry Chandler. It was so refreshing to see the absence of "branding" and the evidence of someone actually having taken the time (and care) to personally write information out longhand. It really made my day.
Now I can't wait to plant all these new items for my "poultry garden." And of course I'm also thinking about all the future meals and recipes (for humans!) revolving around nettles. Though I realize the one area where it would be best if my interests didn't overlap is between the stinging nettles and my children. Ouch!