When chickens are mentioned, people think about eggs. There’s much more to chickens. Chickens love tomato hornworms and other delicacies people would rather weren’t around.
Tomato hornworms are the caterpillars of a large sphinx moth. These show up around dark to visit night blooming flowers like Datura and mullein. They lay their eggs on tomato leaves.
By the time I usually notice tomato hornworms, they are four to six inch monsters. Only experienced chickens love tomato hornworms this large.
Younger chickens need tempting with the two inch and under worms. Once they get a taste for these treats, they will tackle bigger ones.
Size does matter to chickens. Mine love mice. Any mouse that dares to appear in the hen house or yard becomes dinner.
The other day one of my standard cochins caught a mole. The flock knew it was good to eat. It was too big for them to tear apart.
Another delicacy for chickens is a Japanese beetle. They will leap up to snag the beetles off leaves of the wild grape vine on their fence. Wild grapes are a catch crop for the beetles. The chickens are the disposal end.
At times it’s tempting to let the chickens find the hornworms themselves. That notion stops as soon as a spoiled tomato is dropped into the chicken yard.
Chickens love tomato hornworms, true. They love tomatoes even more.
These birds also love earthworms, grubs and other soil denizens. In the garden mulch and dirt fly as they scratch their way along looking for edibles.
My garden fence doesn’t deter woodchucks, raccoons or opossums. It does keep the chickens out. That leaves me searching for the tomato hornworms.
Since I am the one who delivers hornworms, grubs and spoiled tomatoes, the chickens keep an eye on me. Yes, chickens love tomato hornworms, but they love food offerings of many kinds. They cluster in my vicinity waiting.
Chickens are great first homesteading livestock as Hazel finds out in “Mistaken Promises“.