Spring Showers Bring…Bugs

160314_DaffodilsThe bugs are here. Tiny gnats, big flies, spiders, moths, even small grasshoppers – the bugs have reappeared after winter’s retreat. Well, maybe winter hasn’t fully retreated yet – there’s snow in the forecast for next Sunday…but it’s also supposed to be 48 degrees. The emergence of bugs means the chickens and ducks will eat as many creeping, crawling creatures as they can catch, and be less reliant on their premade feed. The ducks are worm, tick, and fly-eating machines, too. It’s in their nature: ducks and chickens are omnivorous, and bugs are a great protein source.

A downside to warmer weather and the reappearance of bugs is that most of them seem to bite. In no time, we’ll be sporting welts, bumps, and scabs all over any exposed skin (especially legs) from mosquito bites and other bloodthirsty insects. Other than covering up, which is uncomfortable on really hot and humid days, or spraying yourself down with chemical repellents (no, thanks), the only other option seems to be to resign yourself to suffering some bites. Calamine lotion seems to help the itch temporarily, as does tea tree oil, but some of those bites itch maddeningly, and for a ridiculous length of time.

We’ll have more chickens this summer, so they’ll enjoy eating all those bugs. They really seem to like catching grasshoppers, and we get some monsters out here. Juicy grasshoppers help make tasty eggs! The Muscovies are constantly marching along and looking for edibles, and they delight in snapping up those giant flies that are so numerous in the summer. By free ranging our poultry and waterfowl, they find their own food; aerate, till, and fertilize the ground; and help keep pests under control. What’s not to like about that?