Lesson 960 – Chickens and Cowboy Stew

Although this might look like a nicely plated entrée from a fancy restaurant it is not.


It is the leftovers of our dinners waiting to be fed to our chickens.

For one month, years ago, I weighed every scrap of uneaten good food (things like potato peels didn’t count) that our family of 8 didn’t eat. Food pushed to the side of the plate, uneaten and forgotten leftovers, and food that had “accidentally” fallen on the floor went into a scale bucket. For the entire month we ate our dinners with that large silver scale staring us down from the middle of our dining table.

My plan was to teach my kids a lesson about wasting food.

At first, the kids were amused, they even made offers to help clean off each others plates.

But nothing could have helped the “Cowboy stew situation” when I ended up adding some leftover ricotta to baked beans, potatoes, and hamburger (in order to use it up from the fridge) ending up with a dish that although tasted fine, looked like something you would find in the yard after your dog had gotten into the Thanksgiving turkey.

Even I couldn’t eat that one.

And so the contents of that dish went into the scale bucket and helped bring our monthly total to a little over 20 pounds.

That was 20 pounds of good (with that one exception) food that *could* have been eaten but which we chose not to eat. It was an eye opener for us all.

And it was the reason I initially got our chickens. I had a reader contact me after the column on that experiment ran who told me that she never threw away food because all of her kitchen scraps went to feed her chickens. The ultimate in recycling, she said.

She offered us 9 newly hatched chickens and I said “yes.” And that’s how it all started. I got chickens as a way to continue teaching my kids about our world. And I haven’t regretted my decision for a second.

I have a chicken class coming up next week in our town. I’m excited that there are still locals who are interested in getting chickens. I even talked to a friend at a party recently who was on the fence about chickens. “Oh get them,” I advised her. “You won’t be sorry.”

Because not only are chickens good company, not only do they provide you eggs, but chickens, will never (and I mean never) turn their noses up at a dinner recipe gone wrong now called “Mom’s Disgusting Cowboy Stew.”


Wendy Thomas writes about the lessons learned while raising children and chickens in New Hampshire. Contact her at Wendy@SimpleThrift.com

Also, join me on Facebook to find out more about the flock (children and chickens) and see some pretty funny chicken jokes, photos of tiny houses, and even a recipe or two.

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Filed under Backyard Chickens, chicken care, Chicks, Holidays, Inspiration, Life Lessons, Personal, Quotable Chicks, The Family

5 responses to “Lesson 960 – Chickens and Cowboy Stew

  1. I hate to tell you this, but out here in the Pacific Northwest, we have critters called “slugs.” Once in a while, our chickens eat a little slug (and then make a face — don’t ask me how I know a chicken is making a “ewww, nasteeee” face, but I can tell. However, our neighbor’s ducks go “Slugs, slugs, yum, yum, yum.” Takes all kinds.

    • Wendy Thomas

      I don’t know, I think some of my kids would have preferred slugs over that Cowboy Stew. 🙂


      On Mon, Feb 10, 2014 at 12:39 PM, Lessons Learned from the Flock wrote:


      • While not up to your standards, it just snowed a couple of days ago. So the local children can’t scream in joy, “The slugs are back! The slugs are back!” As soon as they hatch, I will send you some slugs. Your kids can do a blind tasting comparison. I am a very empirical science minded person. Also, quite humor deficient.

  2. Pingback: Lesson 962 – Those darn UK chickens | Lessons Learned from the Flock

  3. Pingback: Lesson 1257 – A little bit of love via alchemy | Lessons Learned from the Flock

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