The nightly mollusc hunt

As previously reported our garden is relatively mollusc-free. The chickens see to this around most of the place and the fruit cage has some resident frogs and toads which do the job in there. Chickens are not allowed in the fruit cage because as well as eating slugs and snails, they also love soft fruit and, I’m sorry to say, frogs. Since we don’t want our predators eating our other predators, we keep them apart as much as possible.

So, why would we be conducting a mollusc hunt ourselves each night?

Well, with our new use of the area in front of the house, we now have a productive place without anything guarding against those pesky devourers of vegetables. So, I was unsurprised to discover potato tops eaten down to the stalks and lettuce seedlings disappearing every night. As I have mentioned before, we are trying to cut down on the feed brought in for the chickens and, to this end, it seems a waste simply to kill the snails and slugs and not make use of them. As they say in permaculture… “every problem is a solution”. So our molluscs are just a source of chicken food in the wrong place for use. The solution? Transport this food to the right place. This means that when it has gone dark, you can find us out the front of the house with our torches and an old plastic take-away container gathering a ‘harvest’.

I’m sure that any neighbours who look out of their windows at this time of night just have their suspicions confirmed that we are completely bonkers. After all, we are the people who ask them to give us their grass clippings, boil our water in a Kelly kettle, keep chickens (which have been known to escape and wander around out the front of the house) and now grow vegetables in containers and a dumpy bag in the drive. This cannot be considered normal behaviour, so the two of us rooting around in our drive with torches at 10pm is probably just par for the course. Don’t get me wrong… they are kind to us, but perhaps they see it as care in the community!

Then yesterday we found another unexpected source of food for hens. It’s now time for harvesting potatoes… last night for dinner we wanted salad with new potatoes straight out of the garden. So, one of the potato bags was taken round the back for harvesting. I wanted to collect the compost and put it into another container in which I’m going to experiment with pot-grown leeks. We started transferring the compost very carefully so as not to miss any of our harvest. The first harvest, however, was unexpected – slug eggs. These sticky white spheres are easy to spot and make a tasty snack for chickens… which clustered around us as we harvested. We started taking the eggs out in little clumps and putting them on a saucer for the hens, but we decided that we didn’t want to risk contaminating the new pot, so in the end the whole top layer of the compost was transferred onto a bare patch of bed (destined for planting up soon) for the chickens to scratch through and the lower layers of compost (where there were no signs of eggs) were placed in the pot. A very satisfying activity.

Results:

  • slugs and snails converted to hens eggs
  • slugs and snails eggs converted to hens eggs
  • reduced population of adult molluscs = more vegetables for us
  • fewer baby molluscs = smaller population = more vegetables for us
  • reduced feed bill

I think we’re on to a winner.

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3 Comments

  1. The MIL used to have chooks and ducks when the kids were small. They loved going to nannies as she would take a bucket out into the garden with them and they would spend ages picking their way through the agapanthus where snails love to sleep. They would then take their bounty to the chook run and flick the snails through the fence to the ravening hordes.

    No point wasting such juicy morsels, and the vegies will thank you 🙂

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