Olive Picking, for the Chickens October 25, 2015

In my neighborhood, olive trees are a pretty common landscaping tree. They’re in many parks and backyards, dropping olives, staining sidewalks and shoes, and making a general mess.  Olive picking sounds like fun, but you don’t know pain until you’ve sprained an ankle on a slimy olive pit, slid down the sidewalk, and been dumped unceremoniously into the gutter across the street from an elementary school full of children who think your acrobatics were hilarious.

The trees produce prolifically, so you end up with little olive trees, everywhere.  Walking around the neighborhood, the olives on the ground seem like a waste: the olives are everywhere, and no one wants them! I’ve always wanted to try harvesting and curing some olives–Why not today? There are many types of olives, some are more edible than others, but even the “icky,” less palatable, ornamental olives would be a good treat for my flock. Easy peasy, right?  All I need is a rake, and a bucket, and some minions.

So we went olive picking, for the chickens.

Sure, for the chickens.

olive picking season: tree full of olives

This is what olive season looks like!

It isn’t uncommon to see fallen olives on the street or sidewalks in my neighborhood, and they seem to be well picked over by  the wild birds.  While uncured olives are bitter, they aren’t toxic to birds.  However, to be safe I wanted to make sure my hens didn’t eat the pits before I fed them a large number of olives: I was worried about them developing an impacted crop, or possibly creating a blockage in their digestive tract.  To make sure they were only eating the fleshy part of the olives, I threw just a few handfuls of olives into the coop.  When I came out to check later, there were pits on the ground, picked clean.

Excellent: time for olive picking!

I packed up the family and went to a local park, which used to be an olive orchard.

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Clearly, everyone was as excited about family time as I was.

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Turns out, all I had to do was let the boys shake and rake the trees to get them to show some enthusiasm about olive picking.

Who knew boys would love destruction so much?

“Good” olives went into one bucket, “chicken” olives went into another.  I did much of the ground clean up myself, and couldn’t help but wonder if this is how my hens felt when free ranging.

Olive? Yes. Olive? No.

olive picking for chickens

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As this is my first attempt curing olives, I didn’t need too many for my own purposes.  There were other families out olive pickin’, so I raked under the trees, to make it easier for them to gather their own “good” olives for curing.  We ended up with about one 5-gallon bucket of olives for the chickens and half a bucket for me, for a total of a half hour of work.

Then the test: would the flock appreciate our efforts?

There was some initial interest:

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More investigation.  Clearly, new things are scary.

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Would you like an olive?

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What about you, Sir?

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Since when is my flock picky? I went olive pickin’ just for them!

Anyone?  Bueller? Bueller?

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After I stopped chasing them around, the chickens dove right in to the bowl of olives.  In retrospect, it would appear the flock didn’t appreciate me standing over the bowl, waving the camera at them.  This hen was very protective of the olives, once she had tried a few.

O-live her stink-eye.

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Ehhh?  Eeeeehhhh?

Olives take a while to cure, so I am not sure how that part of the olive picking experiment will go. However, if they do end up being **icky**  I can feed them to the hens. (Prior to salt curing, as excess salt is not good for chickens.)

On a final note: I did spend some time watching the hens to make sure no one was trying to eat the olive pits.   In general, the hens grabbed an olive, ran off into a corner, and then picked off all of the flesh.  The next day, there were pits all over the coop and run, and quite a few chickens with purple-stained feathers, but no one seemed to have any crop issues.

3 Comments
Snoskred October 25th, 2015

Chickens can be so hilarious. 🙂 Mine are feasting on blueberries these past couple of weeks, we are having such an amazing blueberry season here. It is actually cheaper than buying them greens at the moment..

I was surprised at the chook frenzy that blueberries created.. they are taking them straight from my hands, which is a bit unusual. And lately anytime I go out in the yard, I have a pack of enthusiastic followers anywhere I go, even without the treat bowl in one hand.

Happy moments!

joyce October 27th, 2015

Do you know what kind of olive trees these are? These olives look like some from my childhood and I have been searching everywhere; I have been craving them for a long time now…
Thanks

Laree October 28th, 2015

Unfortunately, I do not. I assume they are several different types, as there are many varieties used in my area for landscaping. They could be Mission, Mervrelia, or Manzanillo– or others.

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