In my experience, just as you think you've got the whole chicken keeper thing nailed, they decide to throw you a curve ball. You can almost time it to the minute. The moment the thought 'Ah, I think I've got this just right' enters your head you are practically begging them to cause mayhem. I'm beginning to wonder if they have some psychic abilities.
The feeder in the Palace run holds 3kg of feed. During the winter months, I might only need to fill it twice a week. However, once the girls are in full lay it generally needs filling every other day. A chicken that is making eggs needs more fuel, so it's not surprising. Yet it is quite surprising when 3kg of feed disappears from the feeder within 12 hours. The first time this happened last week, I began to mildly panic. I have never had a rodent problem and I'd very much like to keep it that way. I could all too easily imagine a family of sleek tailed rats sitting around the feeder discussing whatever rat families discuss while stuffing their chubby chops. Careful examination thankfully revealed a carpet of pellets under the feeder. I'm no rat expert, but I'm assuming that they would eat the feed, not redecorate the floor with it. Which brought my suspicions back to the feathery fiends.
I refilled the feeder and watched the hens on and off all day, waiting to see which one of the little darlings was playing with their food. Under scrutiny, hens tend to be on their best behaviour. So I saw nothing except dainty pecking and polite noshing. Hmm. Deciding it was a weird one off, I forgot about it. Until this morning. Because yesterday I definitely refilled the feeder, and this morning it is empty. The feed is all over the floor. Lovely.
As I don't know who the culprit is, and it's a fairly new habit, I've decided to nip it in the bud. I've ordered a new feeder with slats across the dish part. The theory is that the naughty hen will be discouraged from digging by the lack of room. Well, that's the theory anyway. As the feed from yesterday is all over the floor, I am not rushing to refill the feeder today. This makes me feel a little guilty, and also like a parent disciplining a naughty child.
They won't be going to bed without any supper, though.