Living with livestock can be a battle of wits and sometimes I suspect that I am not as well armed as my opponents. It can be a challenge to set everything up in such a way as to encourage them to behave in the manner I wish them to. There is really no point in talking about what is “natural” for any of our livestock. They have been bred for countless generations to perform a certain function and they would no longer survive in a wild setting. A modern milk animal would be prone to severe udder problems, metabolic issues, and overfeeding its offspring if not carefully managed. A wild chicken does not lay eggs year round, nor do they grow to such sizes as our domestic birds. Even heritage breeds, while definitely more like their wild ancestors than our more modern animals, are still much less likely to survive without human intervention.
My latest quandary is how to keep my hens from laying eggs in the goat feeder. Hens are creatures of habit for the most part and generally stick to laying in the same spot, but it seems like there is always a rebel in the flock. The goat feeder must seem like a wonderful, hay filled nest. It’s very close to the actual nest boxes since the hen-house is part of the goat shed. I don’t have any issues with eggs in the goat feeder when I’m feeding prickly alfalfa hay, but when I switch over to grass hay, the trouble begins. I have to carefully search through the bottom of the feeder because the goats often cover the eggs with hay in their search for the best bits.
Like a chess player in a tournament, I am carefully considering my strategy for making this problem less likely. Screening off the goat feeder is obviously not an option and I don’t always have alfalfa hay. The door to the hen-house is in the goat shed, which means they go in there to get to the feed. This makes the goat feeder a convenient place to pop in and lay an egg on the way back outside. I think if I break that traffic pattern, the lazy girls are less likely to lay there. Moving the exit outside the goat shed will require some other adjustments. The feed tub is sitting in front of the outside door so I am going to have to figure out a different place to put it. I have some ideas on that as well.
As with everything in life, I can have one of two attitudes about these little snags. They can be a source of irritation and frustration, or they can be an enjoyable puzzle. I try my best to see them as the latter and most of the time I succeed. This particular challenge is actually a blessing. By shutting the hens out of the goat shed, I’m preventing later problems with baby goats getting into the chicken feed.
Maybe I have more ammunition than I thought….