My husband says I need to share a story with you about the personalities my hens have developed. There are a few details necessary to describe the comical behaviors that have transpired.
Sometime during the winter months, I got sick of feeding the birds. I had just had a baby in April of 2015, & felt like I was running around with my hair on fire trying to get everything done for my children, let alone the birds. I asked for some help from my sister, who did help for a time but got bored of it, stopped feeding them & didn't tell me. The chickens went for about a week without food, and as most animals will do when they are being starved, they will try to escape their confinement. Mine succeeded.
They succeeded so well in fact, that they ripped the chicken wire up from the floor boards in specific areas & created new nesting areas for themselves between the wire & the exterior walls. So even though they escaped, they would return to these areas and lay their eggs behind the wire where humans and most animals couldn't get to them. I was actually quite impressed, after I got over the irritation of realizing they had ruined the coop and that I couldn't reach their eggs.
Over the last several months I have slowly re-trained them where I want them to lay. The birds & I have come to a compromise after several go rounds of them vandalizing the chicken coops. I won't lock them up, as long as they lay their eggs where I want them to. This compromise works well for us, the birds are able to go forage for themselves & I don't have to feed them on such a concrete schedule. In exchange for their freedoms, I have trained them to lay their eggs in 1 of 2 places, and of course there is always that 1 bird that must be contrary and still tries to lay her eggs where she wants and not where I would like. 1 out of 14 is not too bad though so I let her slide.
The places I have coached them into laying in are:
- An old water tank that no longer does it's intended job correctly. I have filled this tank approximately 1/2 full with hay and "seeded" the nests with fake eggs to guide the birds towards laying there.
- The tank is large enough for all of my hens to fit in side without touching while laying at the same time if they chose
- The walls of the tank are tall enough that our German shepherd cannot reach the eggs to hand them down to the yellow mutt.
- I've placed boards over the top of the tank except in key places to discourage scavengers such as raccoons, opossums, skunks & other chickens from raiding the nests.
- An old white plastic milk house sink, stuffed with hay about half-way up & fake eggs seeding the nest. This location has been placed inside of the second hen house with the door closed and the walls re-secured on the first hen house that they all destroyed so they had to find new spots to lay.
What I have actually found interestingly enough, is that I have 7 who prefer the white sink, and will lay all of their eggs at the same time. 4 of them will sit down facing each other so their butts are in the corners, and chitter chat at each other. It's almost like they are sitting there gossiping and talking about each other. "Oh my GOSH!!! Did you see how ruffled Stella was after Foghorn got done with her? Oh! He's such an animal! I wish Heidi would butcher him and get it over with! The way he uses those spurs on us while breeding is just INHUMANE!" bahaha.
Then you have the other half of the flock, who prefers to do their laying in private. And I mean as private as it gets. They all lay their eggs separately, under cover of darkness (under the boards) & no one talks to each other. They will wait in line to use the water tank, but no one jumps up early to watch, and if I happen to walk in during one of them laying, it offends her so much she will not lay her egg that day, or if she does, it isn't until LONG after I've gone. If someone starts pinching, they will fall back on the 55-gallon trash barrels I have throughout the barn. Their preferred ones are those with paper feed sacks in the bottom, but really it just comes down to whether they need the extra over-flow nests or not.
When I chose to purchase chickens, I had no idea there would be so many personalities and temperaments involved!! It's like a tiny soap opera down there in the barn! A friend of the family laughed and suggested I call the chicken drama "As the egg turns", and it probably isn't a bad idea, but I'm not sure anyone would actually get as much of a kick out of the chicken drama as I do.