I've reduced the flock to three hens and a rooster now. The three hens will provide all the eggs Cliff and I can eat, and the rooster gives me the satisfaction of hearing a rooster crow in the morning; plus the fun of watching him lie to the ladies, telling them he's responsible for every tidbit of food that goes into their pretty little beaks.
If I were pushing for maximum production, none of these birds would be here: They're all past their prime. Of course, "prime" when you're talking about laying hens, is anything over a year old. Also, the rooster wouldn't be here, since he contributes nothing toward production of eggs. But I don't need to justify what I'm doing with chickens. They're a hobby, pure and simple. Now that I think about it, I justify very few things in life.
As fate would have it, each of the three hens lays a different-colored egg, so I know exactly who is working and who is not: The white hen I inherited from a neighbor (I call her Whitie) lays white eggs, and does a respectable job of it. She's my most prolific egg-producer. Mama Hen, my "settin' hen", is next runner-up in production and gives me brown eggs. And Chickie, the Araucana, is the least productive and lays blue-green eggs. She probably lays one egg for every two the white hen gives me and goes into molt earliest in fall. Although so far, Mama Hen is the only one who has not given me an egg this season. But eggs are cheap in the store. I don't care how productive the girls are.
I have lately encountered a problem with Chickie. (To read her life story, click HERE. Go ahead, I'll wait.) Chickie spends the nights, not on the roost, but high above on one of the rafters in the hen house. After I traded for Mr. Rooster, another Araucana, he decided that was a great idea and started roosting up there too. Then Whitie, the leghorn, joined them, leaving nobody but Mama Hen below on the actual roost. I guess her flying skills aren't as well-developed.
At this point, Chickie decided enough is enough and began roosting alone on the opposite rafter. She was raised in a box alone with nothing but her own reflection in a mirror for company, so I guess she took after her mother (me) and became a loner. I don't really care where they spend the night, but eventually she decided the perfect place to roost was right over the feeder that was hanging from the rafter.
Chickens poop often, even while they're roosting at night. Chickie's poop was now falling right into the food supply.
Actually, the chickens didn't seem to mind. But I did!
I noticed Chickie always roosted in the same spot, studied the situation, and decided the
problem could be remedied by simply moving the feeder to a different place below the rafter, so I did that.
Chickie moved too. I have no idea what was going on in her feathered little brain, but she followed the feeder, continuing to poop in her own food.
I finally decided to cut a gallon milk jug open and place it snugly on Chickie's rafter near the wire suspending the feeder. She certainly wouldn't be able to roost on the plastic, and might even be a little afraid of it.
Last night was the first night with the milk carton in place; at dusk I went out to see where Chickie was roosting. Unfortunately, I didn't think to take a picture. But as I created this entry, I decided to go to the chicken house and take a picture so my readers could truly enjoy my success with me.
Success is sweet.