After almost 3 years as a chicken wrangler, I thought I’d pretty much seen our hens at their best and worst. I know when they are agitated and when they are serene. I know how they react to dusk, dawn, thunder, lightning, hail, snow, sleet, and sunshine. By the way, a leaf rake agitates them a TON more than lightning (they just stand around), or hail (they just keep skritching through the yard), or thunder (not their issue). If they have their basic needs met, they are truly unflappable. (And yes, I DO think “pun intended” there.)
However, one day a few weeks ago, I tried an experiment with their water supply. Since it was such a lovely set of days, I set their 5-gallon gravity-fed water container out in the chicken yard, as opposed to in the actual chicken coop. The girls were out wandering in the chicken yard all day anyway, and they could just swing by the water out in the bright sunlight to sip at their leisure.
At night, as is their wont, they put themselves to bed on the roost in the coop. I always go out at dusk or dark to shut the door to the coop. We’ve never had a problem with predators bothering the hens, but there is a pesky possum (or an ornery opossum – depending what your level of ‘animal labeling puritanism’ is) that comes into the coop and eats the layer pellets.
Rather than move the water back in to the coop, I decided to leave it in the yard and remember to go out first thing and let them back out so they could get a drink early in the morning. Although I DID go out in the morning, it wasn’t first thing, and they’d gotten thirsty without any recourse. One of them had pecked into one of the eggs they’d already laid that morning – I guess thinking there was liquid there. That egg was ruined. This is the only time – except for the deformed eggs that Steve had been laying for quite some time; those also got pecked, but that was because the shell hadn’t been completely formed – that our hens had tampered with the product of their biological imperative.
I betrayed them. They trusted me to care for them. Really, they only ask me for food, water, a place to lay, and a place to sleep. I learned this: CARE for your people, your charges, your tribe, your flock. Commit. And try not to make excuses when you let them down.