One of our worries about introducing livestock into our garden was which pests we might also be inviting in. We decided from the start we would make a stand against such things, and ordered a rat-proof feeder for our girls.
The premise is simple: the feeder comes with a lid. When a hen approaches the feeder they stand on a platform, this in turn uses a series of levers to open the lid which reveals the food and allows the hen to eat. Even our two bantams should be much heavier than a large rat (a team of large rats might be a different issue - but we would cross that bridge if we ever came to it!).
The manufacturers advise a training schedule for the hens which initially involves holding the lid completely open with some screws so that the chickens learn where to find their food. This was nice and simple, and the chickens thought so too. After a few days they would charge out of the coop each morning and go straight to the feeder for breakfast. On to stage two - and this is where the fun starts!
We moved the screws a little bit lower. The lid is still mostly open, they can still see the food, they can still get to the food, but now when they step on the platform it will move. Not much, maybe a centimetre or two,but enough. This clearly was plenty... the first hen to give it a go jumped a mile! Each one tried it in turn and lots of flapping, the occasional squawk, and plenty of practice running away commenced.
Yet, as the day continued, hunger and necessity kicked in and our clever little girls learnt that if they stand to one side of the platform and stretched their necks enough then they could still eat without any unnecessary panic. Clever? Yes. Useful? No.
Patience was clearly going to be required. To be continued...