Madman and I have a loose system for chores - last one out in the morning feeds the critters, first one home feeds the critters. Our schedules vary enough that we both get tagged, though admittedly he gets stuck more often than I do. (On the other hand, there was an 18 month stretch where he worked out-of-state for 5 days a week, and I tended everything the days he was gone.) Back in the days when we only had chickens, chores only took a few minutes. But these days, with rabbits, sheep, and chickens, the time necessary to get them all fed and watered can really add up - especially now that cold weather is here, and waterers are frozen solid and have to be either thawed or swapped out.
We'd moved this year's young chickens in with the main flock so there was only one group of chickens to feed. (Though, we've had to pull one older hen out and isolate her. She's an egg-eater. And she's not laying. She'll go into the freezer the next time we have a day off together and can do the deed. It's all about being a team-player, ya see.) We've got two chicken waterers, so in cold weather we have one thawing while the other one is watering.
Today was my day off, so my turn to do both morning and afternoon chores. I fed and watered sheep, fed rabbits and switched their waterers, fed and watered Miss Future-Stew, then headed for the main chicken coop. After filling their feed and water, I started rummaging through nest boxes, looking for eggs. Every box seemed to have a chicken in it this morning - which is good news, since it means egg production is going up. (They're just coming out of molt, when they hardly laid any eggs at all. We were getting 3 eggs a day from 15 hens. Not good.) The chicken coop is fairly dark, so I've always left the door open so I could see into the nest boxes. (Not every round light-colored thing in a nest box is an egg. Sometimes it's a big clump of chicken poop. It's good to know that before you pick it up...) It has never occurred to our 'senior' chickens to go out that door - after all, everything they want in life is in that coop. Food. Water. The companionship of the flock. And they have a perfectly good little chicken-sized door for going out if they want. The big door is for Mom and Dad, the little door is for chickens.
Not the new girls, however. When I turned from the last nest box, with a handful of eggs, I saw 3 of the little biddies standing in a group just outside the door.
When I was done gasping (and trust me, taking care of livestock will leave you gasping more often than you would think. Worse than kids.) I moved quickly, but don't-panic-the-chickens quickly, to head them off. Luckily, chickens are indecisive creatures. They were still in "Okay. Now what?" mode when I scooped them up as a unit and stuffed them back into the coop. (And without breaking my handful of eggs, I might add.)
Now, that was a relief. The prospect of chasing chickens around the yard had flashed before my eyes. Add to that, the fact that I would have had to leave the coop door open in order to get them back in, meanwhile the chickens who were in the coop would have gotten curious about the commotion outside the coop, and would have come out to see what was going on. (Chickens are very curious creatures. And stupid. Curiousity and Stupidity are a really bad combination.)
I had a mental picture of spending my morning putting one chicken in the coop while two more got out. Sort of like a video game for the truly masochistic...