The hens got a couple of home-made "treadle feeders" this week. Much alarm ensued.
The new feeders replace open feeders that had gradually attracted more and more yard birds over the past few years. Chief culprits were the white-crowned sparrows, followed by the (non-native) English or house sparrows, mockingbirds, and scrub jays. The yard birds were getting a sizable portion of the purchased feed, and the available feed was in turn attracting more and more birds, some of which (especially the white-crowned sparrows) are major nuisances in the garden.
Two feeders, one for grain and the other for pellets, have treadles that when stepped on descend and leverage open a counter-balanced board that normally covers the feed compartment. The hen steps off the treadle, it rises and the cover descends.
It took about a week of adaptation for the girls (and Gaspar) to get comfortable with the new system. I tied the cover in the open position for a few days, and then half-way down for a few more days. The moving parts generated much excitement, and the thump of the descending cover emptied the room a number of times. For a while, the chickens seemed to have no perception of cause-and-effect, happy to take advantage of an open feeder but not quite sure why it was open or how to replicate that condition. Quickly, however, they became experts. Hunger is a wonderful motivator.