Friday, May 1, 2009

Bird brains

One thing I remember reading about chickens is that you had to teach them how to roost. When they are baby chicks they sort of sleep in a pile on the floor and that's fine. But you don't want to encourage that because they end up sleeping in piles of poop. When they're big enough to handle it, you put in a roost and train them to use that.

I think we had our birds in the brooder a bit too long (though it couldn't be helped) and they were awfully big to be using the little "training roost" Jeremy built them. It wasn't much different than sleeping on the floor in the end.

So - enter the new coop with nesting boxes and a roost up off the ground where they can all fit comfortably!

The first couple of nights we had to help the chickens get up into the hen house. I would pick them up and put them on the log under the house, then I'd reach through the hole inside and put them inside. I think this showed them how it was done. But then, they just couldn't figure out how to get up to the roost. They ended up sleeping in a pile on the floor.

After a couple nights of this I put some of them up on the roost but it didn't stick. It seemed like they needed an intermediary between the "training roost" and the real thing. Jeremy put in second roost below the first, but that didn't do it. So then I took the whole contraption out and put in a one by four that stretched from the window to the opposite wall. That night I put them on it and it seemed to work. Kind of.

They were trying to crowd so close to each other that chickens kept getting pushed off the roost! Perhaps they were a bit cold and trying to snuggle up a bit.

A couple nights ago one of the Americaunas was distressed. She was wandering around the run squawking. I got her up in the hen house and she kept carrying on. She was looking up like she wanted to be somewhere higher. Then suddenly she flew up and landed on my head! She seemed quite comfortable then.

I got her down and eventually deposited in a nest box, where two other adventurers had lodged for the night.

Last night Jeremy went out and saw all the birds squawking a bit and running around the run. He went out a couple minutes later and they had all made their way up to the hen house and into the nest boxes! I was so proud of our chickens for finally all making it into the hen house without help. Though - we need to work on where they sleep at night still.

They put themselves to bed tonight as well. One on the roost and the rest in the nest boxes. They still like to be crowed together though. There were three in one nest box and five in the other!!

1 comment:

Paul said...

A few things may help (I had roost-averse birds last year):

Provide roosting space indoors and outside to make the idea of roosting more 'normal'.
Provide roosts of different sizes.
A 2x2 is a much easier roost to get used to for jumpy birds than a dowel. It moves less and is easier to balance on.
Move the birds to the roost after they fall asleep at night. Sleeping chickens are comically lazy and may stay on the bar.