Friday, 21 February 2014

Changing things around in a Chicken pen

Our chickens are creatures of habit! They like you to come and take the lids off their food hoppers before 7am (or they let you and the neighbours know you have forgotten), they like to be let out at 3pm when I get home from work and they like to have a treat every time they see you! After all, why else would I be in the yard except to bring treats to my favourite girls? Hanging out the washing? Nah! Not in a chickens world!

I have found that when it comes to changing things, chooks aren't fans of the latest and greatest - no matter how much the husband thinks they will "just love it!"

Some of the chooks were having trouble flying up to the perches we had in the coop and the ones who decided it was too much trouble and roosted on the floor, got pooped on each night. So we lowered the perches. It didn't make a scrap of difference to the ground roosting chookies. So we changed things around...

Here's what we did...

First - we cut a new entrance hole level with the roosting perches inside. They were interested but not going to use it.

So (under the supervision of the dog) the husband made a ladder for them.

And we blocked up the usual ground level entrance...
Which certainly got their attention at bed time!

At roosting time, instead of having a quick feed and a big drink and wandering off to bed, they got quite agitated because where they wanted to go wasn't there anymore.

After many false starts and much squabbling, they finally worked it out.
With chickens, if they have the option of doing what they have always done, they will do it. If we leave the bottom door open, they still go in and roost on the floor for the night. They are creatures of habit, I have found!

Then they started laying their eggs on the floor of the coop which was annoying on two levels. One, I had to take the ladder off, move the box and take the front off to get the eggs (and then put it all back together) and two, the eggs were getting pooped on.
So I pulled the coop to pieces and cleaned the nest out first thing in the morning before anyone had laid their egg. Then I put a ceramic dish right on top of the place they were nesting and made it all light and bright and airy - an Ikea chicken may have liked to lay there but mine didn't.
Then I made the mower catcher box more attractive with a deep bed of hay, a new lid (the corrugated iron) and a new stepping stone so they didn't have to jump in. Again, it took and hour or two before they would concede to use the new box and kept trying the ceramic bowl out  - just in case it would materialise into a nest when it was sat on!
So the lesson for me in all of this - if you want your chickens to try something new - don't give them any other options!!!

Score card:
Green-ness: 5/5 for owning chickens and caring about their welfare!
Frugal-ness: 5/5 for making do with what you have lying around
Time cost: minimal to change things - ample to watch and laugh (make a big pot of tea for this part!)
Skill level: basic but with an open mind!
Fun-ness: Who needs a TV when you have chickens!


Linda Woodrow said...

Once when my chooks were free ranging we moved their roost. Just three metres. Clearly in view, and exactly the same roost. Come roosting time, they circled where it used to be, unable to believe their eyes that it was gone. They even flew up to where they used to land, falling ignominiously to the ground since there was nothing to perch on. A couple of them gave up and squatted sadly on the ground where their perch used to be. We were laughing so hard, it felt cruel to mock them so much.

Practical Frog said...

It is funny isn't it? We felt terrible laughing at them, but there is a reason that they aren't at the top of the food chain... They aren't always the brightest bulb in the box are they? These four did work it out but it took until dark before they would concede to try the new entrance! - K xx

marigold jam said...

When we had hens they really didn't have a clue about going to roost at all for the first few days and we had to bodily show them where to go but they did get the hang of it in the end! They are great fun to watch aren't they?

Evi said...

Oh dear I did have to laugh!!! We are having similar times with our girls! Some have been squatting on the floor of their old hen house and refuse to move up to the perches in their new one! Stuy goes out every evening and plops them on the perches but most of them just drop back to the ground. Silly things!!!
I think I might suggest a nice ladder so that the curious ones shinny up to have a look and encourage the shy ones to follow! You are right - there is definitely a reason for their place in the food chain.....

Practical Frog said...

Who needs a TV when you have live reality chicken TV to watch, Marigold Jam???
Stuy is pretty handy, Evi, it wont take him long to whip up a quick ladder for your girls - and then the fun and squawking will really start! - K xx

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