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Normal chicken behavior vs. need to change bedding materials

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

HI, I noticed my chickens eating straw (which makes me concerned that they will develop a crop blockage) and also pine shavings (which makes me nervous about infection, because the pine shavings are from where they sleep).  Their crops are normal so far (judging by feel, and by the amount of droppings I pick up in the morning), and they seem healthy (except for the occasional yellow dropping, which the poultry vet thought was cecal).  One of them has starting laying after a winter break.  I am waiting for one to starting laying again and for one to lay for the first time.

 

Is this normal chicken behavior, and if not, does anyone have any suggestions on how to minimize it? I'm thinking they are bored and maybe need some enrichment (or maybe they need to be someplace where they have grass to forage on). Or that they may be eating shavings while waiting for a chance at the feeder in which case, I may need to add another feeding station. I will change to using different materials if needed, but am hoping I can keep on with the straw and the shavings.


Edited by SusanD - 2/8/16 at 10:28pm
post #2 of 9

How many chickens do you have?

What is the size of your coop and your run?

What type of food and treats do you feed?

Where do you offer the food - in the coop or run and is it always available during daylight hours?

post #3 of 9
Thread Starter 

3 chickens

 

I have a small prefabbed coop (28 by 30 inches).  I haven't measured the run, but I believe it would be at least 30 square feet (we blocked of the side of the house, to use as the run). 

 

Organic layer pellets - Occasional scratch, unsalted sunflower seeds, and blueberries

 

The food is on a concrete block in the run that came with the coop (to get it out of the weather), and is always available during the day.  I have noticed some spillage, so am planning to put a pan under the feeder and see if that helps.  The other possible issue, is that it can be a little crowded with three hens trying to get breakfast or a snack before bed.  They are pretty good about taking turns, and I haven't not seen any squabbling over the pellets.  I have been putting the feeder in one of the nest boxes at night (with the idea that that would help keep us from attracting rats and mice).

 

Hope that helps.


Edited by SusanD - 2/8/16 at 11:19pm
post #4 of 9

I would make sure the feeder and water are  large enough for all of them to feed at the same time.

Offer oyster shell and grit in separate small containers free choice.

Some boredom busters: hang a cabbage, apple, greens etc so they have something to focus on picking at instead of bedding.

Do you have roosts/perches in the run and a dust bathing area?

post #5 of 9

Are you absolutely sure they are actually eating it?

They might eat a bit here and there, but I doubt they would eat enough to cause problems.

My birds eat off the rotting log in the run.

Great article on VENTILATION, one of THE MOST IMPORTANT aspects of coop design.

Fantastic treatise to help decide how much SPACE your chickens need.

 

Chicken math is not just 'addition'...but also should include Division, Multiplication and especially Subtraction!!!

 

Quoting centrarchid:

"Make every effort to understand your chicken's biology and the environment that supports it."

Reply

Great article on VENTILATION, one of THE MOST IMPORTANT aspects of coop design.

Fantastic treatise to help decide how much SPACE your chickens need.

 

Chicken math is not just 'addition'...but also should include Division, Multiplication and especially Subtraction!!!

 

Quoting centrarchid:

"Make every effort to understand your chicken's biology and the environment that supports it."

Reply
post #6 of 9

I'd like to know if its normal also. Ours eat the shavings & the straw too. Some of the straw kinda makes sense, theres leaves on it not just stalks but the shavings?


Edited by SweetandSavory - 2/9/16 at 12:54pm
post #7 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by aart View Post
 

Are you absolutely sure they are actually eating it?

They might eat a bit here and there, but I doubt they would eat enough to cause problems.

My birds eat off the rotting log in the run.


As @aart pointed out, are they actually consuming the shavings/hay or are they just picking mostly at it? Yes, they will pick leaves that are in the hay. Mine dig through the pine shavings in the coop where someone (Usually my cockerel) shakes some of the crumbles from the feeder. He has figured out how to tug on the rope and make the feeder fill more and sometimes it spills just slightly. The girls have a ball digging around, so I leave it be. They do eat I assume some of the shavings when they are scratching for spilled feed. I haven't had any problems so far, but I make sure they have access to grit, fresh water and food at all times.

 

Originally Posted by SweetandSavory View Post
 

I'd like to know if its normal also. Ours eat the shavings & the straw too. Some of the straw kinda makes sense, theres leaves on it not just stalks but the shavings?

post #8 of 9
Thread Starter 

Thanks all for the replies.  It sounds like there are a lot of things that can done to improve our set up.  I will start working on that and will let you know the results.  I will also consider changing the straw out for something like mulch, bark chips, or sand, as I don't want them to get impacted (from what I read, straw impactions can be hard if not impossible to treat, so that does scare me).  :caf

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by Wyorp Rock View Post
I would make sure the feeder and water are  large enough for all of them to feed at the same time.  They have a lot of waterers, but I agree an extra feeder might be in helpful.

Offer oyster shell and grit in separate small containers free choice.  I stopped the oystershell with they stopped laying.  Now that they're starting again, I agree I should start it up.

Some boredom busters: hang a cabbage, apple, greens etc so they have something to focus on picking at instead of bedding.

Do you have roosts/perches in the run and a dust bathing area?  Roosts - one small one.  More would be nice, plus maybe a chicken swing.  Dustbathing - they made their own over the summer, but I think it might be nice to create one that will always be dry (including during the rainy season).

 

Posted by Aart - Are you absolutely sure they are actually eating it?

They might eat a bit here and there, but I doubt they would eat enough to cause problems.

My birds eat off the rotting log in the run.

Yes, I'm sure, but I'm not sure how much.  I have seen them swallowing the straw, and I have seen them try to pick a piece out of the other's mouth.  I see them picking at the shavings, but I'm not sure how much is being eaten. 

 

Wyorp Rock, Good point about leaves.  We have some leaves left over from fall that I'm pretty sure should go (My Dad did rake up and replace the straw, but I suspect he left some of the old stuff).  So, it sounds like it's time to give the run a bit of a cleaning).


Edited by SusanD - 2/9/16 at 7:50pm
post #9 of 9

One feeder if large enough should be sufficient for 3 chickens.

Just leave the OS available to them, if they need it they will eat some, if they don't need it they will generally overlook it.

There is always room for improving any setup. I would like to add to or even do things a bit different when I can. I think a coop and run is a forever ongoing project:)

Work with what you have and make small changes/improvements as you go. There's always a solution.

Chickens love perches in the run, it doesn't have to be fancy, I use sturdy poplar saplings in the run, you could use a log, other tree branches, a bale of hay anything to climb on, they love it.

If they have a place they usually dust bathe, that is great. Sometimes, they won't use what we make for them as far a dust baths go, so maybe put a tarp or other covering over the area that they like to bathe in so it's dry?

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