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Bickering while sorting out perching position at night

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
I'm wondering if it's normal for there to be some minor bickering at night when chickens are sorting out who goes where on the perches? A few pecks, chickens shifting around and playing musical chairs etc. For about 10 minutes as latecomers come in and decide to change things up.

Asking because I will be adding two new hens in a couple of months and am worried about space. Currently I have 2.2m of space on two parallel perches made out of 2x4's with rounded edges, for 8 chooks (mix of ISAs, Australorps and Sussex). I can add another 40cm to take the total to 2.6m. With the new chooks that will be 10 chooks total. When I look in at night there appears to be spaces for two more, and if it is cooler there is loads of space as they cuddle up:) the perches are just a step up from the floor (no jumping required) - the coop is all raised 3 feet off the ground.

Any more than that and it's probably new coop time. I live in a subtropical environment so the hens spend no time in the coop except at night. If it rains some hang out underneath, some go inside and some just stand in the rain and don't seem to care. They can exit to the fenced run via a one way flap in the morning. It has hardware cloth sides for ventilation although the side facing rain is 3/4 covered by plastic. It doesn't get that cold here obviously smile.png The only predators are rare foxes (never seen one but they do exist) and pythons.

Also curious if other people have a good coop design for this type of environment?

Cheers.
post #2 of 8

The generally accepted minimum suggested roost space is around 30cm per bird. More roost space is needed to the additional birds. As with anything coop / run design - the more space, the better.

post #3 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by MiddleWoods View Post

I'm wondering if it's normal for there to be some minor bickering at night when chickens are sorting out who goes where on the perches? A few pecks, chickens shifting around and playing musical chairs etc. For about 10 minutes as latecomers come in and decide to change things up.
 

Absolutely normal...I call it the RoostTimeRumble...

....happens every night even with a long time living together flock and plenty of roost space.

It's kind of funny once you get used to their viciousness. 

 

That's plenty of roost space for 10 birds, 2.2 meters = 7.2 feet.

BUT the newbies might not be welcome within pecking distance on these roosts.

How far apart are the 2 parallel roosts?

 

I put a separate roost up for new birds(chicks) on the other side of the coop,

they don't even try to roost on the main roosts until after they start laying

and then start working their way into the pecking order.

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 #4 of 8

Ours often have major roost battles, and I only have 4 chickens!  I actually now have four separate roosts, lol, but they all want the primo spot.  Every evening, I just close the door  and let the feathers fly.   In the morning, I peek in to see who is where.  It always changes.   And sometimes they are  snuggled together!  

post #5 of 8
As you can see, perfectly normal. That’s pure pecking order in action. For whatever reason certain spots on the roosts are considered prime real estate and the highest ranked birds claim them. They can be pretty vicious in enforcing those rights. Something else I sometimes see is that they don’t always want certain chickens roosting next to them. Sometimes a higher ranking hen will peck a lower ranked hen just for trying to sleep next to her, even when she already has the better spot. Other than when I have some going through adolescence, roost time is pretty much the only time I see much evidence of the pecking order, as far as violence goes.

I read that to say you have two separate roosts, each 2.2 meters long? I’m always a proponent of giving them as much space as you reasonably can, but I’m not a great believer in specific numbers for that space. This is for coop and run square feet, roost length, brooder space, nest size or number, basically anything related to chickens and space. I’m more into quality of that space which is a lot harder to define. There are a lot of different variables that go into that quality: flock make-up and size, your climate, your management techniques, the personality of your individual chickens and total flock dynamics, and just so many other things. I understand people starting out need guidelines but don’t start thinking that any specific number is perfect for you. They can be good starting points but you need to remain observant and flexible. Adjust if you need to. If that’s two roosts that is a lot.

Your roosts are different than most in that your chickens can step up to them, they don’t have to fly to mount the roosts. When they are on the roosts and settled in, chickens don’t take up much room. But they need to get up there. Some people have to have that extra room for flying chickens with wings spread.

Most of the minimum recommendations on here are for roosts to be 30 cm from the wall and any other roosts be separated by another 30 cm. That will physically give them enough room to fit. That’s what I do. But the quality goes up if they are separated by a bit more. If you happen to have one that likes to peck at other weaker chickens around it, more separation can help with that. Sometimes the weaker needs to be able to get away from the stronger. What I often see on my roosts is that the stronger are on the front roost on the end next to the window, prime real estate. The weaker are at the far end, usually on the back roost, as far away as they can get. The ones in the middle of the pecking order are in the middle.

The maturity level of those two new hens can have a big effect on roost requirements. If they are mature and old enough to lay, they will probably force their way into the pecking order somewhere. It may get a little messy but they will probably work their way in.

If they are not yet mature hens but immature pullets, the entire scenario changes. Mature hens automatically outrank immature pullets and can be really vicious in enforcing their pecking order rights. The new pullets will probably form their own sub-flock and avoid the older hens as much as they can. As long as they have enough room during the day to avoid having to stay close to the older hens your integration will probably go OK.

But if your roosts are set up so they cannot avoid the older hens it’s really normal for my juveniles to sleep somewhere other than the roosts. They don’t like getting beat up. Like Aart, I have a juvenile roost set up, lower than my main roosts and horizontally separated and higher than my nests. This gives my juveniles a safe place to go that is not my nests. Don’t be surprised if your two new ones don’t immediately sleep on your main roosts with the others. Once they work their way into the pecking order, they will.

I envision your climate as it is possible you might get to freezing occasionally but it’s pretty rare. You probably have a lot of heat in the summer. And you have rain. I don’t have that climate but a lot of people that do like open air coops. You can find some examples in the “coops” tab at the top of this page. That could be anything from where only one wall is wire to where all four walls are wire but you have a section you keep dry for nests and roosting, plus wind protection on the roosts.

One issue with those can be keeping the coop floor dry. If the coop (or run for that matter) stays wet it can become unhealthy. If you have great ventilation so it can dry out and it’s positioned where water drains away from it instead of to it, open air coops normally work out great. If you position any coop (or run) where water drains to it or stands in that area you will probably have a problem no matter which coop you build. I’ll include a link about muddy runs written by a lady that lived in a swamp in Canada. Her conditions were different from yours but she has some good suggestions. The best time to fix a wet coop or run is during the design phase, with location being the most important part.

Good luck!

Pat’s Big Ol' Mud Page (fixing muddy runs):
http://www.backyardchickens.com/web/viewblog.php?id=1642-fix-a-muddy-run

This too shall pass.  It may pass like a kidney stone, but it will pass.

 

"If you make every game a life-and-death proposition, you're going to have problems. For one thing, you'll be dead a lot." — former North Carolina coach Dean Smith

 

http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/how-much-room-do-chickens-need

Reply

This too shall pass.  It may pass like a kidney stone, but it will pass.

 

"If you make every game a life-and-death proposition, you're going to have problems. For one thing, you'll be dead a lot." — former North Carolina coach Dean Smith

 

http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/how-much-room-do-chickens-need

Reply
post #6 of 8
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the feedback all. To confirm it will become two roosts 1.3m long. Currently I have a 1.3m and .9m and some nights we end up with 5 on the smaller roost and 3 on the long one!! smile.png They are 30cm from walls and 45cm in between them.

There's nothing too vicious going on, it's just cases of "I don't want you beside me" or "that's my spot" going on. They can have a mean streak, hey. One of my higher chooks was kicking others out of the nesting boxes just ... because... I've adjusted things so she has to make more effort just to see if the box is occupied..

The coop does stay very dry as the roof has a big overhang on each side and it's only about 90cm high inside (although 1.6m high in total as it has an shelter underneath on the ground floor).

One of the new chooks is a 2yo rescued australorp who was head chicken at my brother's place, and the other will be an araucana pullet (point of lay by the time quarantine is over) who will be in quarantine with her.

That australorp is weird though. She had a pale and floppy comb when I got her a few days ago, and had been broody for weeks. She won't eat food out of her feeder but will eat it all if on the ground... Sigh.
post #7 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by MiddleWoods View Post

Thanks for the feedback all. To confirm it will become two roosts 1.3m long. Currently I have a 1.3m and .9m and some nights we end up with 5 on the smaller roost and 3 on the long one!! smile.png They are 30cm from walls and 45cm in between them.

There's nothing too vicious going on, it's just cases of "I don't want you beside me" or "that's my spot" going on. They can have a mean streak, hey. One of my higher chooks was kicking others out of the nesting boxes just ... because... I've adjusted things so she has to make more effort just to see if the box is occupied..

The coop does stay very dry as the roof has a big overhang on each side and it's only about 90cm high inside (although 1.6m high in total as it has an shelter underneath on the ground floor).

One of the new chooks is a 2yo rescued australorp who was head chicken at my brother's place, and the other will be an araucana pullet (point of lay by the time quarantine is over) who will be in quarantine with her.

That australorp is weird though. She had a pale and floppy comb when I got her a few days ago, and had been broody for weeks. She won't eat food out of her feeder but will eat it all if on the ground... Sigh.


I'd suggest breaking her broodiness. Prolonged periods can lead to a loss of weight, condition and weaken her immune system. Search "broody buster" for more information, if you wish.

post #8 of 8
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by CTKen View Post
 


I'd suggest breaking her broodiness. Prolonged periods can lead to a loss of weight, condition and weaken her immune system. Search "broody buster" for more information, if you wish.

 

Yeah I started that straight away, she seems to be fixed as far as broodiness :)

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