Originally Posted by TwinWillowAcres
My mom likes to have everything aesthetically pleasing--which means that fancy plywood. My sheep shacks are barely borderline. She's only tolerating them because they are temporary. We will be building a barn this spring. And because I offered to pay for part of it, I get to choose how big it is :D (I'm going with 16x24.)
As for happiness of chickens....I'm not real familiar with poultry. I worked with them for a month at my petting farm job. However, my sheep were confined for 2.5 months last summer in a dry lot, after being on a pasture their entire lives (as little as 2 weeks to as long as 6 years). I can't tell you if they were happy or unhappy about it. I love my sheep dearly--I spend about an hour after feeding just hanging out with them and watching their behavior. I've raised sheep for seven years now and I was taught all my "sheep skills" by my neighbor who had been raising sheep for almost 80 yrs--mostly range flocks out in South Dakota. They were still acting like their usual selves, so I don't think they were unhappy as I would assume they were happy before. I do know they were always happy when they saw me coming for food! They would run around the pen and hop and jump and bleat.
I think if a bird is caged and gets their basic needs provided--protection from predators, food, water, and a nest--they will be more than happy because their needs are being met regardless of how much room they have. I know with most livestock if you provide the feed, their space requirements go way down because they don't have to go out and try to find it themselves. I think poultry wouldn't be too far off.
I realize show breeders cage their birds, but many have adequate space in the cages for the birds. Some will also let their chickens out to do their thing when they aren't showing. Others also let their chickens bee-bop around their houses just so they can stay clean and are able to stretch their legs and wings. There are also those who have chickens out in runs and just clean the chickens up come show time.
And yeah, places with commercial layers cage their birds in tight quarters, but read up on how well these chickens fare through it...it's not good. Birds in situations like that very often start picking at each other, thus why you'll notice their beaks are trimmed (some use peepers as well). Chickens will pick at each other if they're overcrowded and/or bored. Chickens should have at least 4 sq. ft. per chicken in the coop, but from what you're saying you want 3 birds in a 2x2 cage.
I've had show animals of my own. I also worked for a show kennel and watched what dogs locked in crates all day long went through. These dogs were miserable. Many were neurotic and some had given up so much they wouldn't even eat on their own anymore...they had to be force fed. I was a groomer for 17 yrs. and would compete in grooming competitions. I had my Poodle that I'd bust my butt grooming and wanted to stay neat during the season, but he still got to run around and be a dog. I'd just clean him up when it came time to compete and keep his fur in wraps. I also worked as a vet's assistant and I know of no vet. who would agree to animals being locked up in cages that are too small for them 24/7. I owned a rabbitry and had 130 rabbits at one time as well. We raised and sold some rabbits for meat, some for pets and we kept some for show. My show rabbits were kept in cages yes, but this was one rabbit to a cage and they were rotated and given time out in a straight stall to stretch their legs and do their thing. I have two pet rats right now that are caged, but it's a large cage with toys, boxes to play in, different levels to it and they're given time out of it from time to time during the week to interact with us.
Meeting an animals needs goes beyond feeding, watering and protecting from predators. Providing enough room for them to be mentally happy is also meeting their needs.
And btw, bugs and such provide a good diet for chickens and is what they would naturally be eating.
I'm not trying to be snotty and mean all I've said in the nicest way possible. I hope you understand.