from http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog/2008/09/biomimicry-is-a.html "Biomimicry is a science that studies Nature’s best ideas and then imitates these designs and processes to solve human problems." "How do dragonflies outmaneuver our best helicopters? How do hummingbirds cross the Gulf of Mexico on less than one tenth of an ounce of fuel? How do ants carry the equivalent of hundreds of pounds in a dead heat through the jungle? How do mussels attach to rock in a wet environment?" ************************************************************************* So if the problem is how to house our chickens in a way that promotes health, safety, and behavioral welfare...where better to turn for some answers than Nature? Where would a chicken sleep in the wild? Well, first we need to know that Mother Gaia did not give us the chicken, she gave us the junglefowl and we domesticated the chicken from there by selective breeding. Recognizing the wild junglefowl that still remains inside your chickens will go a long way toward understanding their needs and preferences. So, where would a chicken like to sleep if it lived in Nature? What needs would this structure meet and how? What biological stucture should we mimic? Concealment, security, ventilation, some draft resistance, some cover from rain, shade, some food, a source of cover as a base for nearby foraging, a preening lounge, cool dirt to dig into on hot days... roosts... They would prefer to roost as high as they are comfortably able, and some distance out from the trunk for protection from predators... The more savvy and physically capable will go very high... This is where a chicken wants to live. But we can improve on this. Living in a tree is not the greatest thing in the world for a chicken, it's just the least worst option in Nature. In our captive environments, we have the ability to improve upon many aspects and provide for the chickens' needs more safely and effectively. Solid roofs and walls can block rain and wind, perches of ideal thickness and without sharp snags or pokes can be provided, and they don't shake in the wind. But, the basic design mechanics, based on biomimicry of a tree, remain the same. This hen's feathers show wear from being jostled about in an orange tree. She had rejected a too-small, too-low "traditional" style, boxy chicken coop. The proper artificial habitat makes a hard life easy... Here's how I applied biomimicry to copy the fig tree in the first two photos... Protection from ground predators... Health & Welfare inspection...night time is the right time to inspect toes, nails, beaks, faces, etc. by headlight... The turkey has been choosing to sleep on top lately. Prior to this, she would fly into the trees or on top of the windmill. The wild wild turkeys sleep in the pine trees... Obviously, not all of us could get away with keeping our chickens under a tarp in the Winter. I live in California and they'll be fine. Most of them had previously lived in the orange tree for over a year. From sustainability and economic points of view, I'm not wild about the idea of replacing that tarp every year. The shadecloth should last several years, but I imagine the tarp will be tattered by mid Spring, just about the time it will be replaced with another shadecloth. If anybody has any suggestions for a lightweight, flexible covering material to substitute for the tarp next Fall, I would be very appreciative. Upcoming improvements include poop hammocks and bird netting. I'm still at the drawing board with regard to the ideal way to do the bird netting. The biggest vulnerability is right here...hawks and owls can sit in the trees to the left and wait to dive and snatch an unsuspecting chicken.