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applying biomimicry to chicken habitat design

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by fuhgeddaboudit, Oct 3, 2012.

  1. fuhgeddaboudit

    fuhgeddaboudit New Egg

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    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?"

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    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...

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    roosts...

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    They would prefer to roost as high as they are comfortably able, and some distance out from the trunk for protection from predators...




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    The more savvy and physically capable will go very high...

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    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.

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    The proper artificial habitat makes a hard life easy...

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    Here's how I applied biomimicry to copy the fig tree in the first two photos...

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    Protection from ground predators...

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    Health & Welfare inspection...night time is the right time to inspect toes, nails, beaks, faces, etc. by headlight...

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    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.

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    The wild wild turkeys sleep in the pine trees...

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    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.

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    Last edited: Oct 3, 2012
  2. HEChicken

    HEChicken Overrun With Chickens

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    My Coop
    Nice job on your hoop coop - I wish my climate would allow for that to be their only protection. Love the tent as the "inside" part of the coop too.

    One thing you might try is contacting whoever does billboards in your area and see if you can get a used billboard tarp (unfortunately, so many are going to electronic billboards now but there are still some of the old-fashioned kind around). If your birds don't mind seeing some advertizing in their habitat, the billboard tarps are usually much heavier duty than the tarps you buy and are designed to be out in the weather for awhile, so will hold up for longer. Plus, you can sometimes get them pretty cheap and you are repurposing something that might otherwise end up in a landfill.
     
  3. fuhgeddaboudit

    fuhgeddaboudit New Egg

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    Thank you. That's a pretty cool idea; certainly better to reuse somebody esle's discard than to trash another tarp every year, and hopefully less than $70.
     
  4. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    I employ such concepts and do so with the breed likely like the wild junglefowls, namely American Games, and I have done it with red jungle fowl. There is a problem I have found with predators and higher densities of fowl in predictable locations. The predators have a much more reliable food source once they can open it up. Additionally, the birds are selected to stay tighter around their roost sites than are wild birds to take advantage of protection provided by human habitation. Most folks no longer live with birds or have other domestic animals that can provide additional protection.

    Our domestic birds have subtle differences in behavior that may make them better than wild kin when it comes to living with humans and predators. Also I have found red jungle fowl I have had are inferior to dealing with the predator assemblage I have in a semi-rural midwestern location.
     

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