Big Fat Hen Question


8 Years
Mar 30, 2011
Big Fat Hen - New Problem. The Matriarch of my chickens, fat Esther Mary, has never been one to perch/roost up high. She's always preferred sleeping in a nesting box. But recently I built a step for my other chooks, who love to sleep on the shelf in the coop, to get up and down from their favorite roosting spot. I thought it would be easier on them, since I have read that too high perches can cause bumblefoot. This shelf perch is about 4 feet off the ground. The new step is about 21" high.

Alas, they use the step to get up, but I don't see them using it to fly down. I think they can't see it well coming down, so they fly over and past it to land, so that defeats its purpose-- protecting them from the long jump down.

The rooster comes out first in the morning and is frustrated because the girls don't follow him. He makes many trips back into the coop trying to get them to come out and play.

The problem is fat Mary Esther loves to go up there at night to the high perch, since she discovered the aid of the new step, but she can't figure out how to come down in the morning. I think she's too fat to fly like the others or scared. So I have to lift her out. Only then will the other hens follow her out. I'm afraid to leave her on the shelf for fear she'll hurt herself trying to come down. She's the oldest-- a little over 2 years old.

There is a pecking order, and unless she comes down first, the younger hens are afraid to supersede her (except for the Bantie who doesn't sleep on the shelf-- she prefers to roost on a narrow ledge above the nesting box. She'll come out with the rooster, but she's so tiny I don't like that, because he tries to mate with her, since the bigger girls are still up on the shelf, unattainable. The Bantie squawks and flies out of his reach. It makes me nervous). I guess I'm going to have to barricade the shelf perch so no one can get up there. Lifting her down at 6 a.m. every morning won't be possible when I am away on vacation. I can't believe she decided to join them up there. She was always seemingly happy down lower.

I hope I can figure out how to barricade it. I'm not very good at carpentry and my helper is out of town for several weeks. I suppose it's just as well. It wouldn't be good for the others to perch on the shelf when I am on vacation, because they'd be perching in their poop, since I wouldn't be around to clean it for them every morning.

I just now went in and put 2 and a half big bags of pine shavings on the shelf, with a big bag of cat food to one side, and a bag of oystershell to the other. It's pretty much barricaded.

Do you think the chickens will still try to fly up there tonight and hurt themselves coming down when they discover there is no place to land? Or do you think they'll be able to tell by looking that they can no longer be up there comfortably, because there's not enough room for them?

Also, do you think storing those things up there could bring on red mites? The pine shavings are wrapped in plastic, the cat food is unopened, in a big waterproof cat food bag, and the oystershell is in a plastic grocery sack.

Thanks so much for your help. I lack the carpentry skills to nail a board over the shelf. I'd need a triangular piece of wood and have nothing like that, so I'm hoping stuffing the shelf full will solve the problem, but I'm not sure.

All suggestions will be welcome.
Oooh, I just had another thought. I think tonight I'll close the east window to the coop so the chooks have to enter the coop from the door on the west side. I will be standing in front of the shelf as an extra blockade of it. Could even have a jumping jack stance and hold my arms out and move them like a scarecrow if they seem interested in flying up to the shelf that now has stuff blocking it from being a perching site. Once they are all settled elsewhere, I can exit. This just might work. What do you think? If the chickens came inside from the window, the rooster would probably attack the back of my legs, but if he is facing me, I'll be better able to defend myself. I suppose I could hold the lid to the trash can as a shield. That might also help keep them off the shelf? Once they are settled on low perches, I could get down on my hands and knees and crawl out the east window, so as not to disturb them. I think this might possibly work!
Just FYI, it didn't work. They are creatures of habit. They tried jumping up even though the shelf was packed, and they fell off. I hope they don't have internal injuries. I am really worried.

After all that, the fat hen decided not to sleep on that high shelf tonight. If I hadn't put stuff on the shelf, she might have decided not to go up high, anyway, so all my effort may have been in vain.

I'm especially worried because the hen that fell hasn't laid an egg for two days, which is highly unlike her. It was 90 F yesterday, so I attributed that to the heat, but since she didn't lay today I'm wondering. And as hard as she fell, I'm worried an egg might have broken inside her. I won't sleep tonight...

The rooster tried jumping up 3 times. I hope he is not badly hurt, too.

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