Close Confinement,

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by bird-finder, Dec 17, 2009.

  1. bird-finder

    bird-finder New Egg

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    Dec 17, 2009
    I have been reading some animal forums for a few months and
    I do not have any animals yet.

    I recently saw the movie Master and Commander, which I do recommend.
    On board the ship, 3 or 4 chickens were kept in a small cage; I estimate it
    to be 1ft by 1 ft by 3.5 feet. A crew man would bring the entirely wooden
    cage with the chickens to the main deck and take it below deck during
    battle or bad weather. I cannot say what facilities were below deck.

    This cage did not seem large enough to me, for general use, though perhaps
    big enough if the hens were laying. No chicken run was shown in the movie.

    Does anyone know historical examples of how they actually kept hens?
    I did Google around but found nothing.

    Considering modern humane treatment, can someone comment on some
    of my thoughts below.
    If one had to keep hens in a small cage, how small, and for how long?
    Anything special you have to do to make up for this unnatural confinement?
    I assume you could make a "run" even in confined conditions: fold-able chicken tractor.
     
  2. gsim

    gsim Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Acceptable practice today seems to 4 sq ft/chicken for a coop and 10 sq ft/chicken for a run, both minimums. Historically, I doubt that was done on board any ship. Look at how they are transported on flatbed trucks on our highways. Amazing to me they do not freeze to death. Chickens do need fresh air and sunshine daily to be healthy, like nearly all land creatures. They are particularly susceptible to lung ailments so ammonia vapor from poop/urine has to be removed daily for optimum health.

    Master and Commander is one of my favorite movies and I hope for a sequel. [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2009
  3. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Quote:On ships, you mean? Probably pretty much like that, although I'd be tempted to suspect the movie's cages may have been nicer and more ample than real ones often were.

    Historically on *land*? I don't think cages were used much until the rise of great big battery-hen farms in, what, the '40s-'50s-'60s, were they?

    If one had to keep hens in a small cage, how small, and for how long?
    Anything special you have to do to make up for this unnatural confinement?
    I assume you could make a "run" even in confined conditions: fold-able chicken tractor.

    Well, battery hens (i.e those in commercial egg farms) live in cages for a couple years, til they molt or laying drops off somewhat, typically in a cage holding 5-10 hens with each one having about the size of a piece of paper's worth of space (that is, about 8x11" worth of space per hen)

    Comparatively speaking, then, the birds in the movie were well off [​IMG]

    Clearly this is sustainable for at least a few years because that's what the egg industry *does*, and gets good productivity out of it (in lines of chickens bred specifically to lay well under those circumstances, obviously)

    That does not make it anything approaching a good, fair or even acceptable idea, in many peoples' opinion. Certainly it is not something I think a person should do at home for any reason.

    People who cage-raise chickens at home, e.g. some show/breeding stock, generally seem to give them at least 4 sq ft per chicken and often more.

    I don't personally believe there is much of anything that makes up for severe confinement, nothing other than giving them more space of course [​IMG]

    (Funny thing -- while doing a quick google to confirm my recollections about cage size, I ran across a post from our very own site-owner Nifty (Rob), on another forum, from a number of years ago, in which he says he's about to go pick up his first very own chickens!! LOL)

    Good luck, have fun,

    Pat​
     
  4. CoyoteMagic

    CoyoteMagic RIP ?-2014

    I came across some of these when I was doing research for my coops. These are just a few of the types of cages that are still being used in "developing" countries. It's easier to keep an eye on your chickens (your source of protein) if you keep it in a cage. Some of them are made like baskets that can be picked up and carried with no problems.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  5. bird-finder

    bird-finder New Egg

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    Dec 17, 2009
    Thank you for your replies.

    Maybe some chicken knowledge would help me, here.
    Some of this may be breed specific, but I have to start somewhere.
    (I am imagining Sussex or some other tame and friendly breed.)

    I assume hens lay eggs mostly at night, else nest boxes would be
    useless? Or will a hen forgo leaving the coop during the day just to
    lay an egg?

    When people lock-up their hens for the night, do hens spend most
    of their time on a nest anyway; or do they mill around most of the time,
    and only get on the nest for the short time they need to lay?
    IOW, at night do hens need freedom to move around?

    I know about the white round stone (golf ball) trick; does this trick keep
    them on the nest or just induce them to lay an egg?

    When on the nest, will a hen leave it to take a crap or will she just do
    it in the nest?

    I am considering having only a few hens, and taking them with me
    when I go car camping, so for this reason and my general understanding,
    I would appreciate some more info.
     
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2009
  6. RocketDad

    RocketDad Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:My Red Star lays first thing in the morning, usually before I get out there. The other hens lay after that, sometimes in the morning and some of them lay in the mid afternoon. They go back to the coop from the run or out in the yard to lay in the nest boxes. When they're done they sing the "egg song" (bwak bwak bwak bwaGAWK! repeat....) and are very excited for a few minutes, then go back to whatever the other hens are up to.

    When people lock-up their hens for the night, do hens spend most
    of their time on a nest anyway; or do they mill around most of the time,
    and only get on the nest for the short time they need to lay?
    IOW, at night do hens need freedom to move around?

    Mine only want to go back in the coop for bedtime, and they sleep on the roost with a view out the window. During the recent cold snap they were locked in (when I tried to let them out they looked at me like I was nuts) and they would mill around in the shavings on the floor, or hang out on the roosts. They never sleep on the nest - that's just cartoon stuff as far as I know.

    I know about the white round stone (golf ball) trick; does this trick keep
    them on the nest or just induce them to lay an egg?

    Um, neither. It clues them in where the eggs are supposed to go. They'll get into the nest and play with the golf balls before they ever lay. A couple of my hens were surprised by an egg in the first week, and layed it in the run. I watched it happen both times. They looked embarrassed afterwards, and didn't sing about it. Golfballs or ceramic eggs are great, by the way, because they're hard and unpleasant to peck at, so the hens are less likely to experiment on the eggs later. And don't worry about using white golfballs if your hens are supposed to lay brown eggs, they'll figure it out. I moved the golf balls from nest to nest every day, too, so that they would see the different nests.

    When on the nest, will a hen leave it to take a crap or will she just do
    it in the nest?

    I find the occasional poop in a nest box, but I don't think the hens like doing that. I've never found a poop in a nest with eggs. I think they find themselves needing to poop and unwilling to get down, so they just switch nest boxes.

    I am considering having only a few hens, and taking them with me
    when I go car camping, so for this reason and my general understanding,
    I would appreciate some more info.

    Good luck with that. Chickens are pretty resistant to and suspicious of changes to their routine and environments. More so than cats, even. I have trouble when I run out of the "chicken plates" and have to give them treats on something else. They'll stare at the food from several feet away and wait for the Red Star to test it first - she's the bravest of them.​
     
  7. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Ontario, Canada
    Quote:Nope, chickens don't do anything at all at night except sleep (and occasionally get eaten by predators) -- you will get more eggs being laid in the morning than afternoon, but basically all daylight hours are fair game. They wander back into the coop to lay the egg, then come back out when they're done. Most often the actual laying doesn't take long.

    When people lock-up their hens for the night, do hens spend most
    of their time on a nest anyway; or do they mill around most of the time,
    and only get on the nest for the short time they need to lay?
    IOW, at night do hens need freedom to move around?

    Chickens have near-zero night vision. They tend to stay put once it's dark. They're meant to sleep on the ROOST not in the nestboxes though!! If they sleep in the nestboxes, it tends to lead to them pooing in the nestboxes first thing in the morning when they wake up, and then you have eggs being laid onto the pooey nestbox filler = pooey eggs. The roost should be distinctly higher than the nestboxes to encourage them to sleep in the proper place (chickens prefer to sleep=roost on the highest place possible) and even then it sometimes takes a bit of manual training for them to get the clue (pick pullets up off floor or out of nestbox at dusk and set them on the roost, every day til they get the concept, usually doesn't take very long)

    I know about the white round stone (golf ball) trick; does this trick keep
    them on the nest or just induce them to lay an egg?

    What the nest egg can do is give the chicken a clue about WHERE to lay, as they have an instinctual inclination to add to an existing clutch rather than putting their egg (which they can neither produce nor hold back at will -- the ovaries etc are in charge, and when it happens, it happens) somewhere else in the coop.

    When on the nest, will a hen leave it to take a crap or will she just do
    it in the nest?

    They don't generally poop when they're laying, barring a few incidents here and there. If you mean a *broody* hen, who is setting on the clutch 24/7 for three weeks or so in order to hatch out chicks (if the eggs were fertile), she will get up and walk away for a few minutes once or twice a day to eat and drink, and at that time produce an unfathomably huge and nasty poo.

    I am considering having only a few hens, and taking them with me
    when I go car camping, so for this reason and my general understanding,
    I would appreciate some more info.

    Taking chickens car-camping sounds like a very, very, VERY bad idea. First, they are not big on change or travel, it upsets them and can upset their social order (and being pointy on the front end and related to dinosaurs, you do not want to upset chcikens' social order unnecessarily, as they can be quite brutal to each other). Second, they would be in very cramped quarters, just because you can get chickens to *survive* this (on average) does not make it a good idea, for all sorts of reasons both practical and ethical. And finally, good luck keeping them safe from predators when car-camping, esp. since one usually camps somewhere full of raccoons and other wildlife, and often other campers' dogs. Even if you could construct a crate that was proof against a strongly food-motivated predator, which would really be quite difficult, just the stress of being attacked at through a cage wall can permanently traumatize a chicken. Realio trulio, PLEASE don't do that, just find someone to pet-sit for you when you're gone. They'd be fine being checked once a day, and it is not a highly skilled job [​IMG]

    Good luck, have fun,

    Pat​
     
  8. bird-finder

    bird-finder New Egg

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    Dec 17, 2009
    You guys gave me an education in a nutshell.
    Thank you so much. I will follow your advice.
     

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