Droopy Tails While Roosting?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by WalkingTreatMachine, Dec 1, 2011.

  1. WalkingTreatMachine

    WalkingTreatMachine Out Of The Brooder

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    Hi Everyone,

    I just went to try out the coop heat lamp and make sure it wasn't too hot, and noticed that my girls' tails were drooping. I hadn't noticed this before when they were roosting. Is this common, or were they maybe just scared that the coop was being opened up after bedtime or because the lamp is new to them?

    Thanks for any insights!
     
  2. BlazeJester

    BlazeJester Chillin' With My Peeps

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    How old are your chickens? Where do you live?

    From what you describe this sounds totally normal, particularly if you live somewhere cold and they need to keep their toes warm. "Drooping" their tail would help accomplish that.
     
  3. WalkingTreatMachine

    WalkingTreatMachine Out Of The Brooder

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    They are about 7 months old. I do live in a colder climate- it was about 35 or 40 degrees when I noticed this. I'll check in the morning and see what's up (or what's drooping) then. Thanks!
     
  4. epeloquin

    epeloquin Chillin' With My Peeps

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    If by 'droopy' you mean that their tails point down while they are roosting, in my experience, this is totally normal. My girls' tails are always down while they are roosting. I would venture to say it is normal because I knw that when they roost there is a tendon in their feet that causes their feet to 'lock down' on the roost which is why they don't fall off or sway. I have also noticed that my girls bring their wings down their sides a bit too when they roost. I think the tail being oriented down is just part-in-parcel to what their bodies do when they roost. If you think about it, it keeps their cloaca covered and protected too.
     
  5. elmo

    elmo Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:I think that's the case for the true perching birds, like parrots, but not for ground dwelling birds like chickens. Their toes really don't grasp the way a perching bird's does. That's why flatter, wider roosts are better for chickens.
     
  6. epeloquin

    epeloquin Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:I think that's the case for the true perching birds, like parrots, but not for ground dwelling birds like chickens. Their toes really don't grasp the way a perching bird's does. That's why flatter, wider roosts are better for chickens.

    I'm sorry, but I have to kindly disagree with you. While they are 'ground dwelling birds' that does not negate the fact that chickens and turkeys ARE 'true perching birds'. There is a reason that domesticated chickens and turkeys perch, because it is instinctive behavior that is still observed in wild chickens, turkeys and other fowl. Perching is necessary for them as it places them out of the reach of most predators.

    I have read in this forum that some people recommend using a flat perch for chickens for a couple reasons. 1) perching on a flat[ter] surface is better for their feet. 2) their feet stay warmer. The reality is that neither is true. Their perch should, as close as possible, mimic what they would use in the wild which would be a tree branch which, of course, is round. They should either perch on a 1 1/2 - 2" dia. dowel or, as I used, a 2x3 or 2x4. But it is important to round over the square edges and set the wood so they perch on the narrow end. This enables the tendon-locking mechanism to work as designed. In fact the Journal of Horticulture and Practical Gardening says that their perch "should not be thicker than they can grasp with ease, as that would occasion them to be duck-footed".

    As for warmth, when they perch their feet are well covered by their fluff and belly feathers which are extraordinarily warm. Just by way of anecdotal evidence, I went to my coop a couple weeks ago to check on my girls because it was quite cold (20s). I slid my hand up under so I could feel their feet and they were VERY warm.

    Following is a little info to back up what I've said.

    Tendon-Locking Mechanisms
    When birds land on a branch and their legs flex, the tendons begin to lock. Flexor tendons lock automatically when the bird's knees are bent and do not unlock until the knees are unbent. The tendons then lock the toes to secure them around the branch. When birds begin to fall asleep, their instinctual tendon-locking mechanism simultaneously begins to react. As they fall deeper and deeper into sleep and can no longer hold themselves up, the tendons lock even deeper.
    The bird can stay locked and in place with no effort at all and no stiffness because of the flexor tendons. They are narrow strips that extend down the leg muscles down the back of the tarsus bone and to the toes.


    Why Birds Sleep Perched
    Birds sleep perched as a safety method. They tend to sleep at night, perched high on a tree to avoid predators. Web-footed birds like ducks do not perch, as they don't have the tendons to lock onto trees in the same manner.

    If you Google "tendon flexor chicken perch roost" you will find ample support for what I've shared here.
     
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2011
  7. elmo

    elmo Chillin' With My Peeps

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    By "perching bird" I was thinking of passerines and psittacines; of course the feet of these orders of birds look quite different that the feet of galliformes. If you hold a chicken on your finger (or arm), and then hold a parrot, I think you will understand what I'm referring to. A chicken can't grip your finger or arm with its feet; a parrot definitely can!

    I don't dispute that many bird species have the tendon locking arrangement you refer to, only that a chicken's foot operates this way.

    I would also suggest that there are very few tree branches that are perfectly round like a dowel, and that if there were these are certainly not the kinds of branches that a chicken would choose to roost on, given the opportunity to roost someplace equally high. And certainly in the wild the chicken would not be roosting on the same branch night after night anyway, as they do in captivity. Forcing a chicken to roost every night on a narrow, round dowel will likely over time lead to presssure sores on the bottom of the foot as it can with caged birds.
     
  8. Pele

    Pele Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:I have to agree with Epeloquin. Chickens do qualify as perching birds, because it is their natural instinct to perch while sleeping. They may not be small enough to perch on your finger, but they can certainly perch on your arm or leg. It's just a matter of size difference.

    And nothing in nature resembles a perfectly round and straight dowel form, that's why it's not good for their feet. Many breeds of chickens LOVE LOVE LOVE to roost in trees on round branches, rather than in their coops with flat roosts. Hamburgs, OEGs, Phoenix, ect. If you lurk on the forums long enough, you'll see lots of posts from owners of these breeds who are just beside themselves with their tree-favoring birds.

    I would argue that any species equipped with auto-locking feet qualifies as a perching bird as it's an evolutionary trait specifically developed to help bird perch. Also, if you ever see a bird roosting on a flat board, lift up their feathers sometime and you'll notice that they've scooted forward enough to wrap their toes around the front of the board. It's just more comfortable for them.

    And, to bring this back to the OPs question, their tails droop because of the tendon pull, and because they're relaxed and sleeping. It's just like a cat or a dog not holding their tail upright in sleep. We all get floppy at night [​IMG]
     
  9. BlazeJester

    BlazeJester Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:My original flock of Meyer hatchery barred rocks roosted in a dogwood tree for 2 years. No coop, ever, and they opted out of roosting on the porch railings (which have the flat side of 2"x4"s facing upward). If you've never seen a chicken *perch*, that's only because you've never seen a chicken in its natural state.
     
  10. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Tail held downwards during sleep will facilitate shedding of water as bird sleeps. May also be a lower energy posture.

    Chickens and their kin are as Elmo indicates not perching birds from a taxonomic perspective. One of the unifying characteristics of perching birds (Passerines) is that when the ankle joint flexes, a tendon does act upon toes giving a tighter grip without need for major muscle contractions in the calves (leg segment defined by tibia and fibia). Chickens toes do curl when the birds settles down to roost but muscles are very important in maintaining the grip. As a general rule the true passerines have a much stronger roosting grip than any comparably sized member of pheasant family which includes chickens.

    In respect to chickens normally using round perchs, I agree. My birds with strong flying tendencies seldom roost in branches with diameters larger than 3 inches and adults tend to avoid branches with diameters smaller than 3/4 of an inch. A similar sized crow or raven (larger passerines) would readily roost on such smaller diameter roosting branches.
     

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