Is it cruel to force chickens onto perch if they cannot get back down?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Rivers, Dec 13, 2010.

  1. Rivers

    Rivers Out Of The Brooder

    Oct 3, 2010
    I just got my first ever "flock". Three of them are 18-20 weeks old, one is much smaller but forgot to ask how old it was.

    Ive only had them a couple days, but only the biggest (a flightly black rock) has shown the ability to fly up onto things and jump. They are not used to their new coop yet so I had to force them in, once inside I think its too dark for them to see what they are doing. So they just calm down and stand in once place. So I manually place each one on the perch bar I made. They grip it well and seem confortable, but it seems they have no clue how to get off it again by themselves. Even in the morning when I open the door, they dont jump out. They wait sitting on the perch like they dont know how to get off.

    It is winter here now and the days are very short, nights very long. Sunrise seems to be 8.20am and sunset at 4pm. It seems almost cruel to leave them on a perch for so long where they do not know how to get off/move around. But if I left them on the floor of the coop they might not get comfortable enough to sleep?
  2. dandelionheart

    dandelionheart Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 15, 2010
    Lafayette, Indiana
    We put up a ladder to the perch/roost and they kinda single file come down in the morning. Sometimes Martha Stewart (EE) gets impatient and just climbs over the others... [​IMG]
  3. Judy

    Judy Chicken Obsessed Staff Member Premium Member

    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia
    First of all, from your sunrise/sunset times I assume you are pretty far north. In that climate, IMO, they should not be gripping a roost, it should be large enough that their feet will be flat on it so they can rest their body on their feet and keep their toes warm.

    I imagine they could get down if they wanted to. They may be frightened or even a bit in shock from the move and strange surroundings. I would provide a ladder of some sort and I would let them sleep on the floor if they want (why wouldn't it be comfortable?) If there isn't hay or pine shavings or something on the floor, I would add it. I might also add a night light -- anything small and battery operated will do, a small flashlight, a Walmart closet light, whatever. I'd probably turn it off around 8 or 9 PM and maybe on again around 6 AM, but to provide it only in the PM would also help, at least til they get accustomed to everything. And at that age, again til they get used to everything, I wouldn't insist on their using the roost.

    Could the small one be a bantam or a runt and the same age?
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 13, 2010
  4. SmittenChicken

    SmittenChicken Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 23, 2010
    I'm on my first batch of chickens too, so I'm far from an expert...
    I don't think there's anything wrong with placing chickens up on the roost after dark - they like to sleep in the highest place possible to avoid predators, and are probably more comfortable up there than on the ground. It may just be too dark for them to get up there by the time they're in the coop. I'm assuming that they had a roost at their last house, but I have heard of big chickens that are still accustomed to dogpiling on the floor. I'd keep putting them on the roost, personally.

    Do you have to pull them back off the roost once it's light out? If so then maybe they're not comfortable flying down and that's a separate issue... (the experienced BYCers will probably want to know what size roost you have and how far off the ground it is). I might try luring them down with treats.

    **One thing to note, though: I have always heard that when introducing chickens to a new coop you need to lock them in the coop for about a week without letting them outside, so that they recognize the coop as home - then they'll be a lot easier to round up at bedtime. It may also help to have an overhead light or even some xmas lights in the coop if they seem nervous about going inside at night - chickens have terrible night vision and might resist going into a dark coop (they think something's in there waiting for them).**
  5. No it's not cruel. I would give them a boost with a chicken ladder or a stump to act as a ladder step. Use 3" or larger rung for them to roost on. They will eventually learn.
  6. Rivers

    Rivers Out Of The Brooder

    Oct 3, 2010
    The small one is just younger. A regular Buff Sussex.

    The perch is wide enough for them to have flat feet, they only grip around with their toes when finding their balance as I place them on the perch. After this they settle and sit down with their toes sticking out (not wrapped around).
  7. elmo

    elmo Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 23, 2009
    How high is the perch?

    I have bantams, so my roost bars are set around 5 feet which of course would be too high for many standard breeds, but for my agile flying bantams, it's fine. There is ample space in front of the roost for my chickens to fly down. That could be an issue for you to look at in your coop. Chickens need adequate width to fly down from a perch. They can't go straight down like an elevator!

    When mine are settled in at night, I can't see their toes because their breast feathers cover them. That's what needs to happen if it gets down to freezing to avoid frostbitten toes.
  8. silkiechicken

    silkiechicken Staff PhD Premium Member

    Yeah, are you sure your roosts are not too high without a ladder of sorts?

    My silkie roostes are 12 inches off the ground. The standards only have roosts that are 2.5-3 feet off the ground. Some of my birds area heavy and there is no ladder, so I don't want any of my geriatric birds to hurt their legs jumping down. That said, the big old roo still jumps from the 3 foot or so perch to the top of the nest hutch that's 2 feet off the ground, before jumping to the ground. I don't think he particularly likes to jump off things, and even though he can clear the 5 foot fence when running away from something dangerous, he rarely ever jumps anywhere above wing level while outside.
  9. LynneP

    LynneP Chillin' With My Peeps

    We used to give them 4x4's on the floor when they were small, then a 'perch' about 8" high. They have a ramp to the roost and a large platform too. The other issue is injuries if the birds can't land safely or do not have glide careful! If birds are different ages/breeds you may need more than one roost.
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2010
  10. The Fairy Godmartyr

    The Fairy Godmartyr Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 7, 2010
    I would be careful. I decided to put several of my chickens up on the roosts who hadn't figured it out yet, hoping they would get the clue (they were born in June). For most of them, it worked. One of my Wellsummers, however, was limping the next morning. It has been about a month, and she is still limping. My guess is that she fell of and dislocated something in her leg. Now, I am struggling with the reality that I may have to cull her.

    I would give them some time to get comfortable with their surroundings. They will still huddle together to stay warm, even if they are on the floor.

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