The House that Cracked Corn Built- Coops/Cotes/Shacks/and Shanties

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Resolution, Dec 9, 2010.

  1. Resolution

    Resolution Chillin' With My Peeps


    A brief history of how chickens became products of human environments.
    Ancient Egyptian Adage # 3.

    'Remember that starting with the end in mind limits any room for creativity and emergence.'
    Nearly every human population and culture has evolved from perpetual nomad hunter-gatherer through a more or less sedentary Neolithic stage.
    Each major civilization has progressed from their own respective stone ages to the state of civilization where agriculture is at the centre of its regional local economy and onwards; Each society, which derives from such phases of civilization has evolved ethical considerations of kin, community and self, in kind with principles- of conceptualization – of principled action- of reanalyzing- recalibrating objectives -cognition -retooling priorities- hand in hand with technological advancement .

    They’ve experienced dynamic growth within their populations. Intellectual growth enabled by cooperative pastoralism- the apex of higher reasoning- that collective conscious that finds room for an entire societies comprehension or lack thereof- an entire society’s aptitude- their capacity for problem solving- to dedicate considerable time and energy in an concerted effort to retain some relative control over their environments- to no longer be strictly at the mercy of nature.

    When our common ancestors discovered that they could modify the land and sow those cereal plant species that were most beneficial to them- to the exclusion of other non-beneficial species- the first garden was born. Subsequently, groves of shrubs and trees would pre-date true orchards. True orchards have cultivated, carefully selected artificial strains of fruit bearing species growing in them. Groves have wild species of beneficial shrubs and trees. Likewise, when humankind realized they could fence their settlements gardens as well as their livestock - they could confine it. They could help direct the direction mates were selected amongst the captive livestock. Additionally, these early pastoralists were no longer obliged to invest as much energy protecting their livelihoods- their energy investments. Fenced in herds made it possible for our ancestors to avoid some degree of competition from other animals including unscrupulous neighbors- packs of dhole and hyena. They participated in the selection process by encouraging some individual animals in a herd to reproduce and cull out those that did not meet whatever specific criteria desired by that human populace.
    Fencing livestock and gardens essentially entitled human beings to whatever bounty the land and by default those beneficial organisms existing on it- refined by principle and cooperative human proactive action- they were entitled to a harvest of their own creation. Herds of wild sambar were no longer gorging on fenugreek sown for the semi-domesticated zebu milk cow. Dhole and Asiatic lions were no longer capable of dragging off Zebu calves with such impunity. Humankind had progressed beyond the strictest realms of natural selection. Their self-modified environments were artificially selected in their own creative designs and they were characterized by the crop plants and livestock species within them.
    Ingenuity followed by more of the same marks that certain progression of human kind- ever forward in thinking (unless distracted with backward thinking).
    Livestock husbandry -including the advent of selective breeding and ever growing advancements and technologies of harvest and storage, of incubation and water diversion-animal nutrition and sanitation - enabled by agriculture encouraged humankind forward. Progressive steps one after the other and we all know that it takes more than one foot to walk on.

    Onwards to the issue of Cotes, Coops and Houses
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2010
    1 person likes this.
  2. annie3001

    annie3001 My Girls

    Jun 11, 2009
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2010
  3. eKo_birdies

    eKo_birdies Songster

    May 11, 2010
    Northern Colorado
    lol yesssss?
  4. Resolution

    Resolution Chillin' With My Peeps

    Until the 1950's there was no such invention as chicken wire.

    Nevertheless, people have maintained flocks for at least ten thousand years. Chickens have been transported all over the globe and everywhere the chicken has gone, native predators have followed with great curiosity and naturally, predatory intent. Inclement weather, well outside the temperature ranges of ancestral junglefowl greeted colonialists and their livestock all over the world.
    It's miraculous that they survived at all. They did so in large part because of shelters built for them and the proximity to which they remained to human dwellings.

    Where stone age cultures were more obsessed with catching a bird in the bush, impetuously stealing its eggs, Neolithic cultures began modifying their environments to encourage the fowl to stay put.
    The Neolithic Revolution marked the first time in history that a given population made a concerted effort to select which nests to plunder and which to leave alone. The modification of man made environments in the form of thicket planting, brush barriers, stick, bamboo and stone fencing were integral in the development of four legged livestock species. Further modification of these features encouraged the habitation of junglefowl. In many cases, semi-domestic fowl were transported to regions far distant from the junglefowl's native haunts. Chickens -being a product of their environment adapted to novel environments created by humans.
    Chickens are maintained in the frozen steppes of Siberia and the searing deserts of the Sahara, from the stifling humidity of tropical rainforests in Sumatra to the frigid damp of the windswept Falkland Isles.
    There are backyard chickens in the suburbs of Sacramento, Cincinnati and Atlanta and urban chickens in NYC and Toronto. Yet every flock of chickens has at least a few threats and worries in common.
    Accordingly, the objectives of chicken shelters are clear to all.

    Domestic fowl need to be sheltered from predators and weather while also making it convenient for egg collection and holding birds for ready capture.

    This topic deserves a “brief” overview of a history of shelters built exclusively for the use of chickens.
    [​IMG]Until recently, chickens in European and European descended cultures lived in barns on crofts, which housed other livestock species. In other situations, domestic fowl nested and slept right under the eaves of human dwellings.
    In cultures, with a much longer history of poultry farming, chickens lived in special structures with various names and designs entirely dependent upon regional language and ecological challenges of the peoples that built them.

    Wicker or bamboo baskets confining Junglehens with young chicks probably represents the earliest form of the chicken house some ten thousand years ago somewhere in Vietnam or Cochin China.

    In subtropical regions of Indonesia and Malaysia, domestic fowl are maintained directly below longhouse structures – basically houses on stilts often adjacent to rivers. The shelters that hold the birds are secured to the elevated floors of the long houses. An adult man standing on the equivalent of a tall step latter can reach the doors of the chicken shelters. The floor of the chicken shelter is more than three yards from the ground. This is the safest place for the birds given the many predators present in these jungles. It also protects them from steady weeklong torrential rains and corresponding floods. These shelters are designed in such a manner that the birds can come and go as they please. This is important, as the fowl are required to locate the majority of their own food while at free range. They can also be confined in these shelters by securing the bamboo doors in a closed position.

    This design is basically a soft release enclosure, meaning that the birds are free to come and go. These birds (generally oversized Malay games) remaining in very close proximity to humans benefit in many ways. Without human beings it is doubtful the birds could survive at all. This is likely the closest facsimile to how domestic fowl were maintained by the first domesticators of the species.

    Subsequently, in the cold and frequently windy regions of temperate northern China, large, closely woven bamboo cages were crafted and reinforced with rock and or fired ceramic bricks. Domestic fowl were often secured at night under heavy wicker baskets on elevated walls. These dome shaped baskets were capped with special weights. One interesting aspect of this husbandry regime required that each bird be handled daily- picked up and inspected by a poultry shepherd before being tucked with its kin under these nighttime shelters. One consequence of this form of husbandry-was the development of uniquely Eastern Asian breeds. The Chinese artificially selected for birds heavy in weight, calm and confiding. These birds were given their freedom during seasons when barley and millet fields were harvested but tended to not wander far because of the relatively barren surroundings of these northern villages. This is in contrast with the method of the Indonesian game fowl kept under longhouses- left to fend for themselves to find the bulk of their own food by wandering far and wide- only returning at night. Chickens were highly domesticated in China by 5000 B.C.. We have no real idea of when the Austronesians started keeping their gamefowl but it was much earlier.
    Without exception, the earliest methods of keeping chickens was to allow to them- to encourage them to free range during the day to forage for themselves. Sometimes they were closed up at night and during inclement weather.

    Different kinds of fowl lent themselves to different shelters. Heavy calm birds generated in cold regions of China could not fly. Consequently they were placed onto special walls and covered accordingly beneath baskets designed for just such a purpose.

    Archaic game fowl were conditioned to habitat longhouses, often being confined at night or at least roosting at night below human dwellings, which afforded them a certain amount of protection from some predators. These great big games are mean as monitor lizards and accordingly the defend themselves against a host of opportunistic predators, ones that might easily destroy a Cochin or even a Langshan.
    Heavy bodied Eurasian breeds imported to Europe from China via Russia were made at home within cottage barns and croft outbuildings. Their survival was entirely dependent upon the sanctity provided by these buildings and ready access to nutritious food items in environments completely alien to them.

    At this point in time there was no such thing as a chicken coop or a chicken pen. I realize this is taking forever- and this is a study in the chronology of context. So bear with me if you will and I'll try not post many more photos so that those of you with dialup can still read along if you so choose.
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2010
    1 person likes this.
  5. Resolution

    Resolution Chillin' With My Peeps

    Firstly, it should be acknowledged that in ancient times, two different breed classes of chickens were treated almost as different species. The meat chickens came from China via Russia and Eastern Europe and didn't arrive in Western Europe or the Mediterranean until fairly late in history.
    The races of egg producers arrived in the Mediterranean from India via the Levant and Egypt.
    They did not arrive in Russia or Western Europe until about the same period in agricultural history.

    Heavy-bodied, cold weather adapted Eastern races were not particularly well-suited for the lifestyle and physical environment-nutrition- the ecology that Light-bodied warm climate adapted chickens thrived in or visa vis.
    The cool blooded races could almost be considered urban so intensive was their husbandry- please recall the Chinese method of hands on selective breeding and nurturing in environments mostly devoid of foraging space- the birds obliged to glean for spilled grains of rice, of barley and millet- the latter two being relatively low energy cereals. They were fed special foods but were not trusted in the confines of a garden - that was left for ducks whose feet do not damage and whose manure does not burn crops.

    The warm-blooded races were more or less wild- one race (Fayoumi) considerably more so than the other (Lakenvelder). They were obliged to find most of their own food, fly larvae in the manure of feral livestock and insects in the fields. They encouraged to forage in gardens for pests and-during thrashing season, they gleaned for grains. Their diets were high in energy and the birds were obliged to wander over a wide area to procure the full benefits of their environment.

    The cool blooded races were always reared and selected for utility- their meat and eggs were of vital importance.
    The warm blooded races were originally kept as ceremonial creatures. They were of vital importance for sacrificial rites and good fortune. Their eggs were of growing significance and eventually the birds were maintained almost solely for their eggs.

    Housing for cool blooded races was within the same structures used to shelter hoofstock from the cold or were kept within the dwellings of humans themselves.

    Housing for warm blooded races was non-existent, save for their adoption of certain human made structures, which gave the birds shelter, primarily from heat.

    Predators of both racial groups were largely the same, though the warm blooded races had many more threats than the cool blooded.

    The roots of egg farming in the Mediterranean are one of the cornerstones in the foundation of European chicken husbandry. The Mediterranean class of chickens were, until very recently in history, the world's primary egg producers.

    Composites of these two racial groups are the foundation of all dual purpose commercial breeds.

    A quick overview of some important breeds we can classify as "Mediterranean" because of the period in time in which they were distributed throughout Europe . Their ancestral centres of distribution were Persia and the Red Sea respectively. The centre of dispersal for the thoroughly domesticated, egg production breeds is the Mediterranean during a period of time when cultures along the Mediterranean were experiencing their golden age (in precisely the same way that an significant percentage of uniquely Dutch/Belgium breeds came to Europe during the Dutch's astonishing exploratory -culture-building Renaissance but that actually came Indonesia, the Spice Islands, Sri Lanka, Fiji and beyond.) :


    Andalusia: Andalusian
    Spain: Minorca
    Tuscany:Livorno ("Leghorn")
    Catalan: Penedesencas
    Sicily: Sicani ("Buttercup"/"Pheasant Fowl")

    How many eggs go into one cake?
    At first thought it's a no brainer. Of course eggs are an ingredient in dough- right? The question is- when was it that eggs first started being added to dough?

    If we are careful to not muddle too much history- we might recall how before the Indo-Aryans of the Levant took to mixing eggs into dough, no baked goods contained eggs. No pasta, no cake, no bread- no cookies- until the Levantine peoples ingenuously included eggs into dough, no other culture had truly discovered the greatest value of the domestic fowl.

    Subsequently, Romans adopted Levantine culinary technology and with it the advent of baking came to a zenith. Imagine how much further an army could march on a diet that included protein enriched bread- and how much longer bread remained edible -thanks to the egg.

    This is no small issue and the Levantine hens would be carried throughout Roman territories.
    To be certain, the Phoenicians had already carried hens to their many colonies throughout the Mediterranean, but egg enriched dough was a necessity that came about only during the last gasps of the Phoenician decline, when the Levant was handed from Macedonian to Roman conquerors.

    The Greeks were highly superstitious about eggs, equating the fowl with the supernatural divination of oracles. The Greeks were not that interested in eating chicken eggs. The first domestic fowl to reach Greece came from Egypt and were held in particular reverence. The second wave of chickens (Asil and the ancestor of the Dorking) came from India.

    Romans followed the Greeks in many ways and means. They didn't have much of a concept of the chicken outside of its supposed oracular and spiritual -ceremonial -import. Fighting cocks was an obsession. The ruling classes certainly ate a great deal of chicken meat. Yet, until the Hebrews and other peoples from the Levant inadvertently introduced them to bread made with eggs, the ancient Romans were largely ignorant of the true value of the chicken.

    Conversely, Levantine kingdoms surrounded by hostile empires, including the Romans, became increasingly dependent on sustenance farming. Combining eggs and dough was a matter ingenuity and survival. Consequently, the ever-innovative resilient Hebrews were the first peoples in all the world to culture their fowl towards superior egg production. Large white eggs produced daily by long-lived hens; cheerful roosters and the unusual phenotype, sombre, humble, bicolour these are the hallmarks of the Hebrews of post Phoenician to Roman times and refined throughout the first centuries A.D.

    The Mediterranean fowl was until very recently, the source of the world's primary egg production.
    This came about when Romans adopted Levantine baking technology. Pasta and other egg enriched doughs became known to the entire Roman empire and onward.

    This came about- the egg-enriched dough as Levantine (Phoenician) kingdoms being swallowed by Roman conquest had taken to enriching their dough with eggs as a means of storing food and ameliorating their limited food resources.

    Hebrews, would take their domestic fowl from the Levant to Roman Germany- their wondrous creation the Lakenvelder came into existence almost solely to produce eggs for the new advent in baking ushered in by the Romans through the ingenuity of Jews.

    Similarly, though much later in history ( circa ~ 17th century A.D.), Iberian Jews would carry their egg producing fowl to present day Belgium/Netherlands where the Brakel or Campine came into existence.
    The egg enabled the what had long been a backwater in European civilization to become the Dutch empire- one of the most significant periods in human exploration and modernization in history.

    The significance egg production breeds had on Western civilization cannot be overemphasized.
    In order to house these birds, special enclosures had to be designed and constructed, maintained and repaired.

    There was no chicken wire and the chicken "coop" had yet to come into existence.

    The objective of this thread is to provide a brief overview of the history of enclosures constructed specifically for domestic fowl. In order to reach that point in our discussion, we need remind our readers that the fowl itself had to pass a certain thresh hold where it came to trust humans to begin with.
    As authors just below this pass have intuited, there is a genetic basis to these important changes.

    This can be summarized briefly:
    The birds weren't just wild captives- they were not just being tame and doing what man wants or expects of them. The fowl is selecting habitats of humankind over those of its (many million year old) naturally designed plan. The chicken evolves with the cognitive pro-action of the human.

    Before most of the Mediterranean breed class came into existence, there were just two races of domestic fowl in North Africa and the Near East. I'll organize my thoughts and attempt to describe a brief chronology of the important events leading up to the development of modern egg production breeds, which corresponds roughly with the birth of the humble hens' haus.

    The simple straight to the point version is that a cote is where it all started and a logical place for innovative stewards and hobbyists to begin again- a new chapter in the day of the life of the domestic fowl...​
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2010
    1 person likes this.
  7. ivan3

    ivan3 spurredon

    Jan 27, 2007
    Enjoy the narrative (great pics). That our species came to be, and is still becoming, a product of our created environments (slightly smaller brain volume, slightly less marked sexual dimorphism (SSD), etc.), makes for an interesting bit of resonance generated by our `domestication' and our `boxing up' Red Junglefowl, taking them along for the ride:

    In 2004, a draft genome sequence of the chicken was established by sequencing a single female red junglefowl, the wild ancestor of chickens. The task required a major economic investment (millions of US dollars) and a large international team of scientists. In the current study the researchers have used new sequencing technologies and a modest budget to analyze pools of individuals representing eight different populations of the domestic chicken and a red junglefowl population.

    "This is the first study ever where the genetic diversity within and between populations are examined across the whole genome," says Michael Zody, who did his PhD partially on this project and is now a researcher at the Broad Institute. "The new sequencing technologies allow us to address important biological questions that were impossible to study just a few years ago."...

    ...A selective sweep takes place when a favorable mutation becomes fixed in a population. This happens in all species during the course of evolution and it happens in domestic animals as a consequence of human-driven selection for favored traits. One of the most interesting findings in this study was a striking selective sweep at the TSHR gene that codes for the thyroid-stimulating hormone receptor. In vertebrates, this protein has a key role in metabolic regulation but also in determining the timing of reproduction as a response to changes in day length, a trait that is strictly controlled in most wild animals but which is drastically altered in domestic chickens that can reproduce all year around.
    "Our discovery that every domestic chicken that we have studied representing populations from Sweden to China carry a mutant form of the TSHR protein strongly suggests that this genetic change was an important step in the evolution of the domestic chicken," says Leif Andersson...

    ...The team is also investigating a gene that encodes the thyroid-stimulating hormone receptor protein to determine whether domestication altered the genetic makeup of chickens thousands of years ago. If true, this would be the first time that scientists have identified a mutation in animals caused by domestication.

    Did this favorable mutation occur in a single population or, owing to human intervention, appear more often in multiple populations? Dmitri Belyaev's study of the domestication of Silver Foxes is an accessible example of what can occur (changes in hormone expression has been implicated in mutations in other species):

    for abandoning the `architecture', momentarily. The shot of the the roo chowing down there on the human cultural artifact got me wondering.​
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2010
  8. ayka

    ayka In the Brooder

    Oct 31, 2010
    Did this favorable mutation occur in a single population or, owing to human intervention, appear more often in multiple populations? Dmitri Belyaev's study of the domestication of Silver Foxes is an accessible example of what can occur (changes in hormone expression has been implicated in mutations in other species): Spring 09/Behavior Genetics/Farm-Fox Experiment.pdf.

    Well, it's probably a mutation that occurs at a low rate in natural populations. Normally, it is unfavourable and weeded out. Under domestication it becomes advantageous for whatever reason (natural selection or artificial human selection) and then sweeps through the population. This is a similar story to the mutation that causes human populations to be able to digest cow's milk as adults. In populations that keep cows this mutation is favourable and fixes. In other populations it is unnecessary and just drifts around (or is slightly disadvantageous and weeded out).​
  9. Resolution

    Resolution Chillin' With My Peeps


    In southern Egypt, where intensive livestock farming of species other than chickens began as early as the 31st century BCE, the earliest structures for poultry were designed and built for pigeons, a very important food source. Today English-speaking people know these structures as dovecotes.

    They are designed for free flying pigeons and doves, which come and go as they please, nesting and perching within the structures. In ancient times as it is today, these cotes were very attractive to what are essentially wild birds. Pigeons and doves fly vast distances to find food and drink daily. Why did they need to remain in the vicinity of humankind to begin with? The cotes the Egyptians designed and built were very attractive to pigeons and doves. The birds used the structures to escape the oppressive Saharan heat as well as to sleep through the night safe from predators.

    The value of the dovecote to the ancient Egyptian cannot be overstated. Squab was featured on the tables of all strata of economic and social strata. Peasants, priests and Pharaohs alike depended on the bounty of this ingenuous form of poultry husbandry. Perhaps even more importantly, pigeon guano was collected within these cotes and this was a major commodity, especially during the dry season when important summer crop plants like the cucumber require consistent fertilization. In some designs the cotes were outfitted with special tarps designed to catch guano for easy retrieval. This was not always the case as Persian and Judean cultures adopted the practice. In these Near Eastern and Persian dovecotes the droppings fell straight to the floor for ready retrieval.

    Chickens were not introduced into Egypt until 16th Century BCE. The progenitive ancestors of the Fayoumi adopted the dovecote and in doing so overcame ecological challenges presented by the harsh environments of Egypt's Fayoum depression. Which came first? The Fayoumi or the Cote?
    The structure created by humankind preceded the development of this ancient breed.
    The emergence of the Fayoumi and its cousin the Canaan Hen (ancestor of the Lakenvelder) were of pivotal importance to the development of egg production breeds.

    I've read in the thread that brought me to write this one that any number of authors took the concept of dovecote and applied it to chickens. A Chicken Cote is not a dovecote. It's an enclosure that encourages fowl to live within it and that protects the birds from harm - disease, predation, weather and otherwise.

    Within a cote, birds are comfortable and safe on their roosts. Their droppings fall straight onto a fabric directly below the perches. The exterior of the cote is designed in such a way that predators cannot gain foothold and discourages birds of prey. The cote may be left open day and night. Alternatively, the cote can be designed as a residential suite- where the birds cannot be released for whatever reason.

    In both situations, the most is made of height. It is easy for us to forget how the avian respiratory system works . Movement, especially that of the wings, amounts to more respiratory circulation.
    The greatest issues we face as poultiers is the proximity within which our birds live their lives in dust.
    The closer to the ground that the birds live, the more dust they are coated in. Encouraging the birds to get up off the ground as high they might climb - and leap and flutter - or just fly for the old heritage breeds- the cleaner the air they breath. And what is more, the gymnasium keeps the birds at their best physical health. It helps recalibrate the birds' immune systems- every time they are used.

    There are many proactive methods of keeping your hens healthy. The cote is where it began and looking at all the wonderful ways the cote evolved -architectural masterpieces even- it really only requires a bit ingenuity and experiential wisdom to design and construct your own chicken cote.

    The objective is to educate a new generation of poultry enthusiasts with new methods and preventative measures to keep chickens healthy and happy.

    Last edited: Dec 14, 2010
    1 person likes this.
  10. welasharon

    welasharon Songster

    Jun 28, 2010
    North Florida
    Reading your writing is a nice brain stretching activity. I enjoy your posts.

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