Monday, February 23, 2009

Chickens do fly, sort of.

It is interesting that a lot of people think chickens can't fly at all. When I put up the perches so many people asked why so high, they thought that at about waist height would be enough. With some larger breeds I guess it would be better to place them lower or have the ladder type but the lighter breeds like to get high off the ground when they can. When I was a teen, one of our neighbors used to let his chickens run free in the summer and they roosted in large pine trees at night next to his house. The branches were well above my head so they managed to get up there somehow. With the red girls they came from living in a tiny house, so at first they slept on the lower perch but I knew in a few days their instincts would tell them to go higher. With the black girls they came from a barn with very high perches and so they kept trying to perch on top of the door frame. It took a while for them to accept perching lower. With certain bantams they can fly quite high, getting over a two meter (six foot) fence. The lighter the bird the better they fly, usually. Gracie is small but does not fly well, I was told that cochins do not fly well, yet even she who lived in a cage, started to come out and learned to fly up and perch. Her instincts would tell her that she was safer higher up and she wanted to be with the other hens. I also find it a bit of a "use it or lose it" with hens, if you give them the chance to fly they get better at it, don't worry they will never be able to one day 'up and fly south' or something like that.

The problem with Chico is that silkies don't have proper feathers on their wings and so are not able to fly. I did not know that until the lady told me when I got him. Chico and his family did have perches but they were only about 10 centimeters (4 inches) off the floor. When I brought him home I made a lower perch for him to sleep on, however he would not use it. He would be so upset because he could not get up with the other girls, that he would walk around until dark and then make these sad little noises in the corner on the floor. At that time Chico was very cuddly and I felt really bad for him, I used to lift him onto the lower perch to sleep because I knew he could hop down. Chico began to use his wings and could get up on places that surprised me. I asked Dan to build a ramp and he came up with the idea of a shelf and ramp for Chico to get up on.

Chico's ramp.

As the day wears down, Chico gets up onto the shelf and then climbs the ramp to the top perch and encourages his flock to come to bed like every other rooster. This way he is much more contented that he can sleep with the rest of the girls. The shelf is also handy as I keep a wooden box of oyster shells for the hens, this way when thy want some they just fly up and eat. I found this way it stays clean because they can't scratch straw or shavings into the box.

Chico, keeping an eye on Gracie.

Also to keep the coop cleaner, since chickens do a lot of their pooping when resting at night, I tried putting a barrier just below the perches. Since I have the room, it actually works quite well. The hens almost never cross the barrier and this way the rest of the coop stays cleaner since they are not tossing the litter from under the perches back into the coop. All that work for Chico and he turns around to become an attack chicken, lucky for him he is so little and cute!


John Gray said...

I still caot get over how neat and tidy the coop is.....
is your house spotless too????

nobody-but-us-chickens said...

John: Have you not learned how to train your hens to use the potty? Since you live way across the great pond and will never see my place, my house, haha why yes it is perfectly clean without a spot of dirt anywhere! ;P