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25 October 2010

Can I teach the star chick of everyone's smartphone to sleep in the coop? [More:]

The other three birds are fine in the coop, and there is enough room for all four of them. They are a Wyandotte, Jersey Giant, and Bantam Brahma. The fourth chicken is an Appenzeller Spitzhauben. She is cute and friendly and treats people like they are her flock. She lets us pet her and my housemates and I give her all the attention because she's the sweet/friendly birdlet. She's a part of the bird flock, but at the bottom of the pecking order as she was added a month after the others. They're all 7-11 months old; she's 4 or 5 months old and just about to grow her comb.

They're not pecking her to death or shunning her as best I can tell; she just prefers to sleep by the sliding glass door on the back porch. (She is awfully eager to leave the coop in the mornings.) Every day for a month (that's how long we've had her), I have moved her into the coop around chicken-bedtime. I'd really love to leave her out where she wants to be, but I hear there are raccoons in the neighborhood. She's so cute asleep by herself, and chirps so betrayedly when I move her! I worry that if I leave her out, she'll be a sitting chicken for one of the adventurous neighborhood cats. Should I build her a separate mini-coop near the porch window-door? Or what?

Bonus points
if you know why she has had chicken diarrhea for the past few days. Her water is clean; she eats the chicken food; I'm not feeding (many) table scraps to her.

If I'm fussing like this over chickens, it's probably a good sign I'd worry too much if I had kids....
I feel like this relates to the more common problem of 'kid is doing X.' What do I do? and that that question probably has a lot of answers, so this one might have similar answers? Or maybe I should take it to AskMe?

Chattier version: tell us how your chickens are AWESOME or what trouble they get into.
posted by aniola 25 October | 23:58
mudpuppie might be able to help.
posted by arse_hat 26 October | 01:25
We need pictures before we can answer any questions!

Not that I'm any help, but mudpuppie may be able to help as arse_hat said.

/jealous that I can't have chickens
posted by deborah 26 October | 02:48
Chickie just needs to learn to sleep in the coop, I think. Do you have a multitude of perching/nesting places so she can find one that suits her? Our chickies always wanted to roost at night, so we had several roosting spots in their little coop, but if we had one that consistently fell asleep by the door I'd make sure there were some flat spots for her to sleep on in the coop.

As sweet as she sounds, you don't want to just let her sleep there and wake up one day to find her half-eaten. That's an awful experience :( (Actually happened to our sweet chickie in the daytime, very sad.)

If you have any kind of enclosed coop, then the body heat of all the chickies will help keep them warm when things get cold; if you don't, they'll huddle. Does it get cold where you are?
posted by galadriel 26 October | 09:14
I didn't know mudpuppie had chickens!

Yes, I have a semi-enclosed coop to protect the chickens from our semi-winter. Maybe she'll like it better when it gets colder. I have plenty of perches for her, and there's a flat space, but I hadn't thought to give her more flat space.

And thanks, galadriel. I think I just needed to be reminded that she really could get eaten.

Here's a crappy/cute picture from when my housemate put her on the cat tower the other day. The good ones of her perched on my shoulder are still in my boss's phone.
≡ Click to see image ≡
posted by aniola 26 October | 10:30
For some reason that picture isn't loading for me. Here's attempt #2:

≡ Click to see image ≡
posted by aniola 26 October | 10:34
I have moved her into the coop around chicken-bedtime

This is the best and only thing you can do. She'll eventually get it. Part of her problem is that she's probably getting picked on in the mornings, so she wants to get the hell out of there before the others do. When I introduced my latest to my oldest, we had the same problem.

There is one thing you can do to speed the process of her being okay with going in at night on her own. It's a total pain, but it will help: Get up every morning just before the sun comes up and open the coop (then go back to bed, if that's not your time of day). She'll learn that she'll be able to get out when she wants out, and that will keep her from balking at going in at night.

Just keep putting her to bed every night. Get up before she does in the morning and open the coop. She'll get it eventually.

I hear there are raccoons in the neighborhood.

I learned in the Metafilter meetup thread that we're in the same general neighborhood. Yes, there are raccoons. They killed one of my chickens in August. The gate on my coop had a latch at the top and the bottom. The wood had warped, so the bottom one didn't latch anymore. I'd been leaning a cinderblock up against the gap down there (probably not wider than 4"), but I forgot one night. A young raccoon got in through the gap, and back out through the gap with a not-small hen in its mouth. Took her into my neighbor's yard, where it, its mom, and its 3 siblings were waiting, but my neighbor heard the racket and got the (dead) chicken away from them.

Do make sure you keep them secure at night.
posted by mudpuppie 26 October | 10:48
Mudpuppie, you have chickens! That's awesome! Thanks for the advice; that was very useful. I'll start opening the coop just before dawn. Let me know if you ever need a chicken-sitter.
posted by aniola 26 October | 11:22
Get up every morning just before the sun comes up and open the coop

My chickies spontaneously decided that they wanted to lay their eggs in a built-in shelf in my feed room. All of them. They took me by surprise; what I'd read suggested they'd start laying around 5 or 6 months of age, and they started when they were barely 4, so I didn't have anything else in place in the way of a laying nest yet. So they took to the shelves.

Not a big deal. I just made them some little nesting boxes on the shelves right away. Several on the shelf where I found the first egg, and several on the shelf above, and several on the shelf below. For three hens, that darn well should've given them lots of choice and space.

But no. They ALL wanted to lay in ONE of those nests. Only one of the six identical nests was acceptable. How they arrived at this decision, I have no clue.

They seemed to have an interesting cycle, where they'd lay about every day and a half or so; sometimes in the morning, sometimes the afternoon. Most of the time, only one would be laying at a time, so the one single acceptable nest wasn't a problem.

Where it got funny was when two (or all three) needed to "go" first thing in the morning. I'd open their coop, and they'd race over to the nest, trying to get there first. Then they'd tussle for the one nest that was acceptable. They'd push each other sideways and frontways. Hockey players never bodychecked so effectively. Professional wrestlers never threw themselves at the opponent so intensely. Sometimes they sat ON each other. They were loudly complaining the whole time. The word "squabbling" was never so clearly demonstrated.

I suppose I should have felt bad that I couldn't somehow adequately provide enough nesting boxes for my bizarrely opinionated hens... but really, it was hilarious. I'd be leaning against the wall, laughing, wiping the tears, and laughing some more.
posted by galadriel 26 October | 20:51
I suppose I should have felt bad that I couldn't somehow adequately provide enough nesting boxes for my bizarrely opinionated hens.

I first learned that one of my current hens was of laying age when the caretaker of the house next door complained about finding eggs in a pile of dirty towels in their laundry room. She'd been going over the 6-foot fence every day, laying in the pile of laundry (their dryer was broken, so pile of stuff was a fixture), and coming home at night.

Chickens are weird.
posted by mudpuppie 27 October | 00:20
Aw, thanks for the photo. She's so cute! And reading the updates makes me want chickens even more. *sigh*
posted by deborah 27 October | 01:14
Take Back Halloween || When proper punctuation goes (hilariously) bad...