Why do we need another chicken blog or forum?

Many chicken forums are moderated to sell commercial feed, chemicals and ideology.
I prefer to find my own balance between nature, welfare and cost in raising happy chickens.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

making a low perch for meat birds

Meat hybrids aren't much into perching. And a good thing too, as if they jump down from anything over a few inches in height, they're likely to break a leg.

However resting on the ground is a recipe for health problems. For starters, sitting on top of fresh droppings will cause ammonia burns to both the skin and the lungs. Then there's the issue of matting feathers, rot and fungal diseases.

My particular pen isn't well designed for these birds, as it's right at the bottom of my yard, and draws moisture from everywhere else so it's damp year-round. The shed, which has no floor, is also quite leaky and tends to flood with rain.

The answer I came up with wasn't to demolish and start again — while a raised concrete floor in a drier spot would be ideal, it would break the bank. Any kind of perch fixed into the shed would make it difficult to scrape out droppings, so I also had that to consider.

The answer was to make a moveable low perch the birds can step up onto.

All I did was make a rectangular grid out of timber fence palings (smoothest side up), which are quite wide and suitable for perching. Narrow timbers would of course press deeply into the birds' feet and keelbone, since the hybrids are so heavy. This simple rectangle with struts sits up on half a dozen bricks so that the birds are raised out of the damp by several inches.

Underneath I've put some loose straw which I can remove and replace when I muck the shed out. This isn't greatly necessary but does help absorb ammonia. Even though the perch is easy to remove (just lift and pull out) it doesn't tip up when a bird first hops on top because it's quite heavy in its own right. Lastly I've made sure all corners and edges have stable bricks beneath; the whole thing is not rigid, but solid.

Since doing this I haven't had to muck out daily, and the birds' undersides are staying clean. It's surely a bonus for their health when they're not sitting in droppings all night.

The 7 girls are looking very well, and they even do the flapping run most birds do from time to time when they want to have a stretch and run around. I had visitors recently who actually admired them! They were surprised to hear they're supermarket meat hybrids; I think they imagined I had some special new breed on the go.

Meanwhile I've found homes for 2 spare ancona cockerels, so I'll be breeding with just one ancona and one leghorn come spring. But it's quiet times at The Natural Chicken because it's deep mid-winter (well, one day after solstice), I have no adult breeders, and although all 5 layers are laying daily they're all infertile, which just doesn't seem as much fun.

But there'll be time to set eggs when the youngsters are mature. For now, it's maintenance, maintenance, maintenance...


Anonymous said...

Have you tried a sand floor? It is very easy to tidy with a child's size garden rake.

Erica Bandanna said...

Sand's definitely a good idea. :)

These birds poop so much overnight, they still need the perch, but sand beneath would be a help.

Cheers for the thought!