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.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Housing roosters quietly...

Always an issue in my neck of the woods -- neighbours love the earthy sound (and are far enough away not to be disturbed) but Darling Husband is super sensitive to crowing.

I've already knocked up a fairly well sound-insulated building, but there'll be times when I want more cockerels or want to keep an older rooster aside.

However do I have the money to invest in (yet) another proper shed? No! Yet do I want the flexibility to be able to keep more than a couple of roosters even if they don't get on? Yes! Can I free range all the roosters during the day? No! Goshawks goshawks goshawks... So whatever I use to hold roosters needs to be a day and night thing.

The answer, it seems to me, is to attempt to make smaller night-boxes that with some small adjustments would also make safe day-pens for individual birds. Even better if these can be moved around the yard to keep the roosters on fresh grass. In other words, I'm talking about tractors with some kind of flexible cover for use at night-time.

Now when I was growing up we kept a cockatoo in a large moveable cage, and at night the cage would be brought up to the verandah and covered over with a fitted blanket to keep the bird quiet until people were awake in the morning. By day the galah would nibble grass stems and generally gaze at the sky (probably wishing for friends).

I'm planning to modify this system to suit roosters. Rather than have sound-insulation fixed to the rooster box, what if I make a cage over which slides some kind of sound retarding cover for use at night?

Now there are a few tricky issues I have to solve. Firstly, roosters in small night-boxes with soundproofing can suffer from a lack of ventilation. Given that chickens have a higher metabolism than mammals, a small fully enclosed box can be dangerous indeed. However if you have too many air holes you defeat the soundproofing. A cover that fits loosely enough over a cage to allow the bird to gain air might be very poor at soundproofing.

Secondly, the cage needs to be big enough to contain an adult standard sized bird in comfort until he's wanted for breeding, yet not so big that it's impossibly heavy to move around, and hard to sound-deaden.

Thirdly, ideally it needs to have an open floor so the bird can access grass (which is a very good way to keep a tractored bird happy despite confinement). A floor may end up being necessary, depending on what predators are around.

Now for what I plan to do. I'm not doing it yet (I'll report on that when I get started, with photos and a how-to) but here's the idea.
1. 2 sets of Bunnings compost panels ($26 each).
2. 2-3 sets of Bunnings kiddies' play mats ($14 each).
3. Using c-clips, join the mesh compost panels to make a 1x1.2m (or similar) cage with a roof.
4. Waterproof the top of the cage by fixing a roof of some kind -- it can be tarp, sarking, insulation blanket, or even alsonite or sheet metal. (NB this kind of tractor will be hell in full sun, so the insulation blanket isn't a bad idea as a roof.)
5. Using glue and/or other methods (stitching with whipper snipper cord or using studs of some sort), make a cover that fits the cage snugly with a little spare room so it's easy to slip on and off. Double layers of the kiddies' play matting would perhaps be even better for sound insulation. This cover needs to go on all four sides of the cage as well as the top.
6. Drill 4 x 1.5cm  holes near the bottom of the cover on 2 sides, for ventilation. This may not be necessary if the cover isn't flush with the ground, i.e. air can still flow through.

Now to use the cover and cage together. At night, feed the cover over the cage (which should be pegged to the ground or else should have a floor to stop digging predators). In the morning, whip the cover off and hey presto!

What other possible issues can I think of off the top of my head? One springs to mind -- what if the weather is very windy and the cover manages to lift off? I suppose that could happen, and I'm not sure what I could do to prevent it, but I'll give it some thought. Another possibility is that it's too hard to get the cover to sit close to the ground and therefore stop enough sound. Lastly I can't be sure the kiddies' play mats are perfectly safe in terms of the chemicals they exude over time -- one would hope, given their intended function, that they would be, but I've hit toxins in play objects before. The play-mat-covers might also weather badly or might break too easily... All of this needs to be thought through and tested if the mini-rooster-tractor is to work in the way I hope.

Remember, this is a set of thoughts, not a how-to... I do have to do the testing before I proclaim this a workable idea. But imagine if it did work... I'm sure many would-be rooster owners would be very happy to know it's possible to keep roosters without night-time distress and without spending a fortune!

Now to start trying out my ideas...


marty said...

Thanks for the help, both here and on BYC...

Erica Bandanna said...

You're welcome Marty! :-)