It’s raining. It’s pouring. All of the sensible hens are indoors (that leaves Lulu and the Polish out getting soaked.)
Being indoors is boring, and that can lead to problems. Bored hens peck each other. If blood gets drawn, they’ll keep pecking and it can get so bad that they’ll kill. You’re more likely to have issues if the indoor space is tight. Many of the prefab coops on the market claim to be suitable for a certain number of chickens – but, that’s assuming that the hens also go outside. Often these chicken tractors and small coops have indoor space for nesting boxes, but not roosts. Chickens need a minimum of two square feet of floor space per animal. Chickens of all one breed, as seen on most commercial farms, tend to get along more easily than flocks composed of different sizes, colors and temperaments. Mixed backyard flocks need generous floor space and multi-tiered roosts. On snowy, stuck-indoors days, my tiny bantams, Betsy and Coco, stay out of the way under the nesting boxes. The bigger girls claim spaces on the roosts, and everyone avoids crazy Lulu who paces the floor. If all they had were three nesting boxes and a short roost (as is seen in coops advertised for “up to ten chickens”) there’d be bloodshed.
Keeping the girls amused with greens keeps everyone healthy. I’ve attached a suet feeder inside the coop and on bad-weather days fill it with whatever vegetables I have around. Today my garden has overgrown lettuce, so I clipped a bunch and gave it to the hens. They’ll peck at it instead of each other. Also, feeding greens through the fall and winter is a good nutritional supplement.
It’s also nice for the bunny!
There’s no crowding problem in the big barn. The floor is about 12 foot square, and there are roosts and nesting boxes. Only seven hens live in this palatial coop, but I still like to give them something to do during inclement weather. The sunflowers have gone to seed and are falling over in the garden, so I tossed them two. Even the old, arthritic hens, Eleanor and Edwina, are appreciative.
On a dreary, rainy day, it’s satisfying to take a moment in the barn with content birds. Now I’ll make myself a cup of tea. Then, I’d better see what I can do to keep Lily Dog from going stir-crazy.