Are my chooks shy?

Discussion in 'Poultry, Domestic Livestock, Pets, & Bees' started by Steve, Oct 7, 2017.

  1. Steve

    Steve Valued Member Premium Member

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    So I have 3 young chooks in my new chook house (too flash to be called a coup :maketinker:).
    Probably had them 3 -4 weeks now. They are yet to start laying.

    The problem is that they are still just content to stay in the house.
    I thought this was something they would get over pretty quick but it seems to be the norm now.
    I open up the door in the morning and sometimes they'll come out and scratch around but mostly they will just stay inside. If they do come out it wont be for long, maybe 10mins, and then they go back inside.
    It doesn't matter if I give them the best looking kitchen scraps (which they hardly touch), they just go back up the ramp. They'd spend all day in the house if I didn't encourage them out.

    The only time they will venture out by themselves is late in the arvo for maybe an hour or so but it's hit and miss.

    A couple of times I've locked them out of the house to see what they do. They seem to enjoy being locked out and have a great time in having dust baths, scratching around and chasing bugs.

    So why are they so content on staying inside?
    Is it because they are still young? Is it because they dont' have an older more experienced chook to show them the ropes? Are they still scared of unknown predators?
    Is it cruel to lock them out? They still have water but not their pellets when they're locked out.

    Any thoughts from the chook guru's? :feedchooks:
     
  2. Letsgokate

    Letsgokate Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    When they are young they can take a bit too get the hang of things. An older chook in with them would have helped but you don’t have that. If they aren’t laying I’d keep locking them out of their house. When you open it in the morning shoo them out so they learn that is what is expected and keep them out for the day as long as they have food and water.
     
  3. Perry

    Perry Active Member Premium Member

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    G'day Steve,
    Have you tried leaving their food & water outside of their cope?
    Cheers Perry
     
  4. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Its the way they were bred, in a locked up shed.
    So anything that flies over frightens the crap out of them plus as Letsgo says if they had an older hen to show them the ropes they would be much better.
    Chooks learn via folklore, so their learning is mostly handed down these days.
    They have lost a lot of their wild nowse.
    Giving them more overhead protection like some green or black shade cloth stretched across to the fence from the roof will make them feel more secure.
    They go out in the late arvo because that's how they do it in the wild.
    And why the old way to have chookens was to just let them out in the arvo.
    As Perry says, putting food & water outside when they are let out can help but also they may be so scared they loose weight because they wont go out to eat which is counter productive when you want them in good nick to lay.
    As for the household scraps they have no idea what they are.
    They were raised on pellets. Again an older experienced hen would have helped.
    To get them into lay mode you need to be feeding them laying mash or pellets which has far higher protein plus a few other important bits.
    If you are allowed to have a rooster & someone is giving away an older rooster that has been around a bit, maybe you can get him for a while to show the hens the ropes.
    Also they will have faith in him to protect them.
    But do watch him as he may be too aggressive to the young hens.
     
  5. Steve

    Steve Valued Member Premium Member

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    Yeah I did try that but then I was worried they weren't drinking so I had to put the water back in.

    I am getting another 2 chooks in the next couple of weeks that should be a bit older so I'm hoping they have a few more smarts about them and teach the young ones a thing or two.

    I'll keep persisting with the kitchen scraps and locking them out from time to time. I'll only do while I'm home and for an hour or two and see how they go.

    I've been told that chooks need a certain amount of sun/light each day or they are less likely to lay. So i guess my concern with them being inside all day is they wont get the sun they need to be healthy contributors.

    It's still early days....
     
  6. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Steve they could also get quite hot in there on really hot or sunny days.
    That will slow them down from reaching maturity.
    Some people find it advantageous to hang around with their chookens while they are 'out'.
    Have you tried hanging around in the pen.
    Have you ever heard the sound a rooster or mother hen makes when they are alerting their charges that there is food to eat?
    Its the traditional pluck, pluck, pluck sound that is usually attached to chook footage or cartoons.
    The rooster makes it to show his hens he can find food for them & the mother hen makes that sound to show her chickens that this food is for eating.
    I know it sounds a pretty silly thing to do but by kneeling over some food (for example their pellets or whatever you feed them), looking down at it & pecking the ground where it is with your fingers while making that sound, you may attract the attention of the hens.....apart from the neighbours!! ;)
    If they investigate where you are pecking with your fingers & then eat that food, you can move on to the kitchen scraps.
    For example, they like spaghetti shaped items, so corn silks, shredded lettuce or spaghetti for that matter or even some garden worms.
    They love grated carrot or pumpkin (sort of spaghetti shaped) that has been popped in the microwave for 30secs to soften then cooled. (don't feed it raw as it goes right through them quickly)
    Its not so much that you want them to eat certain foods, its more that you are showing them that all these foods are edible just like the rooster or the mother hen would do.
    So each time you introduce a new food you do the pluck, pluck, pluck & peck at the food with your fingers & they should come running to eat it.
    I always use this technique to introduce new foods to my cluckles or when I am digging in the garden & find a grub etc, I make the sound & hens come running & flying to get to me first.
     
  7. stevo

    stevo Backyard Farmer Premium Member

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    I'd agree with Clissa on some stuff there too. Maybe your area is quite exposed, no where to hide? My chooks seem to like the protection of trees and in amongst the garden. They do wonder across the exposed yard but sometimes freak out and bolt for cover if a bird flies over.

    and just for something to do, here's a pic from yesterday, they love watermelon...
    20171008_125415.jpg
     
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  8. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    What cuties Stevo!
    Do you find they drink the watermelon juice too?
    Someone up my way (well somewhere on the Sunny Coast) has been regularly giving away this breed of hen & rooster on the Freebies section of gumtree.
    Maybe they aren't as beautifully speckled as yours.
     
  9. stevo

    stevo Backyard Farmer Premium Member

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    yeap they'll drink the juice. It's a bit of a treat on a hot day with watermelon straight out of the fridge. They like grapes too, you have to break the grape open though. These are Belgian Duccle - Bantams. They can sell for $20 to $60 each
     
  10. Steve

    Steve Valued Member Premium Member

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    Surprisingly the house is cooler than outside. The roof is made of a material that is much like the sides of an eski. It's thick, maybe 15cm, foam with a tin lining on top and bottom. A few times I've been worried they might be cooking in their house but when i go inside it's actually a welcome relief on those super hot days.

    Yep, tried that several times. It doesn't seem to make too much of a difference. If they want to go in then there is nothing stopping them. If I have the hatch closed they will all sit in front of it until I open it, that could be an hour or two around the other side of the yard.

    I'll try the idea of imitating a older hen/rooster and see how that goes. Good idea @ClissAT .

    I think you're right too @stevo. I think they get scared out in the open. The pen is pretty open at the moment so that could be the reason. I'll try to erect some other overhead protection to give them come cover.

    Thanks guys, much appreciate the advice.
     
  11. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Yeh Steve, I think its just due to the poor things being bred in a big shed & never seeing the great outdoors to gain any sort of confidence.
    Putting up some overhead cover & getting a couple of older wiser more worldly hens will help them enormously.

    Now here's a quick anatomy lesson to tell when your hens will be ready to lay.
    There are a few pointers to look for.
    Firstly, their comb & wattles will get bright red & begin to grow.
    Secondly, the pin bones under their tails will begin to widen.
    You should make yourself familiar with the width of the gap between their pin bones.
    Hold you hen at your waist with its head poking out the back beside you elbow under your arm so its tail is at your front.
    Put the flattened palm of your hand gently against the feathers under the hens tail & press until you feel the pin bones.
    I'm sure you are familiar with the ubiquitous roast chook from the supermarket resting upside down with its breast bone uppermost.
    The 2 bones on either side of the rear opening of the cavity are the pin bones.
    In the young pullet they are rather close together.
    As the bird matures around weeks 18-25, those bones widen apart.
    I'm gonna get a bit personal here but it's all relevant.;)
    When your wife gives birth, her pelvis opens to allow for the birth (so, same bones, different animal). :readit:
    In the hen, those bones stay widened apart until she is finished her laying season.
    You might also notice your hens begin to waddle a little until they get used to this new skeletal shape.
    :chuffed:
     
  12. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    How are they going now @Steve are they venturing out?

    I agree with the general sentiment that some type of overhead cover would be advantageous because I often see our hens and ducks moving under cover of bushes etc especially when a hawk or eagle is around...

    How about some type of shade shelter like 4 x posts with a shade cloth strung between them? Throw some scraps and a water container under it... :)
     
  13. Steve

    Steve Valued Member Premium Member

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    Not too bad Mark.
    They are getting out more and more. Still not as much as I'd like but without OHP I can't blame them.
    I will look into setting something up.
    I also think the cooler and cloudier weather is making them more adventurous.
    Sometimes they are inside for ages and then I call them out and they stay out for hours. Weird.

    Getting another 2 chooks this weekend to bring us up to full quota of 5.
     
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