A question of space
QIs it true that the more space you provide for chickens, the better it is for them?
AAndy Cawthray said: Putting aside the concept of caged rearing systems versus free range and breed sizes, it is an interesting point; how much space would a chicken choose if given the choice? Assuming that appropriate space is provided for nesting and roosting then the space a chicken would elect to use for ranging in appears to be dependent upon its position within the flock. Experiments using a peck stimulus that adjusts the size of the ranging area have shown that dominant birds within a flock prefer smaller spaces because that means easier access to the resources within the space and easier management in keeping lower ranked (subordinates) birds away from those resources. The subordinates, however, have a preference for a larger space for probably the opposite reason, ie more opportunity to access resources without drawing the attention of the dominant bird and more space to avoid interactions. This seems to compare well with the behaviours in backyard flocks, particularly when bringing new birds into the flock. The larger the space with more places to hide and more than one feeder or drinker will help in ensuring the new birds settle quicker and limit aggressive encounters with the established flock members.