A ques­tion of space

Your Chickens - - Ask Our Experts -

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.

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