Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Roosting Game

OK so this is another post (mostly) about chickens. :)

Check it out! A rare picture of my whole flock all together!

My little whites are growing up! It's actually a bit of a relief that they are because at this point they are finally pretty much cat-proof, which means I can let them free range around the backyard without being back there to supervise. This is White. (I was super creative coming up with her name.)

I actually started letting them risk their freedom probably a bit too early because in the past weeks I have had to roam the neighborhood multiple times looking for each one of those white chickens after Ozzie had chased one of them out of the yard. Talk about Crazy Chicken Lady... There she goes again walking around the neighborhood going Peep! Peep! Peep! Obviously I managed to find them each time and in good news they let me catch them and bring them back to the yard and their friends.

Anyway, as these little whites are growing up, they have started wanting to roost higher at night. For the first few months they sort of huddled together in the bottom corner of the coop while Ellie would roost up high all alone. (In case you don't know chicken sleeping behavior- I didn't- they like to hop/fly up high to sleep at night... so Scott built in a wooden 'branch' into their coop for this purpose. In the wild chickens fly up into tree branches up high and sleep there and that's called 'roosting'.) Anyway, for 2 months the littles slept down low, probably because #1 they couldn't fly up that high to reach the roost and #2 they were quite afraid of Ellie (rightfully so).

When they got big enough to physically fly up onto the roost, they would hang out there sometimes during the day... and even sometimes in the early evening I'd go out to watch and they would be up there... until Ellie decided it was time to go to bed and then when she would go in the coop there would be a ton of frantic peeping and eventually the littles would all hop down and huddle in the corner trying to stay out of Ellie's way.

This isn't a great photo but you can see all three of them are up there on the roost (2 huddled together in the far corner).

Anyway, a couple nights ago I was watching and wouldn't you know it... those littles decided it was time that they got to sleep up high. It's been fascinating for me to watch as this chicken behavior is so instinctual and to watch them all figure it out is pretty cool... Anyway, I can't get pictures of it b/c it's dark by the time this is happening so you'll have t use your imagination...

The littles fly up and huddle at the far end of the roost. The safest place is actually against the outer wire because that's furthest away from where Ellie is going to go... and the littles all know this so they fight for that end spot! They literally climb up over each other and under each other and it's like they're playing a game of King of The Mountain... one of them always ends up being pushed off and when she is, she flies back up and tries again to claim the end spot but is rarely successful. Snowball sucks at that game and always seems to end up closest to the middle.

Enter: Ellie, Queen of the Roost. The littles all freak out and peep wildly... super nervous yet determined to hold their positions... She hops up onto the roost (which is sort of an ordeal because she is HUGE) and paces back and forth, all out of sorts that these little whites are up there with her... Snowball gets extra anxious because she knows she's about to get pecked so she frantically starts pecking whoever is next to her in line... trying to knock somebody off so she can move over a spot... unsuccessful at this she remains where she is and gets pecked by Ellie... Which makes her squeal (and not with delight) so she pecks further at the littles down the line... Anyway, this is The Pecking Order. It's very real!

Last night this lasted ~10-15' then they all eventually settled down and went to sleep (Ellie first). I would think at some point they'll have it all sorted and Ellie will accept them being up there and resist their presence a little less? For whatever it's worth, I was proud of the littles for holding their ground last night and not giving in to the pressure to hop off the roost. Brave girls!

Except it is possible that Snowball is a boy?? I actually was out the door super early this morning to go running, but Scott said he distinctly heard Snowball attempting to crow. CRAP! He said she (he?) did it 3x. So here I am googling Do hens crow? Turns out sometimes, in the absence of a rooster, they do... but either way, if he/she is crowing, we can't have that. Argh. Have not heard anything the rest of the day but if we hear it again tomorrow morning, Peepers may have a new friend up on the side of the road. :(

No comments: