In six weeks, I’ll be getting my first batch of chickens. In reading up on this project and choosing henhouse plans, I read an interesting fact. You need to have 4-5 square feet of space for each hen (vertical space counts also). You easily learn if the space is too small, because the chickens start pecking each other.
In fact, to help commercial hen farms deal with this phenomenon, rather than giving the hen the needed space, they simply chop off their beaks. My friends, please just pay the extra money for free-range meat and eat less of it. Cleaner conscience, cleaner meat, and it costs the same! Forgive me, I digress.
Anyway, I understood this pecking tendency perfectly. Our family just moved to a home that is double the size of our previous, somewhat cramped one. And “pecking at each other” would perfectly describe our former daily life. Now, we’re all left scratching our heads over why we were fighting so much, and we’re also seeing a lot less of each other. No coincidence, I’m sure.
Not all chicken breeds get mean when confined, some handle it better than others. Likewise, I have friends who live in tight corners who manage to have peace and harmony. They are apparently a nicer breed of people.
Not to say conflict has ceased entirely, quite the contrary, because now we are only fighting when we have a Real Reason (and wow, those are some impressive, high-quality fights). But the fact remains, with people and chickens, a little room goes a very long way.
For those who have limited space both indoors and outdoors, as we did very recently, we did find some things that helped. First, bunk beds, because they provide a designated space for the child that feels private and cozy. Second, IKEA play tents, for the same reason, and they are $10 and can fit in the corner of even a small room.
In the end, however, probably the best preventative for the pecking phenomenon despite your living circumstances comes early in life when you decide whom to breed with. Marry a nice breed: have nice kids.
(Love you anyway, my sweet, grumpilicious husband!)