The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Breaking chickens of flying over fences

Egg on ground

We had a chicken-flying-fences problem beginning in September, but it took until our staycation rested our minds before we were able to start getting a handle on the issue. With problems like this, I've found that clipping wings (dealing with the symptoms) doesn't hold a candle to rooting out the real cause of the problem. So I put on my thinking cap and realized there were several issues at play.

First of all, this year's rooster turned out to be a pouncer rather than a dancer, and he was especially fond of the Buff Orpingtons. As a result, those ladies started flying fences to escape his affections, and the other hens soon followed suit. I have a feeling that if I'd paid attention and nipped this in the bud, deleting the rooster would have been sufficient cure, but the cat is now out of the bag. Oh well!

Ground nest boxSince the pullets started flying over fences right when they started to lay, though, they ended up choosing random spots in the weeds to cache their eggs. Again, this problem was exacerbated by our neglect. The chickens were roosting in the coop nest boxes at that time, so the cavities were poopy and unpleasant. No wonder our hens didn't want to lay there. As a retroactive fix, Mark moved the roosts away from the nest boxes, cleaned out the latter, and then added one nest box on the floor. (Even though humans like raised nest boxes and chickens like raised roosts, in my experience a hen will always prefer a nest box on the ground.)

A few pullets started laying in the ground nest box, but half were still flying fences, so Tuesday we embarked on Project Shut-In. It's pretty simple and is a relatively effective way of breaking hens from roosting or laying outside the coop. Just leave your girls inside with no play time for a few days, and their short chicken attention spans seem to become refocused on home base.

Eggs and okra pods

I hope that puts the finishing touches on solving the fence-flying problem! As you can tell, we could have nipped the issue in the bud in several different ways in September, but in the midst of the planting/weeding/harvesting frenzy, something had to fall by the wayside. Good thing chickens are relatively easy to get back on the right track even after a month of neglect.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I always thought one should keep the rooster physically separate from the hens until his "input" is needed for laying eggs. I might be wrong - its been too long. I have even seen roosters tethered with twine to keep them in check. Thoughts?
Comment by pedro Thu Oct 15 14:22:40 2015
I have found clipping only one wing would keep them inside. Them can't get the lift with one wing, Think about it.
Comment by Allen Sat Oct 17 14:06:10 2015

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