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Noisy Chooks - HELP!

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#1 Gumnut82

Posted 30 November 2012 - 05:12 AM

Calling all chook lovers... I need some advice.

We have 6 hens. 3 ISAs, who we never heard a peep out of. Earlier this year we added in 3 purebreds (2 Australorps and 1 RIR) and got them successfully integrated. The problem is, the purebreds like to YELL early some mornings, for generally no apparent reason. As early as 5am they wake me up (coop is only a few m from our bedroom window) - sometimes only one, sometimes two or three of them making as much noise as they can. Whilst the ISAs do join in occasionally they are never the ringleaders and always much quieter. I can't just ignore it/get back to sleep and I'm always worried about the noise waking the neighbours (we're in suburbia - it's a miracle we haven't had a dozen council complaints by now), so I go running out to see what's wrong. On rare occasions they might be out of feed/water/grit (all have dispensing systems), but generally there seems to be no reason whatsoever for the noises. It's not their egg song or anything. They are just strutting back and forth in the run yelling. No local birds harrassing them, no other cause for complaint that I can see. This morning they still had half a cabbage and a bunch of veggie garden delights to pick through (as well as their grain etc) and were still fussing. If I shush them and tell them to be quiet they eventually do settle down, but as soon as I'm back inside and tucked into bed they almost always start right back up again.
I think getting rid of the purebreds would at least vastly improve the situation. I'm already composing Gumtree ads in my head ("Three energetic and social purebred chickens available...") but DH loves the purebreds and doesn't want to get rid of them unless there really is no alternative. I'm going crazy. It's me that ends up running out to deal with the noise every morning (DH is somewhat underdressed and also deafer than me), and then I have to be up less than an hour later for work. We have a DD due end of January and I know that given how poorly I'm already coping with the relentless noise (I am the crazy lady in her pyjamas swearing at chickens at 5.30am) it's only going to get worse when I'm sleep deprived and worrying about a newborn's sleeping habits as well as my own.

Any tips for getting chooks to shut up???

Some limitations:

- I sometimes resort to tossing some grain mix in there, which distracts them, but I don't want to encourage them to make noise with that expectation. Plus I would still have to get out of bed to do that every morning! (We have looked into automatic dispensers, not sure if that would help though?)
- Due to the design of the coop/run, there is no way to keep them contained in a darkened space for longer. The coop sits above the enclosed run and they have a ramp to get down. The bottom of the coop is open slats so light gets in from underneath. I've thought long and hard but can't find any way of easily blocking off their access to the run/light, due to the design. The whole run is too big (4.8m long) to black out.
- We have thought about rigging the coop door to open at sunrise so they can free range in the backyard but they trash the garden when they're allowed out too long, and 6 chickens leave a lot of droppings all over the lawn. Also, they're still making noise while free ranging right now!
- Moving the coop further away from our bedroom isn't an option, as there's nowhere else in the yard it would fit while still being the right distance away from fences.

Please help!!

#2 mumma_ox

Posted 30 November 2012 - 05:26 AM

This is a tough one!  Our girls are parked well away from our bedroom window and I am usually woken up by our dog running over to their pen barking like a loon and thinking he can intervene in the hen politics.

I'd definitely say for now to stop giving them the grains as a last resort - this will form a habit that will be very hard to break.

Have you checked out any of Jackie French's books or materials online - she is a bit of a chook whisperer and I am sure she would have some valuable insights.

Personally, I haven't found my chooks particularly responsive to disciplinary action wink.gif

#3 FiveAus

Posted 30 November 2012 - 05:36 AM

Is there a cat hanging around that you can't see?

I love chooks and love the noises they make but yeah, not in the early hours. Mine used to fuss a bit if the neighbours cat was on the prowl.

#4 Gumnut82

Posted 01 December 2012 - 07:31 AM

Thank you both for the feedback!

Mumma_Ox - I agree with you about the grains, I definitely don't want to encourage that habit. I'm not sure whether or not me going out to shush them is helping anything, or if it teaches them they have effectively gained my attention and might get something...? I really struggle to stay in bed and just ignore the noise, though! Drives me crazy worrying about neighbours.
I haven't heard of Jackie French but I'll look her up now! Oh, and for the dog thing... I kinda wish my dogs would a least make an effort! They just give me a lazy look and hop up to steal my spot on the bed when I go to see what's happening outside!

FiveAus - I don't think there would be a cat (our dogs have pretty strong feline-radar), but I have wondered about mice/rats which we have had problems with in the garage and yard before. No evidence of anything lately and I never see anything in the mornings, but it's a possibility...

#5 Feral*Spikey*

Posted 01 December 2012 - 07:32 AM

Cover the cage so its darker. 5:00am is first light here, and the noise from the birds is just amazing.

#6 woodelf

Posted 01 December 2012 - 07:46 AM

Throw some of the lovely corn on the bottom of the coop when you lock them up at night.  They will get a lovely surprise in the morning.

I did see one episode of Better homes and Gardens where Dr Harry gives the chickens a polystyrene box.  Apparently its not harmful, but they love to peck at it and relieves some boredom.  Maybe throw one of those in there for the morning for them to peck it.

IMaybe there is a snake passing by at that time of the morning?

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