Why won’t my girls perch?
Alison Bradley, West London
Laurence Beeken says: The natural instinct of the bird is to roost higher than they nest, so, if your cosy, darkened nest boxes are higher, then this is where your chooks will end up, as it is a question of security rather than comfort. Newly acquired birds may not be used to a perch, especially if they have been commercially reared at a hatchery, and you may need to lift them onto the perch at dusk where they will stay quite happily until morning - they will eventually get the hang of it. Rescued battery hens usually need teaching, but soon get the idea as their natural instincts come to the fore.
It may not necessarily be the bird’s fault, though, as mites may be a problem as they crawl along the perch to get to their meal, and the chooks soon associate the perch with itching, so check the perch sockets and treat any infestation. Check, too, that the perch is stable (nothing is worse than a wobbly perch) and suitable – granny’s old broom is not an ideal solution, it is too round. The perch needs to be about 5cm wide and curved at the edges to allow claws to curl round it; a 8cm x 8cm length, bevelled along two sides, does the trick nicely.