Like babies, your roosters and hens can seem like poop machines, but unlike a diapered infant, a chicken’s excrement lands where it lands, including on the deck, if you don’t learn how to keep them off. Many families have flocked to raising backyard chickens for various reasons, including teaching children the benefits of self-sufficiency. With some basic training and important fowl requirements, or some changes to your deck, you can stop a “foul” problem.
1. Training Chickens
Trying to train chickens to stay off a deck might seem like trying to train an earthworm to jump through a hoop, but not if you have a little faith and develop a routine. Find an action that your chickens do not like -- flap a large, orange leaf-and-lawn bag at them or wave a broom toward them without hitting them. Decide on a particular command, such as “shoo!” or “get down!” that you or your family will bark at the patio-crashers when they step foot in the forbidden territory. Then be diligent: keep watch when you can, and use your chosen action and word to chase even one chicken off the deck. Eventually, you should be able to do away with the action, and just rely on the command until you have convinced them to hang out elsewhere, such as a cool, shady spot.
2. Shady Chicken Hang-out
A deck that is shaded by the house for at least part of the day is an enticing hang out for down-cloaked chickens. Just like children, and most other animals, chickens need available shade or protection from the elements at all times. If your yard lacks sufficient shade as the sun makes its way across the sky, provide some in key locations, such as by erecting a lean-to or installing an awning on the sunny side of a coop. You can hang a tarp or sheet from a clothesline in a pinch, or plant fast-growing shade trees, such as maple, willow or a cultivar that thrives in your area. Make the new shady spots even more chicken-friendly with buckets of water for thirst quenching -- and egg production -- and leave some bare ground for dust bathing to help them cool down. Something to roost on is also helpful.
3. Discourage Railing Roosting
Chickens like to get up onto something to roost. Roosting gives them a vantage point to watch for predators -- an instinct that even tame, domesticated chickens live by. To a chicken, your deck's railing may look like an ideal roost. To make the railing less accessible, hang planters off the sides or mount them on top of a wide handrail. Provide your chickens with roosts inside their coop and in their hang-out area.
4. Chicken-Proof the Deck
Avoid leaving food out on the deck, including bowls of pet food. Chickens like cat and dog food as much as they do chicken food. If all attempts to dissuade your chickens from cooling, sunning and relieving themselves on your family’s deck fall short, it may be time to look at chicken-proofing solutions. If a low deck doesn’t have railings, build some. If it has railings, but no gate, design one that your children can easily open and close, but the chickens will see as a “keep-out” sign or a distracting barrier. They’re smart creatures, to a point, but it shouldn’t take much to divert them.
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