Backyard chickens make great, charismatic pets and produce eggs, but can be horrendously noisy just before sunrise. A blackout box can help to keep the chickens quiet until a more sociable time of morning.
Unfortunately, chickens clucking and squawking early morning can be a nuisance in suburbia. While most councils (including Brisbane City Council where I live) prohibit keeping roosters in backyards, they do allow hens (up to six hens in my area).
We have a large house on a small lot of land, and therefore have a tiny backyard. We also have two large Hungarian Vizsla dogs. One neighbour in a small unit complex lives particularly close to our backyard where our four chickens are kept. We have two ISA Browns, an Australorp and a Leghorn.
When our chickens first started laying eggs, it was early spring. We had our windows closed overnight because it was still quite cool. As the weather warmed up and we left our windows open overnight, we discovered, much to our horror, that the chickens’ clucking and squawking before they laid an egg was horrendous just before daybreak.
Talk to your neighbours about the chickens
Rather than waiting to get a neighbourhood complaint, we took the matter into our own hands. We prepped my two daughters that we would have to get rid of the chickens if they were annoying our neighbours. With half a dozen eggs and our children as props, we paid our neighbours a visit.
Fortunately, our neighbours living in the unit next door used to live on a farm. The chickens reminded them of living in the country and they actually liked their clucking early in the morning! My children were whooping with joy as we left their house!
Put your chickens in a blackout box
If you still want to keep your chickens, but your neighbours are not as tolerant as ours and are objecting to your chickens’ early morning clucking and squawking, try keeping them in a blackout box until a more sociable time of the morning.
My wife’s parents purchased two chickens at the same time as us. They also have very close neighbours. They have resorted to overnighting their chickens in their dark garage. When the two chickens have gone to sleep in their coop, they quietly lift them out and place them in a box in the garage. The chickens are quite happy to stay in the garage until 7:30am, despite the sun rising at around 5:15am.
While we have very tolerant neighbours, we have decided that we are not being good neighbours by having chickens so loud so early in the morning. Sunrise is currently around 5:15am, but the birds are making noise half an hour before that — 4:45am in the morning is not a sociable and neighbourhood-friendly time!
I have therefore converted a dog kennel that my two Hungarian Vizsla dogs do not use into a blackout box. The gaps in the raised floor of the kennel provide ventilation, but there are no other holes to let light in. I have taken out the dogs’ bedding and replaced it with hay. I have sealed any gaps that may let light in and I cover the door at night with a piece of plywood to make it totally black inside.
At dusk, the chickens are quite happy to go into the blackout box at night as they would a normal coop. I close the door just after dusk when the chickens are asleep inside.
The chickens are quite happy to stay asleep in the blackout box until a much more suburban-friendly time of 7am. I figure that under Brisbane City Council regulations, tradespeople are allowed to make noise from 7am in the morning, so why not my chickens laying their eggs? The wild birds in the area have been making a racket since dawn anyway.
If you try this, make sure that your blackout box is ventilated and in a shady location. I have ventilation holes in the raised floor of the dog kennel so as not to let light in. If the blackout box is not in a shady position, you may also find that the morning sun roasts your chickens before you let them out!
Tell me your suggestions for keeping chickens
quiet in the morning in the reply box below.