Mary I bet it’s an attempt to keep mice out of the coop. I’ve been wrong before though, regularly.
Hodor, we often recommend to keep them locked in the coop section for a week or two so they recognize it as home. Once chickens recognize a place as home they return there to sleep at night on their own. That doesn’t always work as well as we often make it sound but it works well enough.
I have an elevated grow-out coop that I put chicks in straight from the brooder and house them in there for a week or so before I let them in their run. I have food and water in both the run and grow-out coop. They hardly ever put themselves to bed in that coop at night to start with. I think it being elevated has a lot to do with that. They almost always form a group right under the door to sleep. I have to physically put them in the coop after dark when they are easy to catch until they get the message. Occasionally I only have to do that once but usually it takes a week or more, a few groups have taken three weeks before they all caught on. Usually a few catch on fairly quickly and some take longer.
My main coop is on the ground. When I move them over there they never sleep at the door but just go right on in once they accept it as their new home. That’s why I think an elevated coop has something to do with it.
The others are right. If it is dark they are not going to eat but they will wake up hungry. If you are going to let them out fairly quickly after sunrise they don’t need feed in with them. If you like to sleep in, they should have feed and water available.
Another point, most of my brooder-raised chicks start to roost at 10 to 12 weeks. I’ve had a few start just after 5 weeks and some take a lot longer, but a good average is around 10 to 12 weeks. Don’t expect your chicks to start to roost on any schedule other than their own. If they were being raised by a broody hen they would start to roost on her schedule, but yours are not.
I’ll offer you a few options. Leave them locked in the coop section for a week or so to get them to think of that as home. This is extremely important if they will not be confined to a run so they at least return to this area at night. Even if they don’t go inside they will return to the coop area to sleep. Keep temporary food and water in there of course, but you can remove that at night if you wish.
If they are confined to a run, you can just let them go wherever they want, coop or run. But you’ll need to be down there every night to put them in the coop until they get the idea that the coop is where they should sleep. They might catch on quickly or it might take a while, but they will eventually catch on. You can feed and water in the run. Just wait until they settle down for the night and they are generally pretty easy to catch as long as you don’t have much light down there.
Chickens generally don’t like change. Chick TV is often better than anything on cable or satellite. Your chicks are going to be going through change. As long as you accept their reactions as normal and don’t panic, they can be hilarious to watch.
Sometimes when I open the pop door after housing them in the grow-out coop for a week, they are all on the ground in 15 minutes. Sometimes it can take a day or more. The bolder ones go to the door and look out, thinking about it, but they don’t jump down. It’s a bold new world out there and it can take a brave soul to investigate it. Eventually one or two will hop down. They may stay down or they may be back inside within a few minutes. But eventually they will stay on the ground. Once they do, the rest soon follow.
I had a group of 16 that went to sleep just under the pop door on my elevated grow-out coop the first night they were out. I put them in as normal and locked them in. The next evening I went down there a bit before dark to do something else. They were settling in under the pop door again when they saw me coming. They looked a little restless then one by one went inside. After that they went inside every night on their own whether I was around or not, the easiest group I ever had. I’ve never had that happen again, though I’ve tried.
Don’t get too obsessed about when they start to roost or whether they put themselves to bed on their own or not at first. It may take a bit of effort from you but relax and enjoy the show.