Yep, that's what I said. Once chickens learn that the coop is home and is safe to return to- they will return every evening. But there are just some chickens who are "independent" and like to roost in trees and even some man-made structures. Even with feed and a great coop, some birds just want to roost elsewhere. Back in the day, chickens were totally, 100% free range and would roost in trees. And their owners knew about the risk of predators, but most people lived on farms and could easily hatch out more chicks or purchase more birds. But today, folks with their small, loved, taken care of flocks can't do that. But chickens still decide to roost up in the highest tree possible. Believe me, chickens will try and get to the TOP branch. So high up you can't get to them, and with owls and other nighttime predators, they aren't safe. And in freezing weather, frostbite is a big worry. Combs, wattles, and feet can be infected- and no owner wants that.
If you are experiencing this, here are some tips to follow to teach your babies to stay home:
Training your chickens to stay home:
If you are having trouble keeping your chickens in the coop in the evening, follow these three simple steps:
1. In the evening, before chickens go to the coop to roost (or the trees) scatter feed, scratch grains, mealworms in the coop to draw the chickens to the coop. After they have gone in shut the doors and they’ll have no choice but to roost on their perches.
2. If you have raised your chickens from chicks, and you had them stay in their coop for a few days until they learn that the coop is safe to return to and is home- it is fine to let them roam around. But if your chickens are stubborn and still choose to roost elsewhere you may have to do this all over again. You’re flock won’t like it but you don’t want to risk losing your birds. Just leave them in the coop for a week or so, or until you break their habit of roosting in trees.
3. If your chicken’s free range and you are having problems with your chickens roosting in trees, and if you have a run available, keep your flock closed in the run. Basically similar to the step above, and while your chickens are closed up in the run- give them treats so they will learn to come back to the coop to expect treats.
If you think your chickens are refusing to sleep in the coop at night for other reasons besides just wanting to roost elsewhere, here is a reason your chickens are deciding to roost outside the coop:
Dirty, unsanitary coop
If your coop is dirty, or hasn’t been cleaned in a while (wet bedding or just an all out filthy coop) your chickens may not want to return to it at night, in fact, who would? Try cleaning out your coop, and refreshing the bedding and see if that helps any.
I hope this helps anyone who is experiencing this problem!