14 week old chickens won't roost

jillianjo

Chirping
Mar 17, 2016
23
17
67
We have a flock of 3 adult hens and 4 14-week-old pullets. First the young ones were in a separate coop next to the main coop, with occasional free-ranging in the yard together, and then a couple weeks ago we had them all in their coop/run together during the day, and now they are in the coop/run with the adult hens full time. It's been over a week now and they refuse to roost with the adult chickens at night. Instead they crowd together and sleep on the ground underneath a tarp that's used to catch the poop underneath the roosting ladder. In fact, the tarp is folded in half and they're sleeping INSIDE the two layers of tarp, so they aren't on bare ground and are also covered by the other half of the tarp. :hmm

They spent one or 2 nights on the roost with the adult hens and the hens didn't seem to mind, but after that they won't go to the roost. We have tried picking them up at night and putting them on the roost, thinking they just need to learn how to roost, but they just jump off and go back to the ground, even when its dark out. There is one hen who is a little bit of a bully (she is the lowest in the pecking order of the 3 adults and I think she's realized for the first time that she can be the boss of the little ones), but our roost ladder has 4 levels and each level is probably 3 or 4 feet long, so there's plenty of space for all of them. All 3 of the adult hens roost on the top level, so the young ones should be able to be on one of the lower levels without being bothered, they just seem to have no interest in being there.

Their original coop that they were in from about 4 weeks old to 12 weeks old had a small "indoor" roost next to the laying boxes, and the girls were used to going there during the nighttime, although they would all just pile on the floor and not used the little roost in there either. Our adult hen coop is a large cage thats covered but open sided. It's between our house and a concrete wall so it's protected from the elements, plus we live in a warm climate, but I worry that the pullets were so used to being "inside" at night that they'll never roost with the others. Does it matter one way or the other or should we just let it be? I want them to integrate fully with the adults and I worry that will never happen if they continue to sleep in a pile on the ground. Should we remove the tarp for a while and see if they'll go to the roost, or do you think they'll find their way there eventually?

(Also we do have a a separate flock of Silkies who have their own coop. I know that silkies like to sleep in piles even when they're adults, but the other pullets aren't silkies so I figured they would roost like normal chickens.)
 

coach723

Free Ranging
6 Years
Feb 12, 2015
6,551
10,947
611
North Florida
Sometimes it takes a while. I've had youngsters go right to roosting, I've had others that it took a fairly long time to get them to roost. Sometimes it's just a nightly thing to go out after dark and put them on the roosts until, eventually, they will do it themselves.
 

jillianjo

Chirping
Mar 17, 2016
23
17
67
Sometimes it's just a nightly thing to go out after dark and put them on the roosts until, eventually, they will do it themselves.

Yeah we tried this at first but gave up since we would put one up there and she would jump down while we were still trying to catch another one lol. The chicken wrangling in the dark was a little rough so I was hoping they would pick up on it on their own. Maybe we’ll hafta try it again.
 

Darlene E

Chirping
Sep 23, 2018
23
31
51
Saginaw, Michigan
My chickens didn't start using the roost until they were 8 months old. I thought something was wrong with them, but I read a thread that said it was normal for them not to roost until then.

When they started roosting one of them insisted on sitting in the nesting box. It took a week of going out after dark and putting her on the roost before she got the idea and started roosting with the others.
 
Last edited:

aart

Chicken Juggler!
Premium Feather Member
8 Years
Nov 27, 2012
96,334
129,567
1,807
SW Michigan
My Coop
My Coop
In fact, the tarp is folded in half and they're sleeping INSIDE the two layers of tarp, so they aren't on bare ground and are also covered by the other half of the tarp.
I would eliminate this situation so they can't get in there, could be a chicken 'suicide' scenario.
Putting up another roost may help.
 

Amatsuhono

Songster
Oct 30, 2018
53
135
114
San Benito, TX
My 4 week old SLW like to sleep in a pile still where their heat lamp used to be, but will hang out on the roosts during the day or when my son and I go into check on them (I think they realized that he won't chase them around the coop if they're up higher and he can just pick them up easily to love on them). I think it just takes them a little while to decide that's what they want to do.

On a side note, my neighbors mixed backyard flock don't roost at all, and she told me her rooster and oldest hens don't roost at all and never have, which has apparently taught her younger ones not to do it. So, conversely I figure that yours will figure it out watching the older ones do it.
 

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