Are chickens smart enough to come out and eat before they starve?


In the Brooder
Dec 30, 2016
Jamestown, SC
I have two groups of chickens.
21 week olds - have their own coop and the entire run (6 pullets + 1 cockerel)
12 week olds - have their own coop inside the same run. they've been brooded inside the run since they were 3 days old. it's always been look, but no touch.

The littles had a MHP for the first 7 weeks or so. then I took it away, opened their ramp and they started roosting in the coop (still kept separate from the rest of the flock, but inside the run).

Problem is now they are spending all of their time in the coop. 1 cockerel comes down a little, but not much. the other birds - I have never seen them come down in the past 2 weeks. they have food and water 'downstairs' but the levels barely drop, so I worry they're starving and dehydrated. nothing like when they spent all of their time down there. When I put a bowl of water and let them eat out of my hand and they act like they're starving and thirsty. their crops never feel full like the older chickens. Even when I put scrambled eggs, scratch or greens in there, they still dont come down. they just look through the door and act like they want to come down, but they dont.

Should I leave them be, hoping they'll come down when they're hungry enough, or are they not that smart? the last thing I want to do is starve my chickens, but I dont want to keep encouraging them to stay in the coop by feeding them there. they need to be integrated!

On a side note, I have been taking them out one at a time to handle, and one of the cockerels got away from me. He has been on top of the coop (inside the run) since Friday, and I cant reach him. At night, he just curls up and goes to sleep on the roof. I haven't seen him come down, he just stays up there and the older chickens just ignore him. His crop looks empty, so I give him food and water, but same question. will he come down when he is hungry and thirsty enough? this means he'd be integrating himself with the older birds - but I'm not sure which would win - hunger or fear?

stubborn little creatures...

Percheron chick

9 Years
Apr 12, 2013
Hudson, Colorado
I would keep the older group up and let the little ones have the run to themselves for the day. Toss them out and close the door behind them until afternoon. Sprinkle scratch and treats around the run to encourage them to move and explore. Do this for a few days adding a few of the big girls. They just need a leader.

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