Birds flew the coop. How do I get them back?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Camofrog, Aug 20, 2016.

  1. Camofrog

    Camofrog New Egg

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    I have six three- or four-month-olds (down from eight a few weeks ago). A couple of weeks ago they abandoned the coop, where they had been living for several weeks already, for the woods, and they only return for food and water during the day.

    How can I encourage them to come back and stay the night? I assume they will when the snow begins to fly (I'm in western MA), but by then there may not be anybody left alive--there are plenty of coyotes and other hungry critters around.
     
  2. Pyxis

    Pyxis Dark Sider Premium Member

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    Do you have a run? If so, don't feed them for the day until they start to get hungry. At that point, put food down in the run. Wait until they come in to eat, close the run, and there you go. If you don't have a run, do the same but with the coop (and I would suggest you build a run if you have that many predators around). Leave them locked in for a week at least before letting them back out to free range again.
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2016
  3. Camofrog

    Camofrog New Egg

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    No run; they free range. But I could make a temporary one to trap them in. Trouble is, I can't sit around all day waiting for them to show up!
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2016
  4. Pyxis

    Pyxis Dark Sider Premium Member

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    Very true! Maybe try it next weekend if you'll be around. If you feed free choice, take the feed up for a day. They'll be pretty hungry the next day and I bet they'll come looking for it in the morning.
     
  5. Camofrog

    Camofrog New Egg

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    I almost have them all back.

    Here's what I did: I threw together a temporary run right outside the roost and left the door open, with some corn on the cob (their favorite thing) left inside in plain sight. Then I set up a camera so I could watch from inside while working (I used an iPad, iPhone, and an app called Manything).

    It took nearly all day, but eventually five of the six finally found their way into the run. (IMO, chickens are pretty dumb; it took them about six tries to finally figure out how to reach the corn.) I chased the straggler in, but as it entered another one left. So at least I now had five of the six in the run. To get the last bird, I've chased the five captives into the coop and covered the door with chicken wire, then reopened the entrance to the run. I can hear the stray bird in the woods calling, so I figure she will be back soon, and this time knows her way into the run, so it shouldn't be too hard to catch her once she wanders in. If not, well, I have five birds in the hand, worth at least six in the woods! I intend to keep them in the coop for a couple of weeks, then let them back into the run (which they may be able to escape from if they really want to, so not taking chances quite yet!).

    UPDATE: I got them all back! Pyxis, thank you for your suggestions!
     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2016
  6. Pyxis

    Pyxis Dark Sider Premium Member

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    Awesome! I'm glad you got them all back.
     
  7. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Glad you got them back....good thinking!

    Now why did they leave in the first place...and how can you get them to stay put?
    Is coop big enough?
     
  8. Camofrog

    Camofrog New Egg

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    The coop is plenty big enough; there's room for more. I've been keeping birds in it for many years. This is the first time I've had a problem.
     
  9. Camofrog

    Camofrog New Egg

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    Turns out getting them to stay put is harder than I thought it would be! I kept them locked in the coop for three days, then let them into the run. The next day they all flew over the 6-foot fence. I lured them back and raised the fence to 6 feet. They pushed their way out the next day. I staked the fence to the ground so they can't do that and lured them back again. The next day they flew over the 6-foot fence. Raised it to 10 feet and lured them back. Somehow two of them have still managed to get out. This run is only like 12 by 12, so I don't know how the heck they managed to fly out of that unless they can go almost straight up.

    I have no idea why they insist on living in the woods. I've kept birds for 8 years now, probably five flocks, and none of them have ever had a problem roosting up in the coop. I'm guessing that they are being bullied by somebody, but I haven't ever seen anything like that. I had a bird who was so henpecked they pecked her comb off her head, and even she stayed inside every night.
     
  10. Pyxis

    Pyxis Dark Sider Premium Member

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    Yikes, they are giving you a hard time! Clip their wings - one wing on each bird, not both wings. They will be unbalanced and won't be able to fly out, so at least you will have that method of escape cut off. Either that or you could cover the run, which would add the benefit of protection from raptors.

    If they're still getting out after that, they must have found a gap or something that they are squeezing through.
     

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