Can't get hens to use the roost!

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by DavidMed, Oct 18, 2016.

  1. DavidMed

    DavidMed In the Brooder

    Oct 27, 2014
    This is sort of a combination coop design and chicken behavior question.

    I have three adult hens (about 1 year old now), one buff wyandotte, two silver lace cochin. They have a small coop with attached and enclosed run, plus a larger fenced open top run off that. The coop is about 2' x 4' x 3' tall with small nest box off to the side and a single long perch running across the long dimension of the coop about 10" high (see attached pics).

    Back when I had 4 hens (one of our wyandotte's died a few months ago) at least two or three of the hens would always get up on the roost, one would sit in the nest box and the other wold sit on the floor of the coop. It seemed like a space issue so I enlarged the top of the coop for more head room and re arranged the roost into a multi level L shaped thing to accommodate all the hens. Well it didn't work, I think it actually made it so they could not get enough room to jump up to the roost, so now they ALL cram into the nest box each night.

    I've reset the roost to be the single bar in the pic but they refuse to use it. The issue is they poop in the nest box of course.

    So... any tips for encouraging them to use the roost? I plan to replace what I have here with a wider beam. Any other arrangements you'd suggest?

    One thing to note is, I have a small garden type solar LED light in the roof of the coop. This was to give the birds some comfort at night when they were young, but I fear may actually be what is keeping them off the roost at night now.





  2. redsoxs

    redsoxs Crowing

    Jul 17, 2011
    North Central Kansas
    The light shouldn't bother them. You might try taking a pice of plywood and blocking off their nest boxes at night. They may just nest on the coop floor but it's worth a try. Also, can you physically place them on the roosts after dark? Maybe a couple nights of both those things and they'll start to figure it out. Good luck to you!
  3. DavidMed

    DavidMed In the Brooder

    Oct 27, 2014
    I was thinking of blocking the box, but I do think they'll just resort to the floor. Still that's better then pooping in the nest box all the time!

    I have placed them up in the roost before and did again recently. Right now they seem to just plop back down again after I leave. I think the main issue is the space being too small for them to easily hop up there so they don't bother. They love their outside roosts! Looking for alternative set ups to allow me to put a more convenient roost in for them. But its a pretty small space.
  4. Flock In Texas

    Flock In Texas Chirping

    Aug 7, 2016
    Maybe if you installed a ramp or an intermediate roost they can use to get to the top roost easier. Put treats on the top roost. After a few times, it will become habit to go there.
  5. BostonValleyEgg

    BostonValleyEgg In the Brooder

    Sep 18, 2016
    Boston, NY
    I would add a ramp and for about a week be at the coop every night to put them up there. If they jump down, try again.
    You can even rest your hand on their back to encourage them to just settle. I've had to do that while acclimating new babies into the flock before. But that was pecking order problems and we couldn't have pullets on The floor getting pooped on all night. ;)
    The thing about the roosting on the floor, is they will be more prone to illness and infection if they are sleeping near poop or there are flies around in warm weather.
    Where there is poop there are pests so unless you are cleaning the floor every night, it's better to get them to roost.
    Is it possible the roost can be moved a bit further from the wall? Can you run an additional roost off the one already there to create a T ?
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2016
  6. Howard E

    Howard E Songster

    Feb 18, 2016
    Is that an opening for ventilation above the roost? If so, do you leave the pop door open at night?

    Am wondering if the roost position is such that it is placed in a highly drafty position, so if they were to use the roost, they would be feeling some wind chill?

    Whatever the case, anytime birds do something that runs counter to what is expected, there is usually a reason. Usually won't be obvious to us, but is to them and they aren't telling.....won't share their decision tree........except by their actions. They asses things and make the choice that they feel is best for them. It is up to us to figure out why.

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