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Changed nightly roost location and ..claustrophobia?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by ARWyandott, Nov 24, 2013.

  1. ARWyandott

    ARWyandott Out Of The Brooder

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    Aug 15, 2013
    Hi everyone,

    My flock is 3 months old. After the chicks arrived, I have been in steady project mode building the next enclosure to house them. First the brooder, then utilizing my barn in the backyard, enclosing the backside of one exterior overhang to form the henhouse, and finally building out from that overhang to produce the run.

    [​IMG]

    The thing about the hen house is, since its tucked all the way into the back of the overhang, its kind of dark in there. Such that, the cooks dont really hang out back there. At all. I put some roosting bars back there but they have not even tried them out. What they do enjoy, right at last light, is everyone crowds onto the crossbars I set out right by the run exit. These 2 roosts are fully exposed to the elements, and last to receive daylight in the evening. Ever since I finished the hen house and let them out, they haven't been back.

    So this past Friday night, we got some freezing rain, all night. I checked on the flock, and sure enough, they are out there in the elements, getting soaked. So Saturday I removed the partitioning wall of the hen house, and re did the roosts back there to give them 3 different level heights of roosting bars. I also removed the old ones by the run exit. This lets in a lot more light into the roost area I want for them,

    Now, the flock is confused as heck. They continue to try and jump up to the old location, ride the side rails, and now its just a big massive dogpile underneath the old roost site.

    What gives? Why do they not choose to roost in the dryer spot, out of the wind and rain? We have sleet comming and I know these birds are hardy (Wyandottes) but I worry for them still choosing the most outdoors corner to huddle in. What will it take for them to start using the (old) new roosting area that is intended for them?

    Thanks for any/all comments and advice.
     
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2013
  2. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    Is there any reason why you don't want to enclose the hen house? If you had an enclosed hen house, you could put them inside for a couple of days, and they would then imprint on it as it being where they should roost at night.

    What I'd do is put a skylight or window in the hen house for some natural light. Chickens need light to see what they're doing and to reassure themselves nothing dangerous is lurking in the dark. You could use one of those soda bottle "bulbs" they use in third world countries in lieu of electricity. Or, being handy with tools as it appears your are, build them a nice big window or sky light.

    Your chickens had gotten into the habit of roosting out in the run and now they aren't going to give it up without some intervention. Chickens are that way, I'm afraid.
     
  3. ARWyandott

    ARWyandott Out Of The Brooder

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    Aug 15, 2013
    "Is there any reason why you don't want to enclose the hen house?"

    It's enclosed, I built the hen house first to transition the chicks out of the brooder. Its roughly 4' x 8'. I built in a door, and stapled hardware cloth onto the window I made in the sheet plywood.

    [​IMG]



    I have 16 total cooks. After adding the run, they never really went back into there (spent a good 5 weeks in that space). After getting the run, they just hung out in the dry area and the wet (the addition) and never in the back in the hen house. I would say to get them all back in there would be near impossible, to try and pen them back into there.

    "What I'd do is put a skylight or window in the hen house for some natural light"

    So this for this past weekend's project, I removed the whole section of greyish plywood sheet on the right, the one with the window. This opened up half the space back there to the daylight and run (window didnt let in as much as you would think) and have freely accessible roosting (30", 45", and 70" high using 2x4" flat).

    Your chickens had gotten into the habit of roosting out in the run and now they aren't going to give it up without some intervention

    What do you recommend? I could put the sheet back on and lock them back there, but 16 cooks in a 4 x 8' space.. i dunno. I'm open to all suggestions for chicken boot camp. They seems to wanna hang out in the brightest last light spot.
     
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2013
  4. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    By "enclosed" I mean four walls, and a roof with a chicken-sized pop-hole for an entrance into the hen house from the run.

    And, yes, you may need to round all sixteen up and stuff them in there to teach them that's where they sleep.

    However, there are chickens who don't care where they sleep, out in the open, in a tree, on a roof, on the floor in a corner. Sometimes you can make everything perfect and they still won't sleep where you want them to.

    If it's important to you that they sleep back in the hen house, you need to teach them to do it. Put them there at night-fall, and keep doing it until they get into the habit of doing it by themselves.
     
  5. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    I'd try moving them onto the roosts after dark for a few nights and see if that changes their behavior.
    3 months is still pretty young, they'll learn.
    They don't like change and need to be reprogrammed. Good Luck.
     
  6. ARWyandott

    ARWyandott Out Of The Brooder

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    Aug 15, 2013
    aart,

    are you saying once night hits, and they go into the huddle in one place mode, i can pick them up and set them on the roost? will they freak out?

    tonight my plan was to herd the clutching dogpile to the back corner under shelter, under the new roosting designated area. If you think I can, Ill surley pick em all up and place them on roost.

    azygous,

    By "enclosed" I mean four walls, and a roof with a chicken-sized pop-hole for an entrance into the hen house from the run.

    I am afraid I dont know what you mean. I figured since the back area is partitioned off, they would use it just the same. Can you please link or tell me where to check out examples of this? From what you describe, it sounds like my back area hen house is missing a key element to make it choock freindly/accessible.

    I wil post some pics tonight to show you the modifications I made over the weekend.
     
  7. along121

    along121 Out Of The Brooder

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    This same thing happened to me. I bought a cute little chicken hut from tractor supply. I built a pen around the little hut so it just sits in the middle. My chickens were about 10 weeks old when I got them. The first night I put them in the pen, I thought they would just go up the ramp and go to sleep. When they didn't, I opened the little side door and lifted them up to the roost bars. The next night they were acting so weird... walking around looking up at the little side door trying to jump up, but hitting the window on the little door. I finally realized that they didn't know any other way to get in there. They came down the ramp in the morning, but didn't put 2 and 2 together. I squatted down and put each hen on the little ramp to go up. One I had to almost bounce her all the way up so she would "get it". After that they all went up every night. Now they are so big that we built a second house. It has 2 levels to roost and one nest box.They would not have anything to do with it. I started leaving a little chicken scratch inside the door. I put fake eggs in the nest box. I would lift up the roof and sit 4 of them on the roosts. Now they go in and look around. They find a few crumbs of chicken scratch on the floor, then they come back out. Yesterday I was gathering eggs and found an egg next to the fake eggs. My husband cut out a small flip down window that we can close up. The door is 10" high so it gives them enough ventilitation. Maybe they will go in there to roost some day.
    I think you have a good set up. Put a few roosts about 3feet off the ground. Maybe across the corners. Then at night pick up a few and sit them on them. Close up the barn door so they can't go out into the open area at night for about a week. Just get some plywood and stand it up and attach it with some nails or screws. It might be good to do it anyway if you live where it's going to get below freezing. I hope it works out for you. Good luck.
     
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  8. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Yep you can do that, they don't really like it and may freak out..... but just be very calm, hold them firmly with wings captured, talk softly, and once you get their feet on the roost kind of hold on for minute and slowly let go with maybe a few strokes. Usually they'll stay put but maybe not the first time.

    You'll get used to doing it and they'll get used to it too...and after a while when they see you coming they get up there themselves...at least that's was my experience with getting my new 4 month old pullets out of the nests and onto the roost. Every once in a while I have to remind them where they need to be...but my issue was/is pullets being 'pushed around' by older birds.

    At least herding them into the shelter is a start, better than being outside, they are kind of young and may still want to pile as they do when chicks. Tho you say they roost outdoors, so they should know how to roost and just have to get used to the roost in the shelter.
     
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  9. ARWyandott

    ARWyandott Out Of The Brooder

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    thanks to everyone for their comments and input.

    I will try it tonight and let you know.
     
  10. ARWyandott

    ARWyandott Out Of The Brooder

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    Aug 15, 2013
    Ok that was fun...! I worked later than usual, so I come home to 32 degrees and a decent drizzle about 30 mins after last light. After changing into some warm clothes, I turned on the backyard light and walked to the coop. Sure enough, chooks in a semi huddle in out-most corner of the run. Soaking in the rain, and unable to fully set down because of the mud.

    So, like the father rooster I am, one by one I carried them over to the roost (10 feet away, bird brains!!!!!). Luckily starting from the back, I placed them one by one until the medium tier was full, then filled the bottom tier with the rest. About three of them couldn't hold it, but after some slow chasing and coaxing, everyone was able to relax back up on the roosts. I could literally sense the relief of the flock...... or was that just me!?

    Tomorrow I will repeat. I bet after one or two get the drift, everyone else will follow suit.
     

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