Chickens Roosting on Nesting Boxes, holy poop - HELP!

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Billpk1, Nov 1, 2010.

  1. Billpk1

    Billpk1 Out Of The Brooder

    Oct 7, 2010
    Good Morning All,

    I just picked up 12 hens yesterday. I was very excited and was hanging out with them in the coop in the evening (just taking it in). I noticed that they wouldn't get up on the roost. It is about 20'' off the ground. Is that too high? I don't think it is because when I went out this morning 6 were on the roost. The other 5 had roosted on the edge of the nesting boxes, thus leaving a lot of poop in there.

    How do I get them to stop roosting on the nesting boxes and on the actual roost?

    If you can do the math you will notice that I picked up 12 but only have 11. [​IMG] While I was moving them from the crate to the coop my dog came out of nowhere and all of a sudden 4 chickens were on the loose! I have a 5 acre property heavy with trees and brush, which made them very difficult to find. We got three but one is still on the loose. It spent the night outside somewhere. I am worried about it. Do you think it will come back to the flock? I spent 2 hours looking for it then it got dark. I spent another hour this morning before work but had to take off. What should I do?
  2. Backyard_Chicken_rancher

    Backyard_Chicken_rancher Chillin' With My Peeps

    20 Inches is not that High I have mine right at the 24 inch mark as for the nesting boxes build an angled roof over them they won't ,can't roost on an angle as for the one that got away try shaking your treat container with seeds or something in it.

    Good luck to you
  3. thereverend

    thereverend Out Of The Brooder

    May 15, 2010

    They will roost on the boxes and poop too.. just clean it out when it starts to get nasty looking..
    be aware tho. Water = mold = sickness .. so make sure you use very little water.. Most of the poop after
    it drys will just peel off.
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    How do I get them to stop roosting on the nesting boxes and on the actual roost?
    There could be a few different things going on. 24" is not all that high. Mine often use the top of my nesting boxes as a step to get to the roosts, but sometimes they fly straight up. My roosts are about 4' off the ground.

    Are your roosts clearly higher than your nesting boxes? Chickens instinctively like to sleep on the highest thing they can. The dominant one will normally take the highest space available, then as they run out of room, the less dominant take what is left.

    How much roost space do you have. The minimum needed for full sized chickens is 8" and 12" is better. If you have more than one roost, they need to be at least 12" apart horizontally. A few inches further apart doesn't hurt. I know they don't use all that space when they are sleeping. They usually scrunch up tight to each other, but they need the extra space to fly up and jostle around for position. Mine do a lot of moving and positioning so they can sleep next to their buddies. It's actually a dominance thing. The more dominant get the better positions and are not shy about taking them.

    You just moved them. They are in a strange place. There is a different number of them than there were, so the pecking order has been disturbed. They need to establish the new pecking order. They establish a new pecking order by pecking, especially on the roosts. It is quite possible you have one or more hens that are vicious when it comes to establishing that pecking order. You may have one that makes life so miserable to the weaker ones that they look for a safer but less desirable place to roost. This might correct itself as they establish the pecking order and get settled in their new digs, or you might have one that delights in torturing the others, so this behavior may continue. Another good reason to have more roost space. This is happening to mine right now. A hen recently weaned a brood of chicks. When she was taking care of them, the other hens left them alone. Now that Mama has gone to sleeping with her buddies instead of protecting the chicks, two hens now make it a point to torture the chicks until it gets dark enough so they can't see. So the chicks wait until as late as possible to go to bed and a few want to sleep on places other than the roosts.

    Now, how to correct the problem. Make sure you have sufficient roost space and that it is clearly higher than the nest boxes. In a small coop, 6" might be enough but in a larger coop, it might need to be 12" or more higher. If the dominant ones are sleeping up there, there is enough height difference.

    It sounds like you have open tops on your nest boxes. You can put a top on them so they sleep up there without pooping in the nests, then scrape the poop off where it gets thick enough to be a problem. You can put a sloping top on the nests where they cannot sleep up there, but you take the risk that they will start sleeping in the nest boxes if the roosts are not safe. I agree, you do not want them pooping in the nests. Those poopy eggs are not nice at all.

    Chickens are creatures of habit. Once they get used to sleeping somewhere, they tend to keep sleeping there. Depending on how your nest boxes are built, you could block them off before bedtime and open them up after they are all asleep and it is too dark for them to move. If you have a window and it is a full moon or if there is a light outside, they might be able to move at night, so you would have to get up early to do this. You do not want them to get in the habit of not laying in the nest boxes, so those nests need to be available when they want to lay. That makes this one a little more challenging, but something may be necessary to break bad habits..

    Do you think it will come back to the flock?

    I don't know your set-up. You should leave the others locked in the coop or coop and run a few days so they learn where home is. The one on the loose will probably hang around the outside of the run if her buddies are visible there, but if they are locked in the coop, she might not know they are there.

    She is obviously at risk from predators but you can't do a lot about that except try to get her with the rest of the flock. Sounds like you are gone to work for the day so no one is there to handle it. I'd try to have at least some of the hens visible during the day to try to get her to hang out in the area instead of taking off. The will probably cackle and call to each other. Whe I got home, I'd try to have some hens in a cage or something in the run where they could not get away but where the wild one can go into the run to be near them. Have food and water in the run where she can see and get to it. Then, when she went in the run, lock her up. After a few days locked in the coop and run, she will feel at home.

    I don't know if these hens are used to foraging on ther own or are totally dependent on being fed. Either way, she should find enough food to keep her alive for a few days. Water may be a little harder to find. She may get used to sleeping in a tree or such while she is out or she may find a place to make a nest and start laying out there. Once you get her you need to keep her locked up for several days to break bad habits.

    It is possible she has already taken off to try to find her way home or another flock. it is possible a predator got her, but it is much more likely she roosted in a tree and safely made it through the night. She is probably confused and lonely. If she is still around, she will be looking for a flock to join. I think the best thing you can do is have yours out in a run where she can find them so she hangs around.

    Good luck!

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