Chickens staying out late

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by scotter, Nov 15, 2013.

  1. scotter

    scotter Chillin' With My Peeps

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    My chickens have recently started staying out late (after dark). they stay near the house and coop and are pecking and scratching in the dark. They will even run through the leaf litter at me in the dark which catches me of guard sometimes. Is this normal? With cooler temps I would have figured they would turn in early if anything. Eventually they all find there way into the coop and we don't have to gather them up or anything. My biggest concern is the greater exposure to predators after dark. They have also been honking like geese in the morning the last couple of days before we open up the coop.
     
  2. fried green eggs

    fried green eggs Chillin' With My Peeps

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    That's seems strange. Do you have outside flood lights or lighting for the area they are hanging out in after dark?
     
  3. scotter

    scotter Chillin' With My Peeps

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    No flood lights although there is a light in the coop that stays on til 8pm most nights. We are in a fairly rural area and other than a few scattered porch lights it is dark.
     
  4. GuppyTJ

    GuppyTJ Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Yup, I agree with the other person who responded, this is strange. One thing to share is that the cooler temps isn't what triggers the chickens to go into the coop earlier, it's the shorter days. The chickens usually go to be at dusk so as the days get shorter and sunset comes earlier, they go to bed earlier. It's also the shorter days that affects egg production as well, BTW.

    Chickens have very poor night vision so usually, they'll want to get up on the roost before it gets dark. I would probably do as the other person who replied said, look at the lighting around your house and coop and if maybe you've turned on the lights because it's getting dark earlier, this is what's triggering them to stay out later and hang out in the dark scratching around vs. going to bed. Maybe try turning off the lights around the house and/or coop and see if that changes their behavior.

    Hope this helps,
    Guppy
     
  5. scotter

    scotter Chillin' With My Peeps

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    What I meant with the low temps was that I thought it would make them less inclined to stay out. The only light from the house is ambient from windows, which is very little. This behavior started a couple of weeks ago, before that they all went in at dusk. About 1/3 of the flock still goes in at dusk. It's strange when you pull into a dark driveway, get out and get rushed by chickens!

    I think they are lingering in areas with some ambient light, by the coop and the house which makes sense, but are not afraid to rush into the darkness to greet me or fallow the cat around. I just don't understand the change in behavior nothing has changed.
     
  6. fried green eggs

    fried green eggs Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I think you chicken are confused and don't think dark outside is scary.

    I had 15 young hens that I had to move from the brooder to a stall in my horse barn so, they had more room. I had older birds in pens/coops I needed to move and clean first. I put a ladder in the stall so, they could roost but, they didn't - they slept in the corner on the ground.
    When I did move them to a coop that had 10 older hens - I found the young ones sleeping under the coop and not with the hens. They mingled fine during the day so, I blocked off the underneath so they wouldn't have cover. I figured now they would follow the older hens in but, no they still slept on the ground outside. Even in the pouring rain - so, I put them to bed for a few nights in a row. They still didn't get it.[​IMG]

    I know they have very little brains but, my solution was to make their run a scary place to be when it's dark. I chased them with a plastic bag that had little rocks for noise. A few took the hint and jumped onto the ramp and when in pretty fast. The rest I finally put in when I could see they didn't get it. The next night I started shaking the bag before I went into their pen - this time 7 jumped on the ramp and put themselves to bed quickly. After a couple more laps around their pen - 4 more put themselves to bed and I lifted up the last few and put them in. The third night I started shacking the bag and within 3 minutes they all put themselves to bed. The fourth night - I went to see if any where outside and gladly found them all roosting happily in the coop. [​IMG] So I did learn, even with little brains - they are trainable.
    Good Luck training yours. [​IMG]
     
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  7. GuppyTJ

    GuppyTJ Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I see what you're saying about the low temps. I'm not sure where you live and how cold it's getting there but I do know that chickens like cold weather quite a lot. They do better in the cold than they do in the heat. Also, I don't know how much warmer your coop is vs. the outside air. There are lots of good discussions in this forum about this topic, how to make sure you coop has enough ventilation, which is more important in the coop in the winter than the coop being warm.

    Sounds like they just like to greet you when you come home! Maybe this is more important to them than being in the safety of the coop when it's dark out. I assume you come home at the same time as you used to but it's darker out now, due to the shortened days and the end of daylight savings time. Which makes me think.... did this change in their behavior happen to coincide with when we went off daylight savings time and back to standard time? Maybe they're used to greeting you when you come home in the evening? Another thought... do you ever feed them/give them a treat when you come home? Maybe they're running to you because they associate you with a tasty treat?

    Per the other person's reply about making the run a scary place... that's what I love about this forum is there are so many different ideas to choose from. I personally would not take that approach but I can see the other person's perspective and hey, it worked! In general, and again, this is my personal approach, I avoid scaring the chickens or stressing them. They already have to worry about predators. I'd be skittish too, if I was on the bottom of the food chain and pretty much everything wanted to make me into dinner! Plus, I don't want them in any way to associate me with bad things if I can help it because it makes it harder and less fun to work and co-exist with them. So, instead, I'd try to figure out why they are behaving the way they are, then try to figure out how to positively incent them to behave differently. Or, I find that I'm doing something inadvertently that is creating the behavior in the first place. Or, the chickens are just not ready yet to do something new, like get on the roost to sleep when they're young or mingle with older chickens in the coop when they're young, etc. They generally do things in their own time and when they're ready.

    Good luck to you!
    Guppy
     
  8. scotter

    scotter Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I think it may be a combination of things, not the least of which has been the bright moon. I noticed last night how bright it was and almost every chicken was out enjoying the evening. I am in southern Missouri so while it ha been cooler we have only had a couple nights that have been below freezing. The chickens rushing to me is not abnormal as they do that frequently regardless of the time of day. Some are looking for treats and some just like a little attention.

    I have figured out the "honking"- one of my Cornish cross roosters is trying to mimic the hens egg song. he likes to hang out near the coop and sing along. In the morning when all the birds are cooped up he apparently makes such a scene that the other roosters get going as well and like magic I have what sounds like a flock of geese. During the day when all the chickens are out he is a solo artist. Unfortunately he sounds like a car horn. wish I could get a video of his crowing to share. He has the loudest most raspy bird voice I have ever heard.
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2013
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  9. fried green eggs

    fried green eggs Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Good point and I agree. I don't want my hens to be scared of me and I don't want them to be stressed. I knew why they were doing what they were doing and I knew they could easily be killed if their behavior didn't change. It was the best plan I could come up with to help them change what they were doing [​IMG] I am very happy to report they didn't really associate me with the scary bag and noise. My hens all still run to me for treats and when I go into the coop at night - these same birds love to be petted and don't mind being picked up at all. [​IMG]
     
  10. GuppyTJ

    GuppyTJ Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Yup, you have to do whatever works to ensure their safety as best we can. Sometimes, this means more drastic measures, to be sure!
     

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