Chickens want to sleep in nest box

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by mizz9, Aug 8, 2016.

  1. mizz9

    mizz9 Out Of The Brooder

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    Jun 22, 2016
    Silicon Valley Area, CA
    Hi all, I have taken advice from the forums here and blocked off the nest boxes. I started with curtains before the behavior even started and that did not stop them from happily pushing into the boxes to sleep in a chicken pile. I laid a couple empty water jugs in there and that stopped them for a little while. Sadly the chickens outsmarted me and figured out how to get on TOP of the water jugs and squish themselves in there still! I blocked off the boxes even better tonight, but the chickens are still squished right up against the entry to the box.

    The problem seems to be they prefer to squish together in a chicken pile in the farthest corner they can get to. They aren't using the roost bar. I have tried a few times to pick up a chicken and put them on the bar but they hate that and get very upset and immediately run back to the corner pile.

    We have a small coop that the floor and boxes are on the same level. The bar is maybe 4-5 inches off the floor and it is about 2 inch thick wood.

    I don't really mind them sleeping in a pile (it is very cute), however, it seems this will be a problem later on for poopy nest boxes! Will their instinct to sleep on the bar kick in eventually as they get older? They are 12 weeks old today. I assume this is sort of a baby chicken behavior that maybe they will grow out of?
     
  2. DanEP

    DanEP Chillin' With My Peeps

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    First block the boxes with some kind of solid material and don't let them in till their at point of lay, maybe 18 weeks. You might try raising your roost bar to the height of the nest boxes if you have the room, they will catch on and start roosting on their own. Also if their coming of the roost after you put them up there it try waiting till full dark to put them up there, if it's real dark in there they are more likely to stay put if they can't see to get down. Either way they will roost sooner or later.
     
  3. Merax

    Merax Out Of The Brooder

    Fellow newbie here who had kind of similar experiences. Mine weren't using their perches and a couple were trying to use the nesting boxes to sleep in. Here's what I did:

    - Every afternoon the nesting boxes were blocked off completely. I also changed my perch height (sounds like yours are too low, mine were too high). I made them 12" and 24" off the floor respectively. What size are your perches? A 2x4 with the large side horizontal is perfect for chickens, as they don't curl their toes when they sleep.

    - Next, I went into the coop after dark with a flashlight covered in red cellophane (you can use a regular light too). Each night I took each chicken and put it on the lower perch. If you leave the light on too long they will hop down, so be careful of that. If you do it right, they are stuck on the perch and unable to see so unable to go anywhere. They will get used to it. After 4 or 5 days all but two of mine were on the perches, and then they learned from the other chickens what to do.
     
  4. mizz9

    mizz9 Out Of The Brooder

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    Jun 22, 2016
    Silicon Valley Area, CA
    Thanks for the suggestions. We raised the bar but the chickens weren't really figuring it out. They still prefer to chicken pile in the corner. I wouldn't mind letting them continue to do that but that means when the nest boxes open up they are just going to go back in there and poop a lot! We put them on the roost when it got dark the last couple nights and they stay thru the night. We'll see if they get the hang of it and start getting up on their own...it was a lot of drama making sure the 3 of them were in the correct order for sleeping! They all just want to smash together and of course they all want to be in the middle!! tooo funny.
     
  5. Shezadandy

    Shezadandy Chillin' With My Peeps

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    They may need to accomplish jumping on the roost bar under their own power before they "get it". Just because they know how to jump down off the roost in the AM doesn't mean they know how to jump up. Sounds silly- but it's happened to me.. Depending on the roost height, you may want to put an intermediate step, however small, and lead them up to it by dropping mealworms where you want them to go- not feeding them by hand. Try sprinkling high-value treats like dried meal worms onto the bar so they associate the roost with treats, not your hands. And of course, lights out once they're on the bar.

    When we first opened our chicken run up to the coop, there were 3 hens that could NOT figure out how to get back in despite a nice long ramp. Even though they'd been through the pop door and climbed down the ramp each morning to get into the run, they had no idea how to get back in the coop.

    The first couple of nights I just went and picked them up and then carried them into the coop, but it didn't help. Finally after a couple days of this, we made each of the stragglers walk up the whole ramp (set them on the bottom and used hands to guide them up) with their own two feet and threw a treat party inside. Until they walked it themselves, the going back up to the coop association wasn't there. These didn't watch their flockmates and follow- they just ... didn't. The next night, they were all in the coop on time and no problems since.
     
  6. mizz9

    mizz9 Out Of The Brooder

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    Jun 22, 2016
    Silicon Valley Area, CA
    We had the same situation with our ramp and coop. They had nooo problems getting down but they did not want to go up at night. Of course picking them up and putting them in the coop didn't "teach" them how to. Eventually we got them to do it for treats. And one day I got to do a happy dance when they finally did it all by themselves!! [​IMG]

    I suspect just like you said this roosting bar situation will be similar. They are 14 weeks old but it seems that instinct to jump up and roost isn't there yet - they don't even try to get up on top of things in the yard like benches or chairs etc. I'm sure like everything else once it clicks we won't be able to keep them from doing it (just like they were originally too scared to free range, and now it is the total opposite. They don't want to go back in their run all day - except for food water or bed time!!)
     
  7. mizz9

    mizz9 Out Of The Brooder

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    Jun 22, 2016
    Silicon Valley Area, CA
    Tonight was pretty funny! Long story short, they put themselves on the roost tonight! But they weren't sure how to do it. At first they were eyeballing their coop from outside, and they jumped up on top of the coop roof outside! They obviously were not satisfied and looked very confused for a while as to why that wasn't right. They went back down on the ground and finally decided to go inside the coop. After much chatter inside the coop they figured it out one by one! Once again, I'm a proud crazy chicken mama. So glad the roost training only took a few days. Now we'll just have to see that it sticks :)
     
  8. Shezadandy

    Shezadandy Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Sep 26, 2015
    Portland OR
    I bet from now on they'll go up without another thought. Yay roosting!!!
     

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