Chickens won't go to bed in below freezing temps!

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Michelelyl, Jan 1, 2013.

  1. Michelelyl

    Michelelyl Out Of The Brooder

    30
    0
    22
    Feb 13, 2012
    Hello, I have 5 chickens who are 10 months old. We put them outside in our chicken coop/run at 8 weeks old. All summer and fall, they learned how to push the clear 'doggie door' to get into the coop at night and out again in the morning. They have been laying one egg each a day since August. They are very happy, friendly girls! (No roosters) I clean the coop once a week and they have been free range in our backyard all day and early evening up until the first snowfall. (They won't even walk on the snow!) We did build them a big open playpen with a roof and covered the ground with straw for them to dig and play in and gave them a big batch of DE to take dust baths. In December, it got really cold at night (below freezing) and we put in a thermostatic-controlled heat lamp that is 75 watts. (It's really a lizard light) It comes on at 35 degrees and goes off at 45 degrees. The first couple of weeks the girls continued to put themselves to bed, but around December 15, we noticed when we were getting ready for bed at 11PM they were still in the run, just hanging out in the pitch dark. We started to stick them into the coop manually before we went to bed because it was getting pretty cold at night...15 degrees and colder. On December 19, we went on vacation until December 28. One of our neighbors came over to check on them, give them snacks, collect eggs, and refill their food and water. I cleaned the coop the day before we left.
    When I got home, I checked the coop and it was still clean! No poop inside at all! The run, on the other hand, was loaded with poop. I suspect that they didn't sleep in the coop at all while we were gone! While we were gone, it got very cold and we got about 3 feet of snow. (It snowed the entire time we were gone!) Since we got home, they still won't go in the coop at night and I have to go out and pick them up and stick them in the coop. I am very concerned because it's supposed to be -2 tonight ...will they ever start going back in the coop? Don't chickens get cold? I know they generate a lot of body heat, but this is crazy. I don't know what changed that they decided they don't like sleeping in their coop. They still go into the coop to lay in the nesting boxes. They are still laying an egg a day, each :) We also still open the run daily so they can hang out in the yard, but they don't like walking on the snow, so they pretty much hang out in the playpen in the sunny area.
     
  2. Kirklandchick

    Kirklandchick Out Of The Brooder

    67
    3
    31
    Oct 13, 2012
    Illinois
    Maybe since they've been outside with their winter coat of down & feathers it is too warm in the coop for them? Ours are in an wire-enclosed run with a roof all day, & they spend all day outside except when they go inside to lay their eggs (nest is inside coop). They always go inside to roost for the night as soon as the sun starts going down. We do not heat our coop, the thermometer inside the coop this morning said 7°, they are fine.
     
  3. There are two possibilities: they don't like the coop, or they are sleeping during the day, and playing at night. I would suspect the former. Make sure the coop is clean, the roosts are acessable, etc. And if that fails, remove the heat lamp, and replace it with a space heater. The lamp could be messing up their circaidian rythm, with the excess light.
     
  4. Moonkssd

    Moonkssd Out Of The Brooder

    97
    0
    46
    Feb 16, 2011
    Marietta, Pa
    Dont worry about heating your coop at all. Most of the time you are just asking for trouble. My girls always act strange when we come back from vacations. You never kow what might have happened while you were gone. make sure they are in at night and things should get back to normal
     
  5. Michelelyl

    Michelelyl Out Of The Brooder

    30
    0
    22
    Feb 13, 2012
    Hm. It's the same coop they've been in since 8 weeks old. Before that, they were in our office in a brooder with the red heat light on all the time. I didn't know that chickens could dislike a place after 8 months, but I suppose it's possible. The light is a red light...the same type (although different heat temp) from when they were babies...I guess I could try unplugging it. It's a small coop (for 6 chickens) so there isn't any room for a space heater. Also, they are out goofing around all day...I haven't seen them sleep during the day. I'm very puzzled. Also- the coop is very clean. I completely empty it, wash it down, disinfect it and put fresh shavings in every week. I also dust it. I've done this since they were in the coop- and did the same thing in the brooder. The only thing different is the weather and that they don't get to wander all over the yard and garden....but it's not because they don't have access! They jumped out of the coop today and stepped on the snow, and turned around and ran back into the playpen! It was actually funny! Today has been very sunny, but still really cold.
    The reason we have a heat lamp, though a very low wattage, is that I had a friend who had a chicken freeze to death here in KFalls last winter.
    Thanks for the suggestions. I guess I'll have to toss them into the coop at night until they decide to go in on their own.
     
  6. Tenmore

    Tenmore Chillin' With My Peeps

    263
    0
    99
    Jun 2, 2011
    Ogden utah
    You said it is a small coop is it too small? I have 20 hens and it can be right with all of them on the roosts I had 6 from a younger flock that roosted outside. All but 2 have figured out their supposed to be in side I still need to put them away its been low teens to single digits here.
     
  7. Hm. I would give this a few days, adjust a few things, and see what happens.
     
  8. Michelelyl

    Michelelyl Out Of The Brooder

    30
    0
    22
    Feb 13, 2012
    it's a coop for 4-6 chickens...I have 5. It has two nest boxes attached :)
     
  9. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

    9,956
    2,939
    421
    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    Normally, chickens will go under cover to sleep at night. It's instinct. They need the confinement when they sleep in order to feel safe. You have established the girls in their coop, they were used to it, and suddenly they didn't want to sleep there.

    I suspect something entered through the doggie door and frightened them. They wouldn't want to be confined in any space where there is something they feel danger from. Perhaps a wood rat or regular rat came in, and maybe is still hanging around, going into the coop every night. Do you have a feeder inside the coop?

    In order to get them back into the habit of using the coop again, you will need to put them in at night for the next week or so, and shut the pop door so nothing can get in and they won't get out. Let them out in the mornings.

    But make sure the pen and coop aren't being invaded by a rat or a snake during the night. I would set a rat trap for the next week while the girls are locked inside the coop.
     
  10. Michelelyl

    Michelelyl Out Of The Brooder

    30
    0
    22
    Feb 13, 2012
    WOW, I never even thought of this! We haven't seen any predators in our area, although, I did smell a skunk last night. We have a 6 foot fence all around our backyard, but I also know this does not deter many predators. Haven't seen any snakes, but that doesn't mean anything. And if I had, I'd still be screaming. Not a snake fan, AT ALL.
    The girls are locked in at night and it is critter proof when its locked for the night- heck, half the time I struggle to get in there to warm up the locks to get them open in the morning after a cold night...but this is a good consideration since we were gone for 11 days. It was snowing pretty hard and we weren't here- maybe my neighbor decided that 'one' night of not locking them up was worth not fighting the snow. I will pay closer attention to this. Yes, we have a feeder and a heated waterer in the run for those days they don't want to leave the run/playpen. I think I'll take the feeder out at night and check for any little mousies before I shove their shivering little fannies into the coop :)
    Thanks!
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by