Chickens won't go to bed

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by serprise, Jan 31, 2014.

  1. serprise

    serprise Out Of The Brooder

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    May 21, 2013
    My chickens (4 Welsummer hens) are around 10 months old and it seems nothing I do helps them put themselves up at dawn. I have to go out there every day to shut them in their run and even then they sleep outside under the coop (less worried about that than putting themselves up). I installed a light on a timer in their run that turns on as the sun goes down hoping that'd get them in the run but it made no difference (I disconnected it since it didn't work). They'll still be walking around the yard at midnight if I don't go carry/herd them into their run. I've tried putting them on their perch but they just run out and huddle under the coop. I shut all lights around the house off to avoid ambient light, there's a street light around 120' away with a yellow bulb which my city uses. Would that light be the cause? It's across the street + a house over so it doesn't actually beam any light into my yard, you can just see the light if you look at it. I'm lost on what to do here, I've tried everything I can think of. There has been nights well below freezing and instead of going in by the heat lamp that turns on when the temp drops below 45F, they still huddle up outside. Are my chickens too stupid to learn? They lay 3-4 eggs every day so they're doing great there, plus they use the nesting boxes so I guess they aren't totally incompetent but I hate having to catch/herd them every evening the sun starts to go down so I can lock them away from predators. Their house's internal dimensions are 54x54x42 so it should be more than adequate for 4 hens (currently 3 since one has been broody). Here's a pic so you can get an idea of where they hang out under the coop. The pic is from when they were chicks and I had just finished the run so they could go outside for the first time. The grass in there has disappeared a long time ago so it isn't nearly as pretty.


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    Last edited: Jan 31, 2014
  2. erinchelsea

    erinchelsea Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Honestly, they might be too hot in there with a heat lamp in that small space. You don't need a heat lamp, especially at 45 degrees. 10 month old chickens have plenty of feathers to keep themselves warm under a shelter.
     
  3. serprise

    serprise Out Of The Brooder

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    May 21, 2013
    the heat lamp rarely turns on and it's far from the perch, it looks deceiving since feeder+waterer are so large, the light is 4' from the corner perch (the perch that went across I removed because it was too close to the lamp) and it's faced down/away from them so it only raises the temp inside, it's intentionally not directed at them. It's above the feeder now, it was closer (when the pic was taken) back when they were chicks, I kept the inside 70+ until they were over a month old when I started to let them outside. I only pointed that out because there was one night it got down to 7F and even that night they slept outside instead of going in. 90% of the nights the heat lamp isn't on. It doesn't matter if they sleep outside honestly, like I said I'm not really worried about that. What I care about is they won't put themselves up, whether they sleep under the coop or in it doesn't really matter, I just want them to be protected from predators which they are if they'd at least get inside the run.
     
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2014
  4. erinchelsea

    erinchelsea Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I can see your concern about the predators, that is a very valid worry.

    If you make a habit of throwing some treats (this time of year I use corn) wherever you want them to go in the evenings, then close them up. Once it becomes a habit they will do it every night whether or not you give treats. Sometimes the younger ones need a little educating. :) I'm lucky since we always put the younger pullets in with the older hens once they are mature enough, they learn from the big girls.
     
  5. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    I agree that it's probably too hot in there....also looks pretty small for 4 hens.
    That run is not predator proof, raccoons and canines eat chicken wire as an appetizer.
     
  6. Mtn Laurel

    Mtn Laurel Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I think that "coop training" would help. That's when you confine them to the coop - and I'd think the run, in your case - until such time as they get the idea that they go into the run and coop at night. It teaches them where home base is. Usually takes about a week and then they get the idea.

    I'd also take the light out of the run and put it into the coop so that they'd be drawn to the light - and the coop - as the sun goes down. After everyone is in the coop, just turn off the light and lock them up.

    Prior posters about it being too hot in the coop are right, IMO. Your coop is small and they generate more heat than you'd expect. Four hens in your coop will stay plenty warm, especially at 45 degrees. I've got 8 hens in an 8 x 10 coop and they've been doing just fine during this Polar Vortex when we've had morning temps from Zero to 9 degrees with no heat at all.

    Good luck and hope they soon get the idea of where home is.
     
  7. serprise

    serprise Out Of The Brooder

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    I think I confused you all mentioning the heat lamp(right now it isn't even plugged in, I used the plug when installing the light for the run to try and attract them at night). The heat lamp is "rarely" on, that is 100% not the reason they aren't putting themselves up in the evenings. The heat lamp wasn't even installed from the point they hit 9-10 weeks until (and they didn't put themselves up then) this winter when I re-installed it (to make my life easier) because their water kept freezing. Welsummers are a cold weather capable bird, that's part of why I got them so I didn't have to heat their coop [​IMG] in the winter, I only did because I hated having to fix their water situation every day before work(I've since got a heated waterer!). However, I just installed an app on my phone called "Sunset Reminder" so I'll be sure to put them up at the same time of evening for the next week or 2 while turning a light on in the coop for an hour or so, hopefully that "coop training" helps. While I do put them up every night sometimes the time varies so that might be the problem but this alarm on my phone should help, I set it to go off 10 min after sunset every day. Right now there's no way to close off the door to their house, should I install one and lock them in? I would prefer they sleep in the coop vs the run but more than anything I hate having to herd them every night, I'd rather be able to just go out there, count heads and close their gate. That'd be nice, especially on the rainy days[​IMG].
    My guess is that heat lamp will never be plugged in again, they survived 7F temps sleeping outside which is a lot lower than it usually gets here so temps are a non issue now that I have the 3gal heated waterer. I just use it as a regular waterer right now, I've never actually plugged it in since I didn't actually order it until after the big freeze. It has a thermometer that supposedly kicks on automatically when temps reach freezing which hasn't happened yet. Thankfully, I'm thinking it won't l get that cold again this year to test it.
     
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2014
  8. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    They should have a double latched door in the coop, to protect them from predators at night.
    Locking them in for a few days might help 'home' them to the coop, but you don't have any windows for light...so not a nice place for them to spend 24/7.
     
  9. chickkrzi

    chickkrzi Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I'm almost sure that when they are saying "Coop training " they are talking about locking up the hens inside you coop 24 hrs a day for 3-4 days in a row.
    I know that when I have to put my hens inside my breeding pin. I have to lock them up inside a few days (with plenty of food an water) or they will try there best to return to the main roost.
     
  10. betsycam

    betsycam Out Of The Brooder

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    I've had similar issues with my girls. When I first started letting them out of their coop to free range, I'd find them roosting in a tree next to the coop at dusk rather than going in their coop. I tried locking them in for a week, but they still intermittently used the tree. I would knock them out of the tree with a broom handle to put them in the coop. I started giving them dried meal worms as a treat to entice them in, which would work as a lure, but then they'd get in there and wait before I'd show up, and then come back out (I would arrive just as they were coming back out). Now, if I'm on time, they will go in and I lock them up, but if I'm late, they're in the tree. I tell them "chickie, chickie, chickie" and put the mealworms in the coop, and they'll jump down and go inside. Two of my new girls will go in no problem but the original ones still insist on starting in the tree and then will come down when I call them, and go inside. Sometimes they get mealworms and other times not. If it is too dark when I come, then they won't come down and I have to physically grab the legs of the ones I can reach. Thankfully, we don't seem to have any raccoons or opossums that would go up in the tree to get them, because sometimes I just have to leave the ones who are too high to grab. Not much of an answer for the OP, but at least the treats will help you get compliance if the don't end up volunteering to go in.
     

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