Chickens won't roost in the hen house

Irish Luck

9 Years
Oct 6, 2010
I have built my chickens the Taj Mahal of chicken coops. It is clean, with fresh pine shavings bedding and lots of food inside. My chickens suddenly stopped going in it to roost. I still find my eggs in the nesting box so they are going in to lay. But at night they prefer hunkering down in the dirt or roosting up on top of the fence (I have surrounded the coop with a dog kennel to keep them safe from my dogs). I have forced them into the coop at night and they make such a fuss about coming outside that I let them out. Except for this one weird behavior they seem happy and healthy.

They are plain white chickens that lay brown eggs. I don't know their breed. I wanted 5 hens from my friends. They gave me young pullets which 2 turned out to be roosters, the Colonel and Popeye. They seem to like me and come to the door of the kennel and even when I don't have food they follow me around as I do my work in the chicken yard

Does anybody have any ideas what could be wrong with my coop/chickens/me? I worry about them as winter approaches.
My guess is something scared them at night in their coop and they are afraid to go in because of this.

I've seen posts on here before about this very topic and usually there is some sort of pest or predator coming around after dark. Sometimes its mice inside the coop, sometimes raccoons or fox trying to get in.
Any ideas on what I can do? I haven't seen any evidence of varmints. I shut the door and windows so they are locked in pretty good.

At night, they crawl out of the woodwork and infest the chickens. They can pester the chickens to death, they suck blood.

They look like tiny sand that moves very quickly. If you go there at dusk, and put your hand/arm up against the woodwork or roost, they'll crawl all over your warm hand but you need a flashlight to see them in the dusk. They may not bite you, but you can feel them very lightly swarm. If you discover mites, take a good look at the vent openings of your birds. Some will be very immune and have no mites, and some may have bad infestations, it will look like dark gray/brown sand covering their vent opening, and they may even have scabs on their belly.

There are several treatments if you find mites. Sometimes, the mites already infested bags of wood shavings, before you purchased them.

If you don't find mites, check your wood shavings. Cedar shavings can cause respiratory distress; if its uncomfortable to breathe in there, they'll avoid it. Several people here have advised to use only pine shavings, not cedar.

Good luck!
I agree with 6chickens in St. Charles that you should check for mites. Also check for poultry ticks 15-45 minutes after dark. Look carefully on the roosts. You can see what they look like here: Both mites and ticks can cause odd behavior at roosting time and you should (and can) rule that out immediately. Also, is the coop very dark inside when it is time to roost? They often don't like to go into a place that is dark. You could put a dim light inside for a while after dark and see if that puts them at ease. Good luck.
Wow! I hate bugs. Thank you so much for the information! I'll be out there tonight looking for the blood suckers. You've all been a great help:)
Mine isn't a reply so much as a related question. First of all, I'm not sure if I understand the terminology. I use the word "coop" to describe a fenced in area where the hens are confined much of the day. I use the word "hen house" to describe a kind of cupboard within the coop, where I expect the hens to go at night to roost. The hen house also contains areas for nesting. The hen house is floored with shavings.
About two weeks ago, I came to the coop in the morning to find of of the five hens lying dead with no head. There was no sign of forced entry, but it COULD possibly have forced the top of the gate enough to squeeze through. I have gone throughout, reinforcing any possible gap in the fencing. I am guessing it was a raccoon (we live in Southern California).
So, now, the hens are not roosting in the hen house any more, but just in the dirt, like the person above described. I just wish they would go back into the hen house because as they are, they just seem to be attracting attention to any passing predator. At least in the hen house they are out of sight and somewhat protected, to my way of thinking.
Is there anything I can do to tempt them back in? Is it likely that with time, and no more threats, that they might take to going back in of their own accord?
I took the good advice from our colleagues and sprayed the house for mites. I changed the bedding to hay and it was a miracle. All went into the house and seem to love it. So they were right on target.
I have occasionally found a headless chicken, very disconcerting. My issue was that my fence has just enough space for the girls to stick their heads out to get the tasty bugs just on the other side of the fence. I was scolding them for this behavior when one of my dogs came out of nowhere like a rocket and missed grabbing the head by a fraction of an inch. I have reinforced my fence with chicken wire so they can't get even their heads out and have had no further incidents, knock on wood. I couldn't figure out what predator would only take their heads??? It can't be the tastiest part of the bird, surely. Do you have roaming neighborhood dogs?
Thank you for taking the time to reply.
There are no roaming dogs, no, and they certainly can't stick their heads out anywhere. My theory for why the creature only took the head is that the only place I can see for something to have gotten into the cage, is way up high on the gate (above head height). I think it must have prised it open. There is no way a predator could have carried out this operation with a huge chicken in tow. I think it just opted for the head as that's all it could carry.
I also noticed that the motion sensitive light that I have in the coop, was disconnected on the night of the murder. I don't mean I think this is suspicious, no doubt a family member did it over summer to use the socket for something else, and didn't plug it back in, and I didn't notice. I can't help wondering if this had been operating, if the chicken would still be alive today.
BTW, egg production has gone way down, which I also associate with the trauma. Am I right, do you think?

New posts New threads Active threads

Top Bottom