Chickens won't sleep in their coop and it's cold outside!

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by sueami, Dec 23, 2008.

  1. sueami

    sueami Out Of The Brooder

    Dec 23, 2008
    Hi all,
    I'm not sure if I'm worrying too much about my birds, but we have four and we have a snug little coop for them that they were happy to roost in since DH built it for them in the summer, but the last week or so, the birds have been choosing to sleep outside of it, even though we're in northern colorado and the nighttime temps have been in the single digits (and ocassionally below).
    If I can figure out how to upload photos I will, but here's a description of their housing. The coop started out as part of a chicken tractor, and it's about 4 by 4 with two nest boxes and 4 feet of roost space on a 2x4 board with rounded edges about 18 inches off the floor. It has a wooden floor and is about 3 1/2 feet tall at the back, with a sloping roof towards the front, where there's a door about a foot square. We put straw as bedding on the floor. I think there's adequate ventilation, between the open door at the front end an a half inch gap at the back end at the top of the door which we use to access the nest boxes. I do throw a quilt over the back end at night to help insulate, after the chickens began eating the styrofoam-type insulation that DH had glued to the inside roof of the coop (what *is* it about chickens and styrofoam?? [​IMG])
    The coop used to attach to a long low run in the yard, 3 feet wide by 8 foot long by about 2 feet tall, but they clearly hated being that confined. With the advent of winter, we moved them under our deck and fenced off a segment of it that's about 5 feet tall and about 6 feet wide by 10 feet long. It gets nice sunshine when it's sunny as it's on the south end of the deck and we let them run the yard during the day if we're home.
    For the first month or so they were under the deck they'd go into the coop to sleep. But then we got an artic cold snap (-17 below on the worst night of it) and I started leaving a heat lamp on in their coop at night.
    The worst of the cold has passed, though most days it still doesn't get out of the 20s and I haven't been putting the heat lamp on any more. I stopped when I noticed they had spent the night outside of the coop, perched on top of it.
    I have tried going down there in the evening and pushing them into the coop but they don't want to stay there. I could block off their access to the larger pen to keep them in the coop. Or I could leave them be and trust they know what they're doing. The reason I'm asking for advice is that my daughter and I just noticed some funny patches on the combs of three of our four hens -- on some of tips the color is faded to light yellow with black at the very tip. Is this frostbite? [​IMG]
    Have I been overestimating their ability to take self-protective measures?
    Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.
  2. pawsplus

    pawsplus Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 18, 2008
    Middle TN
    Lock them in. Safer and warmer anyway. Once they get back in the habit, they'll go in on their own!
  3. chickenchickenbulkbulk

    chickenchickenbulkbulk Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 9, 2008
    I have two frizzle bantams that will not go in the coops. They seem to be alright. The roos that are going in have frost bitten combs, but not the bantam!! Can't figure that out. He roost in the tree behind the coop. Good Luck on getting yours in the coop.
  4. speckledhen

    speckledhen Intentional Solitude Premium Member

    We dont have any such thing as "won't go in the coop" here. We make them go in and lock the doors.
  5. FrontPorchIndiana

    FrontPorchIndiana Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 8, 2008
    Yeah, you pretty much have to make them go in. Their survival skills stink.
  6. ssteiner

    ssteiner Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 24, 2008
    Orange, CA
    I locked mine in for two days and from that point in they always associated it with home. Where before they'd stay outside, after the two days solitary confinement they now go in every evening.
  7. Granolamom

    Granolamom Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 9, 2008
    I say "Lock 'em in!, too. They probably hated the heating lamp (might have been too hot for them, since the coop is on the small side. Maybe they felt uncomfortable so close to the bright light and heat, and that's why they don't want to go in their coop) Just remove the lamp, and lock them into their coop for 2 nights, and they'll get the message.
  8. Jayare's Chicks

    Jayare's Chicks Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 25, 2007
    Florence, Alabama
    Is your heat lamp one of those red heat lights? Try switching it out with a 40 or 60 watt regular light bulb and turn it on about an hour before sunset and leave it on for a couple hours after sunset and see if they go in there on their own.
    If not you should force them in the coop at night so they are protected from the weather.

  9. Brit4Shains

    Brit4Shains Out Of The Brooder

    Dec 19, 2008
    Quote:First, they don't know what they are doing, they are only reacting to the light that was put in... which with the quilt thrown on top, blocked the ventilation (more than likely) and made it way to warm in there for them... so they go outside...

    2nd, what you are describing is frostbite on the combs, and the areas that are black are probably already beyond saving at this point, however, I read in a poultry mag, that vaseline applied to the combs helps combat frostbite... if you add that to providing proper windbreaks, then that should help immensely. I'm presuming that the porch/deck that they are under is blocked by the house foundation on one side, but have you taken any steps to provide a weather/wind break from the primary direction that it come in from? Just an idea... we use bales of straw and old hay at the far end of our hoop houses just to provide the break and slow down the wind... we don't use any insulation under the tarps, and none around the houses other than the snow that has slid from the top and piled up along the sides. The door end is open mesh wire...

    Hope this helps...
  10. sueami

    sueami Out Of The Brooder

    Dec 23, 2008
    Thank you all for your responses. I am making them stay in their coop at night, and they seem to be readjusting to that quickly enough. I'm pretty sure they were uncomfortable with the lamp and comforter, so those are gone and ventilation and darkness are back.
    I have created windblocks for them from the dominant wind around their run, but they all prefer to range in the backyard most of the day and complain loudly if I keep them penned. I think I will keep them in their runs on windy days from now on out, noise be darn, if it means protecting them from frostbite.

    Thanks again!

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