Chickens won't use their ladder!

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by soldieratheart, Oct 22, 2009.

  1. soldieratheart

    soldieratheart Out Of The Brooder

    Sep 7, 2009
    Coopertown, TN
    I have finally moved my chickens into their coop, they've been there for 4 days now. It is a two-level coop, the upstairs is enclosed with a pitched roof and has a 14" by 14" hatch cutout in the floor. From there I have a "chicken ladder" - a 14" length of plywood with "rungs" attached every 10"- going to the bottom level, which is a 3ft tall wired-in base. They have an access door to their pen from the downstairs.

    For space and cleanliness reasons, I've attached their waterers and feeders in the downstairs part so that the upstairs in mostly for roosting. Besides, we're using rabbit waterers so I need to be able to hook them into the wire sides of the coop bottom, as I obviously can't set them up on the pitched roof "walls".

    It WOULD be working great, except that the stupid chicks (10 weeks old now) WILL NOT use their ladder! They can't seem to get from the upstairs to the downstairs at all! In the morning I must hand-move them, and by the way they attack the waterers it is clear that they would probably let themselves get sick or severly dehydrated if I simply left them until they "figured it out". I even moved the food upstairs temporarily so they can at least eat in the evenings - we herd them to the coop at night as they haven't quite figured out how to get back in from their pen, although they can get out once I open the access door. But they can't figure out the ladder and I have tried everything... scattering treats on every rung/step to lure them, "teaching" them by walking them up and down the ladder by hand, putting a few through the hatch in the upstairs floor and making them hop/fly down... but none of them can spontaneously use that ladder in the least. It is pretty steep, but still... with the rungs I thought they'd be able to use it okay... it's only 3ft from the bottom floor to the upstairs hatch, so even with a steep pitch to the ladder it's not that much of a drop anyway.

    Of course that ladder is screwed into the structure at several points so taking it out would be a real pain... not to mention that I don't care to crawl over the pooped-on wire bottom of the coop to work on it, if I can avoid it. Is there a way to get those chicks to use the durn thing without ripping it out and building another one?

    I thought chickens ladders were super simple and basic... why don't my chickens use mine?
  2. LynneP

    LynneP Chillin' With My Peeps

    Your birds are very young and you may need a 'landing pad', such as a bale of straw to assist them- they don't fly that well until older and their leg bones have not yet hardened. If you post a pic I think some of us could assist you in making the changes you need. Might be something very simple, such as putting the rungs closer together.[​IMG]
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2009
  3. Kotiya

    Kotiya Out Of The Brooder

    Jun 11, 2009
    South-West Ohio
    I'm certainly no expert, but I have 20+ BO that are 12wks. I know I forced/taught mine to use a ladder/ramp when they were only about a month old. They really preferred to fly up or down instead. Even where I've moved them now, they prefer to fly up 2-3 ft to their roosts. Can you encourage yours to fly down to you in the morning when they really want the water? I know that 4 days seems like a lot to you, but in my experience, the tiny brains take 10 times longer to learn anything than I expect. Took them 8 days to learn where the new coop was located...that's another long, frustrating story.

    Can you post photos so we can see the situation? I'm curious what other more experienced chicken-folk think.
  4. harrisville chicken

    harrisville chicken Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 2, 2009
    Northern Utah
    My wife spent several nights showing our hens up the ladder on our A-frame coop. After I built our bigger coop, they all had a longer, higher ladder to traverse. (See my BYC page, scroll down about halfway.) We would only put them in the top, but just had to be patient and after a while they'd jump, in a few days they would walk down, unless they heard me whistling my "treat whistle" when they'd jump down for leftovers.
  5. scooter147

    scooter147 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 30, 2008
    Time...they are young, it time they will figure it out.

    I know how you feel, sometimes they can just frustrate the heck out ya, just remember the main difference between human and animal is the power of reason.
  6. sianara

    sianara Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 27, 2007
    Central MA
    Are they silkies by any chance? [​IMG]
  7. soldieratheart

    soldieratheart Out Of The Brooder

    Sep 7, 2009
    Coopertown, TN
    Thansk for all the replies... I have not had a chance to go out and take a picture yet, but I do that in the morning. Interesting that you all have found that your chickens have taken quite a bit of time before they figured things out... I know they're not that bright but didn't realize how long they took to adapt to changes.

    I think that I will move the feeders to the downstairs along with the waterers and let the chicks cope. It's colder downstairs since it's just wired in, but it's in the garage so it's dry and draft-free. I am sure they can handle the temps. The ladder is there if they get curious and want to go upstairs. Hopefully it will not take too long!

    However, I would like to get some opinions on my ladder too, once I get pictures up... so I will work on that!

  8. briteday

    briteday Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 16, 2008
    Northern NV
    One of our coops is a two-story. And everytime we have moved chickens in there someone has to crawl into the run underneath each night for about 5-10 days and re-home them upstairs for the night. Eventually one night you go out there and, lo and behold!, they're all upstairs by themselves.
  9. PortageGirl

    PortageGirl Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 8, 2008
    Portage County, Ohio
    yep, you need one to figure it out, then the others will follow the leader... except for one goof ball who will stand there looking goofy... [​IMG]

    Try putting some up top, leave some on the bottom, and put one or two mid ladder. smart ones will go up, not so smart will go down, really challenged will just hunker down where they are. **sigh**

    Oh, and they don't like it if it's too steep, I put a cement block under the bottom of mine to reduce the incline... it helped a little.
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2009
  10. gsim

    gsim Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 18, 2009
    East Tennessee
    Too steep is a no-go for sure. Doubt they will ever use it until modified. 4:1 is super and I have that outside for both pop doors. 3:1 good, 2:1 ok. If coop too narrow, width:height, then may need to build one that reverses on itself, literally a landing midway. My nests are 24 " up. 1st tier roosts also 24" up and 2nd tier staggered back towards wall, 48" up. They all jump up to them, first to 24" then to 48 " one. They jump to nests too for laying. Have not used the ones on floor level yet. They simply flutter/jump to get down. (If I was to add a 3rd tier, they would then jump to the rafters and be pooping on the flourescent lights. And I would then have to enclose my ceiling fan.)

    I am going to do a ladder/walk board to the nests in the theory that as they age, they are going to find it easier to get up to nest while carrying an egg inside themselves, and less likely to lay it on the floor of the coop in the litter. It will be 2:1.

    Mine come too when I whistle "Rocky top" Have done that since first week and I can do it from over 200 ft away and they will stampede to the gate of the pen when they hear it. Once one moves that way, the others follow at breakneck speed. The henhouse empties out pronto too. It is hilarious to watch. I have seen some of those fatties fly for over 20 feet without touching the ground at those times. And I mean fatties too. I have fed them a wide variety of garden greens/waste from day one and they all look like they are on steroids! I began getting eggs at 16 weeks. I have three of what I call 'runts' and they look like all the other pullets I see at that age. Some of mine actually look like meaties. I have BA, RIR, BR, and BC.

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