Chicks afraid to sleep in the coop

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by mizz9, Jun 23, 2016.

  1. mizz9

    mizz9 Chillin' With My Peeps

    88
    22
    61
    Jun 22, 2016
    Silicon Valley Area, CA
    Hi all, I have read a few similar threads on this topic but hoping to find some new advice.

    Just got 3 chicks for the first time. They are about 5 weeks old. They were still in a brooder at the place we got them, but with the warm weather they told us it would be OK for them to go straight to a regular coop. (It is plenty warm enough even at night since they are mostly feathered.)

    We have a small coop/run kit (intending on letting them free range once they get their bearings.) They are afraid to go up the ramp and in the coop! On day 1, we took them home and put them in the coop first. They huddled by the open door to the run terrified, and eventually jumped down into the run area. The ramp is also scary so they skipped the ramp and just jumped off the side. By bedtime they had zero interest in going to the coop to sleep. We just picked them up and put them in and they just kept jumping out the door to the run again. We closed the coop door forcing them in for the night and they peep-screamed for 20 minutes before finally going to sleep.

    Night 2 - similar... tried to lure them up the ramp with treats this time - no luck. Tried putting a light inside the coop and waiting for it to get darker, thinking they might follow the light. No luck. Ended up basically picking them up and putting them in the coop and closing the door. Again peep-crying for about 15 minutes.

    Night 3 - modified ramp to have more bars giving it more traction. Tried luring them up with yummy yummy tomato that they are going crazy over. They refuse to go more than halfway up the ramp. Tried a light in the coop again... No luck. Gave up and picked them up and put them in the coop, closed the door... more peep-crying until they fell asleep. They are also scratching at the door wanting out. But the duration of time until they fell alseep was less.

    Ideas to help the coop be less scary?? I have heard of locking them in all day and night so they get that this is "home" but with the weather being 90+ that just doesn't seem right.
     
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    20,506
    3,898
    506
    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    A lot of that sounds normal but you put a strange twist on it with that crying/peeping. At five weeks, they certainly can handle about any weather north of the equator this time of the year and a lot of weather south of the equator. And unless they are Silkies that cannot fly, they are pretty unlikely to use that ramp to get down. Mine normally prefer to fly. They don’t really need it to get up either, they can easily fly to the door if they want to, but they might use if they want to go up.

    When I put chicks that age in my grow-out coop, usually at 5 weeks, I normally leave them locked in it for about a week, then let them into the run. It’s an elevated 4’ x 8’ grow-out coop with an 8’ x 12’ run, probably much like your set-up though your space may be more cramped since you only have three. Those kits tend to be pretty small. When I let them into the run at about 6 weeks, they never go back into the coop at night. Instead they want to sleep in a group at the base of the door. I have a couple of other coops that I occasionally move chicks into and I never have that problem, but those other two are not elevated. I think before they start to roost their instinct tells them to huddle up in a low spot. That’s under the door with mine. Since yours did not spend a week in the coop, that could be somewhere else but still down low.

    How dark is it when you put them in the coop? I wait until it is dark enough that they are huddled together before I put them in the coop. It gets pretty dark down there too, you may have enough light from security lights, street lights, or something else that it never gets all that dark. Chickens in general don’t like change. They are pretty adaptable eventually but in the short term change can really bother them.

    This may be the first time they have ever experienced dark. It may be the dark that bothers them, not the coop itself. I seriously doubt it has anything to do with the coop specifically anyway. When you tried that light to get them inside, did you leave it on for a while after they were inside? Did the light affect their distressed peeping?

    When I let my chicks out of the grow-out coop and into their run, I do exactly what you are doing. I wait until dark and physically lock them in the coop for the night. One extremely rare occasions I’ve had chicks catch on pretty quickly to go to bed in the coop, I’ve had some I had to do that for over three weeks before they all catch on. What normally happens is that a few catch on pretty quickly but some don’t. I usually have between 15 and 20 chick sat a time. It often takes over a week before they all catch on.

    I’ll tell my funny story now. One time I had a group of 16 chicks that had spent a week in that grow-out coop before I let them out to the run. The first night they went to bed in the normal spot under the door so I put them in the coop. The next night they all went to bed in that same spot but I went down there to do something else in that area before it was really dark. When they saw me coming, they one by one hopped up into the coop. It was hilarious to watch. After that, they all put themselves to bed in the coop whether I was around or not. I’ve tried timing it like that with other broods but it has never worked again. There was just something about that brood where it worked. Each brood is different. And chick TV is often better than anything in cable, satellite, or antenna.

    The last time I moved chicks into that coop I didn’t bother locking them in for a week, just put them straight in the run. I have to physically put them in the coop at night anyway so why bother. It wasn’t any harder than normal, after about a week they were all putting themselves to bed in the coop. That will be my standard method from here on.

    Most of those coop kits and prefabbed coops do not have good ventilation. I can certainly agree you don’t need to lock them in there for a week in those temperatures, it could be dangerous. I don’t know if this is part of the problem or not, that coop may be too hot for them. Probably not but you never know. You might consider (I strongly suggest) looking at your ventilation and see if you need to cut some holes in that coop. Heat in summer kills a lot more chickens than cold in winter. Ideally you have ventilation above and below them in summer and in severe cold you have ventilation above them in winter. If we knew your general location we might better understand what temperatures you are dealing with year around. If you are going to stick around this forum (I hope you do) putting your general location in your profile can help a lot with many questions. If you can post photos of the coop or post a link that shows the coop, maybe we can help with ventilation suggestions.

    Most of what you describe sounds perfectly normal to me. If this is the first time they have experienced dark even the distressed peeping is easily explained. They should adjust pretty quickly to that. You can play with that light in the coop and see if dark is a trigger, but don’t leave it on for too long. You don’t need to add more heat to that coop.

    Good luck and welcome to the forum.
     
  3. newmarch2014

    newmarch2014 Chillin' With My Peeps

    1,130
    113
    161
    Mar 27, 2014
    I always lock them in the coop for the first 3 days to get them used to it. With food and water and lots of ventilation of course if it is overly warm where you are. After the 3 days they will be reluctant to venture out but just shove them out into the run (close the pop door for an hour to make them stay out) and then by night time they want to return to their bed of the last 3 days. Worked like a charm for me each time except for one stubborn one that wanted to sleep outside in the run. I would just take that one and pop it into the coop and lock the pop door for a couple nights, she got the idea.
     
  4. farmgirllvo

    farmgirllvo Chillin' With My Peeps

    100
    2
    53
    Apr 27, 2016
    They will be scared at first and they will just slowly eat used to it, I put my chicks in the next few boxes up in a cop, the smaller coop with the nesting boxes is inside of a big coop, anyways, the chicks usally take a few days to come down and out, at that point they are hungry. It will just take getting used to on Thor part, I'd say put them where you want them to sleep every night, and they will get comfortable with it eventually.
     
  5. mizz9

    mizz9 Chillin' With My Peeps

    88
    22
    61
    Jun 22, 2016
    Silicon Valley Area, CA
    Thank you for sharing your stories.

    We live in the Silicon Valley area in CA. So our weather is "mild" year round. During the summer though there will be heat waves where it is 90+, which it will be all this week.

    You are probably correct on it being the first time they have experienced being in the dark. Putting a dim light in there did seem to help them settle down faster. Removed the light after they settled in and decided to sleep. They seem to stay quiet and sleeping the rest of the night. It is just the initial minutes that are traumatic. I guess for now we will keep putting them in there at night until they figure out it isn't supposed to be scary!

    They are so well adjusted during the day already! They seem so happy eating and drinking and peeping [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  6. newmarch2014

    newmarch2014 Chillin' With My Peeps

    1,130
    113
    161
    Mar 27, 2014
    During the winter when dark comes early and fast I put an old solar light in with them each night, it dies off after a couple hours and I take it back out to recharge in the morning. It helps the littles find their way around as they get used to things. I leave my coop well open during the summer so mine have plenty of light as they go to bed when it is lighter out this time of year but if you are closing yours up at night so they have less light it may be an option.
     
  7. SueT

    SueT Overrun With Chickens

    1,887
    1,358
    256
    May 27, 2015
    SW MO
    I have a pair of 5 week olds that do the same thing. Since last week they have a small part of the big coop and a part of the run and they seem happy and self contained until night comes. Then they begin getting anxious. I have been going into the pen at sunset and sitting with them. They like hopping up on my lap, even fly up on my shoulder. (They can fly like sparrows at this point, don't worry about yours not being able to get up to their door! ) I pet them, talk to them, and then I've been gently putting them in through their door, then close it. Last night was their 8th day, and they went in all by themselves! I was so proud of them. Here they are, Rocket the barred rock, and Poulette, the speckled sussex:
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2016
  8. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

    10,551
    3,784
    461
    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    Responding to the OP: Two things haven't been covered in this discussion. One is breed. If these chicks are one of the more temperamental breeds, it would make them a bit more difficult to settle in.

    The second is you. You are strange to the chicks along with a strange new place. Chicks are like a lot of critters in that you need to earn their trust. If you would spend some time with your new chicks, sitting on the ground with some treats and let them climb on you and get to know you, it will make it so much easier for them to settle in.

    Take this opportunity to use treats and a verbal and visual cue to train them to come when you summon them. Part of the reason the treats didn't work at first to lure them inside the coop was because you are strange to them and they don't know and trust yo yet.

    Chicks need time to become trusting and comfortable in new surroundings. Be patient and they'll soon settle in.
     
  9. mizz9

    mizz9 Chillin' With My Peeps

    88
    22
    61
    Jun 22, 2016
    Silicon Valley Area, CA
    SueT - adorable pics!

    Thanks all. When I checked on them mid morning, they were actually getting brave enough on their own to walk up the ramp a little bit. Later in the afternoon, I noticed one was missing from the run! Turns out she was inside the coop taking a nap!! You are right it is just taking some time. I am an overly worried first time chicken mom.

    I have been visiting them with treats and they are warming up slowly so I think we will be OK :)
     
  10. mizz9

    mizz9 Chillin' With My Peeps

    88
    22
    61
    Jun 22, 2016
    Silicon Valley Area, CA
    Well it's been a week now. We just keep putting the little ones in the coop at night. They are trusting us more since we give them yummy tomatoes and dried mealworms any time we visit them. So it is easier to get them to go to bed by following the treats! I think they are just scared of the dark in general. Once they are in there, they settle down to sleep pretty quickly, they just do not want to be in there when they could be in their super fun run instead! From what I read around BYC we'll just keep up putting them in at night and hoping they get it one of these days!

    The only thing that bugs me is that we really want to let them free range in our yard but I don't trust them to do that until they know the coop is home.
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by