Coop Run - How can I encourage my hens to use it more?

Farmer Mike

In the Brooder
8 Years
Aug 29, 2011
Northern NJ
I have 8 hens that seem to love their 4x8 (8' high) coop but some rarely like to come outside into their 6x10 run. Since I have predators of all sorts (Bears, Hawks, Racoons, etc.) I have to keep them fully enclosed in their safe but supermax run. The run floor is a mix of pea gravel and 3/4 gravel (more 3/4 than pea gravel) and I have two nice roosts for them as well. I even made a dust bath area because I thought the gravel was too rough. (They like to dust bath inside on the deep liter).

Can I do something to improve the run? I was thinking of adding some sand to the floor, thinking the stone is too rough or they can't scratch like they might want.

Or is it ok for them to come and go as they please? I try to provide treats in the run so they come out but some will not accept the bribes.

I do have a very curious lab-mix that loves watching them, but that is all he does. He doesn't bark or try to dig to get at them.

Thanks for the help. Mike.
I bet as they live in the coop longer they will become more curious and start to explore their run more, giving them treats out there is a good idea- you can sprinkle fresh greens, scratch, sun flower seeds, etc. out in the run to encourage them to go and scratch around out there. How old are your chickens?
Not sure of their ages exactly. I think some are about 7 months old at the oldest, while a few are younger, maybe 2-3 months old (they are smaller and me...not the other chickens..
You might try putting their food outside during the day and back in at night.

It seems unnatural to me when an animal doesn't go outside when given the opportunity. My pullets were locked up for a long time, so at first, they took to free-ranging very reluctantly. Now that they are confident, they dominate the yard!
If they're new to the coop, they might just need more time to get comfortable outside. If they've been in the coop for awhile, I'd try replacing the gravel with sand in the area next to the coop. They may start going outside more often. You can always expand the sand area later, if that's what they like.

Edited to add: You could also try adding a couple of pallets over the gravel, for them to walk on. They might like that.
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They are fairly new to the coop so they are likely adjusting. I do have some pallets so I can try this as I add sand. Thanks.
Food! In the winter I put hay over the snow and throw some scratch grains on it. My chickens will still go outside for short periods of time as long as it's not too windy. They love to scratch in the hay.
If their food and water is indoors, move it outside. I keep NOTHING in my coop other than a nest box and their roosts. They come out in the a.m. and go back in the p.m.--there is no reason for them to be indoors until nightfall and they know it! They have food, water, treats, toys, and perches in their outdoor run, and it's shaded. They see no need to go indoors!

I don't leave any food or water indoors b/c they don't eat or drink when roosting and I open the pophole at 6 a.m. every morning. I don't leave food out, though. In the a.m. I only put out what they will eat during the day--at bedtime I remove any leftovers. This prevents food from drawing predators.

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