Covered outside perch - is this okay?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Henrik Petersson, Jan 17, 2009.

  1. Henrik Petersson

    Henrik Petersson Crowing 9 Years

    Jan 9, 2009
    Karlskrona, Sweden
    Hello, chicken experts,

    the four chickens I bought this spring have always been sleeping on an outside perch. They have only gone inside to lay eggs. The perch is covered by a roof, and has a board underneath to gather up poo. Here's a simple drawing of it, with explanations (don't laugh, please)):

    Red - The hen house
    Black - The roof
    Brown thin thing - The perch
    Purple - The poo board


    The chickens got frostbite on their combs earlier this winter, so obviously this is too cold, so right now, I lift them into the house every night. However, I believe the house is way too small. So I'm wondering if I can do like this instead:

    - Build four walls around the perch, low enough to cover the perch, but not so low that they can't jump up on the perch.
    - Put an electric heater under the roof.

    Here's a drawing of it with walls, the orange stuff being the walls (again, no laughter please).


    The problems with this solution: it may be too draughty, since there is no floor. There is no insulation. My thoughts were that maybe the electric heater can negate those problems.

    The temperature around here is often around 15 degrees F, but in extreme cases drop to perhaps -15 F. Plus it gets quite windy some nights.

    Thankfully yours,
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2009
  2. estpr13

    estpr13 Songster

    May 18, 2008
    Lexington, Ky
    I am not an expert. I just have chickens.

    I keep my hens inside because of preditors, and the cold. Wind chill and air moisture content can led to frostbite.

    My hens like to be able to look around. They like to perch near a window so that they can see what is happening outside. (Look out for preditors)
    Does you hen house have any windows? If not, they may not be comfortable going into a dark place without being able to see around.

    If you cannot get them to go inside, put plexiglass along the front of the perch so that they can see out. Drop it well down so as to block as much wind as possible. They can hop up from the poop board.

    Just an idea. Good luck.
  3. WriterofWords

    WriterofWords Has Fainting Chickens

    Dec 25, 2007
    Chaparral, New Mexico
    Hello and welcome to BYC from New Mexico.
    I have birds that just won't go inside and it gets down into the 20s and upper teens here at times. I hope you figure out a solution for them, since they seem to be unaware of the danger they put themselves in.
  4. Omran

    Omran Songster

    Jul 26, 2008
    Bagdad KY
    Henrick first and formost Welcome to BYC, I am also no expert by any mean I just like chickens, I think you will be better off if you cover the whole area from outside and make an oppening from the inside for the chickes to go and roost on thier roost, and that's for 2 reasons. first preditors, and second weather, because wind and real draft will cause alot of problems for chickens.]

    good Luck.

  5. Henrik Petersson

    Henrik Petersson Crowing 9 Years

    Jan 9, 2009
    Karlskrona, Sweden
    Thanks guys, glad to be here!

    I asked the same question on a Swedish chicken forum, and the idea got turned down. It's not that I don't respect the Swedish chicken owners, it's just that I want some more opinions before I decide what to ultimately do. And I figured this forum had more members, with more shared experience of different types of coop designs.

    I don't think predators would be a problem in this case, since the perch is inside the run. The fence is strong, dug down, and there's a net covering the top of the run. This makes the run pretty secure against the predators we have here.

    The coop has one little window, right next to the inside perch. Here's the whole coop from the front, you can see the window to the right.

    I think the main reason the hens sleep outside, is habit. Note that we have a rooster, and he has always slept inside. We got him later, and he got bullied a bit by the hens in the beginning, so he didn't want to sleep next to them.

    The hens have been bred for egg-laying and have probably lost some natural instincts. The rooster is of a "natural" breed, and is better at taking care of himself.

    I think size could be a problem. Today I measured the inside perch to be 2 ft 9½ inches, and the floor 2 ft 11 inches by 4 ft 1 inch. That's way less than recommended minimum.

    To build in the outside perch was something I hadn't considered. Perhaps I could make a hole underneath the poo board (and maybe bring the poo board up a bit first)?

    Here's a photo of the outside perch, taken today.

    Thanks again,
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2009
  6. The Chicken Lady

    The Chicken Lady Moderator Staff Member 10 Years

    Apr 21, 2008
    West Michigan
    I noticed your theory that your chickens are sleeping outdoors due to habit. I'd say you're 99% right. The good news is that your chickens can be re-trained to sleep inside. However, it will require some extra work on your part.

    What you need to do is bring your chickens inside their coop every night and lock them in. They will have no other option than to roost inside. Let them out in the morning. Keep bringing them in every night for a week. By then, you may notice them heading indoors on their own when it gets dark.

    This is actually a really easy behavior problem to fix. Chickens are creatures of habit. Do something that forces them to change their habits, and their independent behavior, for the most part, will change.
  7. Henrik Petersson

    Henrik Petersson Crowing 9 Years

    Jan 9, 2009
    Karlskrona, Sweden
    It's very difficult to make them go in through the hatch, whether i try pushing, carrying or luring them in with food. Usually I wait until it's dark, then carry them in and place them on the indoor perch. You don't suppose training them to sleep inside will take longer with this method (since they don't find their way in on their own)? They go out on their own, and go in to lay eggs, so they should still have some clue how to get in at night, right?

    As for the size of the coop and indoor perch, do you think it's too small, judging from my photos and measurements? The chickens are literally free ranging, meaning I let them out before dawn and don't lock them in until they've gone to sleep.
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2009
  8. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    I would bet you dollars to donuts that near-windowlessness is a large part of your birds' reluctance to use the coop. Aside from it just not being very inviting, it is likely that once it starts to get slightly dim outside and the birds are *thinking* about roosting, by then it is too pitch-black in the coop for them to SEE to get up on the roost. (CHickens have really lousy night vision).

    Cut most of the back (gable) wall out and replace it with a BIG ol' window whose pane hinges/slides/hooks off to just wire mesh for warm weather, and they may start thinking differently about it.

    Also, what is the indoor roost like? How wide, what height, can they easily GET up to it, etc? It is possible some modifications there might help too.

    The hover you describe does not seem to me likely to make all that much difference in terms of chance of frostbite, and because it is so cramped in around the roost I do not know whether the chickens would use it anyhow.

    Better would be to make the coop more congenial and then (as others have suggested) train them to roost in there at night by putting 'em in and closing the door. Honestly I'd recommend just removing the outdoor perch, that will give them more incentive and a better 'understanding' of the merits of going indoors to sleep.

    Good luck,

  9. Henrik Petersson

    Henrik Petersson Crowing 9 Years

    Jan 9, 2009
    Karlskrona, Sweden
    Quote:It is a bit dark in there. Which wall do you recommend me to put a window on? The blue door on the picture opens to the south.

    Quote:It's 33½ inches long. When I put the chickens there, they fit by perhaps a margin of one chicken's width (a bit hard to estimate). It's about four feet high I guess (haven't measured it), the nests sitting underneath for them to stand on. I have seen one hen fly up there deliberately, but I don't know if all four could do it at the same time - there may be too little wing space.

    I'll give you some more back story: I been living at home with my mom and dad since April last year, and when I got home, they had already made the hen house. As you can see, it's made out of an old outhouse. It's also they who bought the chickens. They think it's such a smooth solution to have the chickens sleeping outside, that they were averse to the idea of training them to sleep indoors. They came up with the idea of the hovel, to get around the problem of the cold. Anyway, that's why I haven't taken away the outside roost yet: dad simply won't let me. It's technically his house and his chickens, and he simply won't believe that an outside hovel will be too cold.

    Anyway, the problem might have solved itself: dad started building the hovel today, and when the hens saw it, they were so confused that they actually, after much hesitation, went indoors. It was pretty dark by then, so they decided to sleep on the floor and in the nests.

    There seem to be quite a few changes that need to be made. I'm very grateful for all the tips you have given me and any tips you may bring in the future.
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2009
  10. coffeelady3

    coffeelady3 Froths Milk for Hard Cash

    Jun 26, 2008
    Tacoma, WA
    I would put them inside like Chicken Lady suggested, but remove the roost outside until they get used to sleeping in the coop. Once they're going in on their own, they consider putting it back. I also like the window idea.

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