Do I have to lock my hens in at night?


In the Brooder
8 Years
Apr 5, 2011
I have 5 adolescent chickies that are 7 weeks old (buff orpington, 2 dominiques, 2 wyandottes). I had 8, but three were lost to a raccoon who managed to pry open the door to the hen house. The external entrance and all the egg doors are now completely secure, although I'm sure the raccoon has tried to reach through the ventilation holes at night.

The henhouse is a 4' x 4' chick'n barn with a cupola and internal roost with around 6" of pine litter on a patio brick floor. When inside at night, the birds sleep piled into a corner roosted on a brick. The henhouse is attached to an 8' x 8' by 6" tall enclosed run (floor, sides, and roof) that has a 3' rain roof over part of it. It has a sandy floor (with chicken wire under it) and four dowel roosts. They share this run with 3 homing doves.

But they HATE sleeping inside the henhouse. This didn't start right after the raccoon attack (which would have made sense). It was fairly cool then and I would come out to put them in at dusk and they'd already be all snuggled up inside - I just had to close the door.

But now that it's 60 degrees or so at night, they want to roost outside in the run for the night or sleep on the hay bale I leave out there for sitting on. Lately they've taken to pushing one of the doves off the 4' perch. It isn't hot, stuffy, or smelly inside the henhouse.

Can I leave them out?

It would take a determined effort for a dog to get at them (and I've never seen a feral dog around). I don't think a raccoon or skunk or cat could do it. But a raccoon could reach through the wire and maul one of them in their sleep if it was willing to climb the chicken wire and the chickens didn't wake up.

They get SO mad when I put them in for the night. I put in a plexiglass door so I could see them with the door closed and they just crowd there and bang at it to get out.

When I keep reading you have to put your birds in for the night, I can't tell if they mean in the henhouse per se, or just in an entirely enclosed pen.

I could put a roost in that is away from the walls. But I don't want to lose any more chickies.

Any thoughts?
Hi nxd10

Sorry to hear that you have lost some chickens to predation. Sometimes it seems that everything wants to eat chickens.

You little ones seem to really have a mind of their own. do you think that their wish to be out is related to the heat? Do you have a way to find out the inside coop temperature? Maybe there is a way that you could make a vent and use hardware cloth to get heat out the coupla? And then replace or enclose the vent in winter. It sounds from what the other poster said that chicken wire will need to be reinforced.

I'm also concerned about the well being of my three (one grown hen and two 6-month olds).

For heat reasons, I have been leaving the coop door open lately. I have an Eglu Cube which is reputed to be 'cool in summer'. The attached run is 'weld mesh' and the holes are about 1" x 3"-- and there is an 8" skirt. But, I think that the heat and humidity of the south and the gulf states kind of defy what most people in the world think is normal. I have seen on forums where people in super hot places like Arizona, Florida and New Mexico have coops that are entirely made of wire....otherwise the interiors would be too hot....

Regarding raccoons, I had thought about getting and using a 'live trap' should an opossum, skunk or raccoon show up and then relocating the intruder a few miles away, but I have heard that these animals will return to their own territory. Also I have a deterrant called 'solar night eyes' -- I saw it advertised in a poultry magazine---and it gives me a little more peace of mind.

Hopefully you will find all the answers that you need on this forum----and your question will probably help a number of us with the answers that will be posted!== so thanks. You want your birds to not pile up against the door trying to escape, and their safety is your top concern, even if they (like kids) don't necessarialy want to do what is best for them.
I read about problems with chicken wire AFTER we built our run, unfortunately (and I thought I had done my homework).

I was planning on replacing it all at the end of the summer while it was still in decent shape but before the winter. But could redo it now. Or is it okay during the day?

I was planning on using hardware cloth, although I would prefer something larger than the 1/4' size that will keep a raccoon paw out. I'm assuming that still would not prevent them from having to be locked in at night.

In terms of heat - they have excellent ventilation covered with hardware cloth at the cupola. I am confident it is not more than 70 degrees in there at night - I have one of those thermometers that reports temperature remotely.

Do I think a raccoon rattles the doors every night? YES. I know it does - I can see the footprints and sometimes see the door is moved slightly. It also walks on the roof of their house. And I can see footprints on the wall of the henhouse suggesting it is scrabbling against them. But it does the same thing outside the run I'm sure - including walking on the roof.
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It's your choice, of course. But chicken wire isn't going to keep that raccoon out of your run if it sees chicken dinner right there for the taking. Your chickens may be mad at being stuffed inside the coop at night, but they don't understand the risks.
Just be aware that 1" by 3" mesh is large enough for a raccoon to grab through and pull pieces of your birds out through the wire; this happens frequently. And an 8" wide skirt is probably not wide enough for much security against digging predators.
Thank you. No, I have the complete floor covered in buried wire - I was worried about skunks in particular.

I think one of the reasons that chickies are worried at night is that there are 1/2" round holes on the egg doors so you can open them. I think a raccoon has been sticking his foot through there and through the 1/2" hardware cloth mesh in the ventilation. Sticking his hand through the hold and yanking is how he opened the door the one time he got on. (Can't do that any more.) He can't reach the chickens where they sleep because the egg doors are on one side and the mesh is at the roofline, but I'm sure it scares them. They sleep on the opposite side near the floor.

I should put 1/4" hardware cloth in the ventilation, across the roofline and across the small holes in the egg doors. It's almost time to use the 'screen' doors (covered with 1/2 hardware cloth) and I should replace that with smaller mesh as well.

Again - is chicken wire enough for the day if they are in the henhouse at night?
I lock my chickens in their coops every night. The coops are elevated so there is no digging issue and the runs have 1/2" hardware cloth sides, corrugated roofing on the tops. The run tops and doors are secured with hooks that require squeezing to open or loops that screw shut. The Pop-doors are secured with dowels. I have lost only one chicken to an aerial predator. This year to get better air flow in the coops I drilled 1/4 inch holes in the walls (my coops are 1/4 plywood) on all sides. One has pegboard for the cleaning access door. I suspect I will be stapling plastic to the walls this winter to cut the wind. The coops are unheated and not insulated but our winters don't get really cold either.
If the coops smell like ammonia, the birds will avoid them, ammonia isn't good for them. I use shredded paper for litter, and let it get really deep until it gets stinky. I usually don't clean the coops out but every couple months, as long as the bedding doesn't get wet.
If you love your chickens, you will lock them in a predator proof coop at night with every door/window/access having a secure lock and every window covered in hardware cloth, NOT CHICKEN WIRE. Period!

There hasn't been a run built yet that can be as secure as a well built coop.

And btw, the definition of a secure lock is something that a 2 year old couldn't get open. Experiments have shown, if a 2 year old can open it, so can a coon.
We have been pretty lucky in regards to not having to deal with predators. We use gun locks to secure our animal enclosures and my chickens are currently in an enclosed dog pen secured by a gun lock while they wait for me to finish the coop. The gun locks are flexible, so I can put one around the bottom and top rim of the gate-like door to ensure an animal can't push a big enough gap to squeeze in through at those points and they lock with a key, so a coon can't get in without a lock-pick set. Our barn cats make pretty good guard cats and often run off critters like possums and coons, but I am worried about some of the hunting dogs we get back here.

We use 1/4" hardware cloth on our small animal enclosures. I won't use anything wider and poultry wire is entirely a waste of money. You might as well use nothing at all rather than poultry wire. Dogs, coons, possums, rats, etc. can all get through poultry wire with little effort.

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