Does it matter where they sleep?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by JenO, Aug 21, 2010.

  1. JenO

    JenO Out Of The Brooder

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    Apr 24, 2010
    Newberg, OR
    I have a kinda different set up. One wall of the run is formed by my shed, and the other by 6 foot chain link with privacy slats. I added lattice on the ends to box it in, with a door in one end so I can walk in and hang with the chickies. Half of it is covered by an existing tin roof that runs all the way from the shed to the fence, about 10 feet wide and prolly 12 foot long. (the uncovered area is prolly 10 by 15, fwiw) I am in town and we don't have any big predators around (altho I do have hardware cloth on the bottom 2 ft of lattice, and bird netting covering the exposed top of the run, soon to be replaced by chicken wire) so I think they are fairly well protected. (Oh, and there's compacted gravel around the base of the fence and lattice, so while a determined critter could conceivably dig thu, it would take a while and they'd be better off just eating the cat food off the porch 50 ft away.)

    I built them a hen house that's 4ft long by 3.5 feet deep by 3 feet tall. I just left the top flat since I don't have to worry about keeping rain or snow off. However, I didn't think about keeping chickens off! The girls (I've got 4, two black sex link and two "americauna" from the local feed store) prefer to sleep on top of the hen house, instead of inside it. One of my easter eggers (because I'm sure wilco doesn't sell real Americaunas) even laid her first egg in there yesterday. There is plenty of ventilation, a roost, and pine shaving bedding on the floor. It's elevated a few feet, and I worried maybe they can't fly up to the door, but I propped the side open (the whole side is hinged for cleaning) and even put their food in there, but they just visit and scratch around, and roost on the top at night.

    Does it matter? Should I try and get them to sleep in there, or just not worry about it and assume they'll head in there when it starts getting cold out? I'm not worried about predators so much as the elements when it starts to get colder, altho our weather is pretty mild relatively speaking. I could have saved a lot of time and effort just mounting a shelf in there instead of a nice house that sits empty...
     
  2. elmo

    elmo Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I really think you should be worried about predators. Raccoons (they're everywhere), possum, skunk, weasels, etc. love to grab roosting chickens for an easy meal. The way you describe your run, it isn't predator secure. Replacing the bird netting with chicken wire won't help very much since raccoons can easily tear through that.

    If your birds aren't locked inside a secure coop at night, you're playing Russian Roulette with their lives. You and they could be lucky, or you could be unlucky. If you haven't browsed the Predator and Pest thread in this forum, take a look through some of the posts.

    I wouldn't be worried about your chickens handling cold weather. As long as they have someplace dry and well ventilated to get out of the wind, chickens do fine even in very cold temperatures. They come with down coats, after all!
     
  3. SparksNV

    SparksNV Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jun 13, 2010
    Spanish Springs, NV
    I agree about the predators. I live in suburbia USA - neighborhood, tract homes, sidewalks, lawns, houses about 20 ft apart (our lot is big 1/3 acre - most are 1/4 - 1/3 acres). Our neighborhood was built 8-9 yrs ago & we have lived here since it was built. The other night driving home from soccer practice, I saw a huge raccoon coming out of the storm drain about a block and a half from my house. [​IMG] Apparently, according to my neighbor, this (or some other) raccoon(s) has been seen on several occasions - animal control will not do anything about it, says they live in the storm drains & there's too many of them. I now call the storm drains the "R" subway! I went out the next day to Dollar Tree and bought 4 key padlocks (one for each door) so the raccoons cannot get into the coop at night. I lock my chickens in the coop each and every night. This was the first time I had seen any and we have lived here 8 years. Just because you don't see them doesn't mean they aren't there. And now you have something to attract them. I have also see yotes, rarely but have seen them, running down a street in a close neighborhood. [​IMG]

    As far as roosting on top of your pen - best that I understand, chickens will find the highest place they can reach to roost - that way they feel safer - out of reach from predators. Chickens are easy pickings when they sleep therefore their defense is to get as high up as they can. But I am still very much a novice to chickens so I am sure others will have additional information for you.[​IMG]

    I am still waiting on that first egg....[​IMG]
     
  4. JenO

    JenO Out Of The Brooder

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    Apr 24, 2010
    Newberg, OR
    Ok, so what I'm understanding is I don't need to worry about them sleeping on the hen house (which IS totally predator safe if they would just go in there so I could close it up!) at all and instead focus on securing up the run, correct?

    So instead of chicken wire, could I use that 1"x2" wire fencing type stuff? (maybe it's called hardware cloth too, the stuff I used on the bottom of the run is much smaller) I went and looked at the bottom of the fence to determine how easy it would be to dig thru, and actually half of it is buried about a foot and a half down on the outside (neighbor's lot is slightly higher than mine) with railroad ties at the bottom, so that's pretty secure. The other half of the fence (and the lattice) goes right down and touches the gravel (which is about 6 inches deep and compact, I've had to dig thru with a shovel before and it was NOT fun!), do I need to do anything here? I have more gravel and it would be nice to get rid of the pile, can I just bury the bottom of the fence under a few more inches? I can't spend a fortune on this, esp since we have never seen any predators (seriously, the cat food bag sits OPEN on the front porch, the only critter than gets into it is a Jay) and my hubby won't be very sympathetic to me spending more money. He didn't think we needed to cover the open side at all until one of the girls flew up onto the shed roof one day while we were letting them free range, he's thinking that it's to keep the birds in rather than predators out. That's why we started with bird netting, but that stuff is so weak the wind has torn it off twice.
     
  5. teach1rusl

    teach1rusl Love My Chickens

    Oh yes, I would still make sure they were closed in at night, especially since you only have four, and will most likely become pretty attached to them. I wasn't clear on whether your lattice has wire too (not just the bottom 24 inches of HW cloth) or not, but I know a chicken wire roof will NOT deter a raccoon. And pretty much every place has raccoons, whether you've seen them or not.
    Earlier this spring I noticed the lady down the road had her chicken coop supplies offered for free. I'd always admired her pretty birds when I was driving by (could see them in their coop run, and sometimes out free ranging in her yard). So I stopped to ask if she'd gotten a new coop or had given away her birds. She told me that a raccoon had torn through the wire (chicken wire) and killed every bird in there, including her gorgeous rooster. It was at night, and sadly, she could hear it happening, but was an older lady who lived alone, and she couldn't do anything. She wasn't in the habit of closing her birds in at night. She'd had them for about a year; it took that long for "fate" to happen. [​IMG]
     
  6. elmo

    elmo Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:You have three options: lock them in the coop at night (and make sure it is secure), upgrade the security of your run, or continue what you're doing and cross your fingers. The cheapest and safest option is just to lock the chickens in the coop at night.

    To make the run secure, you'd need to roof it with something predator proof. I'm not too confident from the way you describe the lattice part of the run that it is secure. Be aware than wire with openings larger than 1/2" by 1/2" allows a predator with a paw like a raccoon to reach in, grab a bird, and pull pieces of it out through the opening. Ghastly. Some people who use wire with larger openings wrap the bottom two or three feet of their run with something solid or with smaller openings to stop this kind of reach through predation (also do this anywhere a roost is attached to the side of the wire).
     
  7. raro

    raro Out Of The Brooder

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    Aug 9, 2010
    I go out at night and morning to guide the chickens into and out of the coop. At first it was pretty crazy, trying to round them up and shoo them into the coop. And several times they would wander off and have to be guided in the right direction. But it only took a few days, and now they are trained to know when to go where. I'd go for locking them up at night.
     
  8. JenO

    JenO Out Of The Brooder

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    Apr 24, 2010
    Newberg, OR
    Quote:You have three options: lock them in the coop at night (and make sure it is secure), upgrade the security of your run, or continue what you're doing and cross your fingers. The cheapest and safest option is just to lock the chickens in the coop at night.

    To make the run secure, you'd need to roof it with something predator proof. I'm not too confident from the way you describe the lattice part of the run that it is secure. Be aware than wire with openings larger than 1/2" by 1/2" allows a predator with a paw like a raccoon to reach in, grab a bird, and pull pieces of it out through the opening. Ghastly. Some people who use wire with larger openings wrap the bottom two or three feet of their run with something solid or with smaller openings to stop this kind of reach through predation (also do this anywhere a roost is attached to the side of the wire).

    The lattice part has 1/2" hardware cloth two feet up. I was actually thinking of the neighborhood cats when I did that. The chain link has the security slats and they are in there good, so that would keep a raccoon paw out. So I guess it's just the roof I need to worry about.

    I would love to lock them in the coop at night, but that comes back to my original problem of them choosing to sleep on top of it instead of inside it...
     
  9. SparksNV

    SparksNV Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jun 13, 2010
    Spanish Springs, NV
    My chickens all go to bed just as it is getting dusk. When I first got my chickens, at dusk on the first night I placed each chicken in the coop and locked it up. The second night, they marched themselves in & we locked up the coop. Perhaps each evening before they settle down on top of the coop, catch each one and put them in the coop and lock it up. Try to do this several nights in a row and perhaps they will understand they need to go into the coop at night. Then, at sunrise, open the coop & they will come marching out!

    Do they have roosting poles in the coop so that they have somewhere to settle/sleep on? You should have 1 linear foot per bird at minimum. Our poles are 2x4 lying sideways so they roost on the 4 inch side. I have 6 birds - 2 poles each 4 ft long but they will roost 4 birds on one and 2 on the other. The poles are parallel to each other at the same height.

    Carol
     
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2010
  10. JenO

    JenO Out Of The Brooder

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    Apr 24, 2010
    Newberg, OR
    Quote:I do have a roosting pole for them, it runs the length of the coop so it's four feet long, also set so they would sit on the 4 inch side. When I first moved them out of the house I had the coop on it's side (so the top opened so I could hang a heat lamp) and they slept on the roost then. Crazy birds. Anyway, can I move them after they go to sleep? Since they are right there on top I can reach them easily and put them in and shut it up. (I have the entire side propped open right now, so I could hopefully settle them onto the roost easily)

    Thx for all your help, you guys rock!
     

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