freaking out in their new coop - advice please

Advertisement Purina Flock Layer


9 Years
May 16, 2010
south portland, maine
So this afternoon, we moved our 3 girls into the brand new bigger, better, beautiful coop. The people are very happy and excited. The chickens not so much. A few big changes and they are just freaking out.

1. Our old A-frame tractor style didn't have a roost - came with a shelf that they just hopped up about 12 inches to and slept on, so roosting on a sideways 2x4 is an adjustment.
2. The floor has linoleum, so even though we put down some shavings, they are sliding around.
3. Two of them are broody and they are very unhappy not to have their own nest boxes which were a large old dish pan and a cat box with shavings. The lovely new nest boxes are smaller and they are not interested in them at all. So clucking around complaining and being really pitiful.

So they are irritable, upset and pecking on each other. One of them saw me through the window when I went to check them just now, shrieked and flew across the coop (only 6 feet) to crash into a window. So. . . the big question is . . . tomorrow should we let them out to free range around, or just keep them in lock up in their new space for another day or two until them get more used to it?

I would leave them in there for a few days!! I've realized chickens don't like change!! That's for sure!!
Chickens certainly view things from a different perspective. Until they learn something is safe, they assume it's dangerous. It does keep them alive longer that way, but it's sometimes inconvenient in a domestic environment.

I would put down more shavings, then they should start to lock together a bit, so the chickens don't slide around. They always slide if the shavings are in too thin a layer. Not slipping around should make them feel more comfortable in the coop.

If you have room, I would give them their old nest boxes in the new coop for now. They already have a lot of new changes to deal with. You can take them back out later if you want to, after they've all calmed down.

When you're approaching the coop, just talk to them, so they know it's you out there. They're anxious and afraid right now. It's easy to mistake you for a predator, when they're on edge, watching for any sign of danger. I always talk to my parrot or my chickens before walking past a window or opening a door suddenly. Even though they're used to where they're living, they can still be startled, if they didn't hear me coming.

I would try to spend some time out there with them, talking to them and giving them treats in the coop. That should help reassure them that they're safe. Any knew structures they're unsure about, you can also run your hands over it and tap it with your fingernail, like you're checking it out. That should reassure them that it's safe, too. I'd touch the walls, the nest box and the roost. I teach my parrot about windows and mirrors by tapping on them. I also hold him up to the window and let him tap it with his beak. He's fully flighted and it keeps him from flying into them, once he knows what and where they are. I also teach him about new things by handling them, so he isn't afraid. I do the same thing for the chickens. They're really smart, if you try to teach them.

If doing some of these things calms the chickens down enough, I would keep them in the coop. If they are or begin to seriously peck each other, I would let them out, to prevent injury or death. That will probably mean luring them back to the new coop with treats or just carrying them back to the coop at roosting time, though. Only you can decide how bad the pecking is getting.

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