Getting Chickens to use coop/roosts and return to enclosure at night

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Buckeye Wrangler, Aug 1, 2011.

  1. Buckeye Wrangler

    Buckeye Wrangler New Egg

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    Jul 27, 2011
    We are new to chickens and our Buckeyes are now about 12 weeks old. We have been letting them range during the day and they were doing great at returning easily each night until we went on vacation. I had trained them with scratch and a "here chick, chick" call. We were gone for a week camping and left the chickens in with food and water in their spacious enclosure (designed with this in mind). Ever since we returned we have had difficulty getting the chickens to return to the enclosure. After searching posts I have tried keeping them in a few days at a time...no change. I tried retraining them but they seem to be uninterested in scratch. Apparently the great outdoors holds just as yummy stuff so I tried retraining them with meal worms which they seem to adore when in the enclosure but all will not return for them. Most of the time if we just let it get dark, we can find them all mounded up somewhere. We used to be able to just pick them up and carry them to the enclosure but now they are starting to scatter when we approach. Once everyone is in for the night, they do not use the coop(though they freely go in and out during the day). Again, they all mound up on the ground together, often near the door of the enclosure. I don't think I have ever seen them roosting either.

    We have 12 chickens, 7 cockerels and 5 pullets. Once 4-H fair is over next week, we will try to get down to one rooster. Most of the time about half will return to the enclosure with calling now but the rest are sometimes a chicken rodeo. Is the problem with the number of roosters? Once this is reduced, do you think the problem will resolve? My husband has commented that he thinks one of the roos guards the door. If the other roos are gone, will he start letting the other hens in or should this roo be one to go? Any comments on why they are not using the coop and don't seem interested in roosting?

    Thanks for the help!
     
  2. scratch'n'peck

    scratch'n'peck Overrun With Chickens

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    West Michigan
    My Coop
    Welcome to the forum. It is not all that unusual for younger chickens when they are introduced to the coop to take a while to figure out the roosts. I also remember our chickens needed some help getting the idea of going into the coop at night at first. At that point mine were not going out to free range so we didn't have to worry about chicken herding. Once they settled into their huddle in the run and it was pretty dark, I picked them up and put them into the coop. Sometimes I even placed them on the roosts. They did learn to use them on their own.

    Your situation does sound more frustrating than the typical chicken roundup. I can just imagine them scattering into the shadows and having to chase them! I don't really think it has to do with the number of cockerels. We had five of them and they eventually figured it out. I think you might need to put them on the roosts (or at least in the coop) once it is so dark they don't have much choice. Unfortunately with the heat in much of the country, the coop may not feel as comfortable as they would like, so make sure the ventilation is okay. If they refuse to use the roosts after repeated attempts, you may want to look at the roost design. A lot of people recommend 2x4s with rounded edges. I think which ever roo you end up keeping will let the hens in. Our roo who stays with the hens considers it his job to round up the girls at dusk. I think they will get the hang of roosting in the coop eventually.
     
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2011
  3. klmclain1

    klmclain1 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 14, 2011
    12 weeks is a FUNNY age! I remember trying to round mine up and get them in their coop. It was hilarious and always ended up taking two of us and a long board for corraling. As we'd get some in, others would escape. It was a riot! Then, at about 16 weeks, they got over their teenaged "years" and pretty much trained themselves! They're just confused right now. I've heard a small light in the coop can help them find their way home?? Might work to get them used to going in every night.
     
  4. hcppam

    hcppam Chillin' With My Peeps

    scratch'n'peck :

    Welcome to the forum. It is not all that unusual for younger chickens when they are introduced to the coop to take a while to figure out the roosts. I also remember our chickens needed some help getting the idea of going into the coop at night at first. At that point mine were not going out to free range so we didn't have to worry about chicken herding. Once they settled into their huddle in the run and it was pretty dark, I picked them up and put them into the coop. Sometimes I even placed them on the roosts. They did learn to use them on their own.

    Your situation does sound more frustrating than the typical chicken roundup. I can just imagine them scattering into the shadows and having to chase them! I don't really think it has to do with the number of cockerels. We had five of them and they eventually figured it out. I think you might need to put them on the roosts (or at least in the coop) once it is so dark they don't have much choice. Unfortunately with the heat in much of the country, the coop may not feel as comfortable as they would like, so make sure the ventilation is okay. If they refuse to use the roosts after repeated attempts, you may want to look at the roost design. A lot of people recommend 2x4s with rounded edges. I think which ever roo you end up keeping will let the hens in. Our roo who stays with the hens considers it his job to round up the girls at dusk. I think they will get the hang of roosting in the coop eventually.

    yes I had to round mine up and put them on the roost for a couple of weeks....now If I could ever get my ducks to put themselves to bed geeez.[​IMG]
    PS Hi, from big bear, you'll love all the info you get here! [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2011
  5. Buckeye Wrangler

    Buckeye Wrangler New Egg

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    Jul 27, 2011
    Thanks for the suggestions everyone! If I understand correctly, I should keep herding them into the enclosure but then should catch them up and put them in the coop? Will all the chasing in the enclosure make them less likely to return there at dawn? Any other food stuffs to try to encourage them in? Should I put treats in the Coop to help with that roundup? The chickens used to be very interested in us and would approach us when we arrived but seem much more independent now. I guess that is part of the problem but maybe they are just "growing up". Just like my human children...they listen less too as they get older![​IMG]
     
  6. scratch'n'peck

    scratch'n'peck Overrun With Chickens

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    West Michigan
    My Coop
    Yep they are getting more independent, but they still need you to put them to bed, the chickens that is.

    Chickens have such different tastes in treats. Mine will come to the run for watermelon and I reserve the unhealthy treat of bits of wheat bread for getting them into the run.

    I would actually let them fall asleep in the run, but then come back out when it is dark and put them in the coop. they don't struggle much or run away once it is dark. (I know it is a pain in the neck. I went out with one of those flash lights that you put on your head in the total dark and put mine in the coop one by one.) Hopefully once they wake up in the coop a few nights in a row they will get the right idea.
     
  7. Rachel'sFlock

    Rachel'sFlock Chillin' With My Peeps

    mine took a while to get the hang of going into the coop from the newly created run at twilight. The 8 "babies" would put themselves to bed, but the 6 biddies were more night-owlish. The girls had never been outside before and were almost a year old when they went out. The babies had also not been out, either, but they were still youngish, and timid enough to want some cover at dusk.
    We chased them with the board for a few weeks as well (and it was pretty hilarious, I'm not gonna lie [​IMG] ).
    Then, shortly after, they all went in on their own, and do every night now.
    Of course, if I decide I need to lock them in early, because I won't be home at twilight, it is a complete rodeo![​IMG]

    I asked this question once, and someone on here said "I have never met a chicken that didn't put itself to bed". I guess I kinda took it to heart, and stopped worrying about it so much. Now, I have also not met a chicken who doesn't put his or herself to bed...eventually...
     
  8. kmsr25

    kmsr25 New Egg

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    Aug 2, 2011
    try getting a couple suet feeders and a few cakes. hang them above the roost in the most accessible area. put in a light. put your favorite chicken on the roost directly and feed it some suet crumbs by hand to peak interest, and place it next to suet on roost. then "escort" your flock inside the coop. when they see the first one eating suet they will follow on to the roost.may take a day or two. but be sure to confine them inside for the first couple nights. this way they will feel safe and secure with the coop as their new home.

    mine are 12 weeks plus. 6 white rocks, 5 barred rocks, 1 black link. 9 hens, 3 roosters. the suet thing just came to me out of the blue as i pondered how to get my flock off the floor of the coop and roosters out of the nest boxes. tried it last night, had four takers on sleeping on the roost. tonighIveve got 12 up off the floor:D. but i cheated and blocked off the nest boxes with c-wire temporarily, till i know they will not sleep in them.
     
  9. Gullygarden

    Gullygarden Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Mine are about the same age. the only time they are really friendly is at dusk, just before bedtime. I feed them in the coop with a yogurt treat, and they all run in. as it got dark I would lean on the perch and they would all get on top of me -even crazy Luna who won't even eat out of my hand in the daytime. then I put them on the perch and quiet them with a gentle touch on their backs. They go to sleep quickly and stay. This took a week. Now they mostly perch themselves but if something confuses them I do the routine again - maybe once a week now.
     
  10. Vickir73

    Vickir73 Chickens Ate My Brain

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    Sep 9, 2010
    Leggett/Livingston
    Hi and welcome!!! A couple of my girls (that I've had a year and have been using the coop and roosts for about that long) go thru little phases where they don't wanna go in at night. I don't know if there is something that spooks them occasionally or they are just trying to be different. The others will all go in but there are 3 that like to perch on the outside of one of the windows. I wait until it's completely dark and then go pick them up one at a time and put them on the roosts inside. After 2 or 3 nights they stop. This seems to happen every couple of months. Crazy things. I kept my original flocked locked up in the coop for 6 weeks to train them to their new home. I've just posted today about new birds I've introduced. They have been locked up for 2 weeks in the new coop and I'm thinking about letting them out this weekend to see if they will return "home" in the evenings. I've never used treats or anything . . . of course, mine haven't figured out to scatter when they see me either [​IMG]
     

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