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Girls wont go in the coop

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by jlw1976, Jun 29, 2016.

  1. jlw1976

    jlw1976 New Egg

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    Mar 19, 2016
    South Dakota
    I have 5 Barred Rocks that are 15 weeks old. They have been in the coop for the past 3 months. The girls took to the coop very well for the first 2 months, but this past couple weeks they have been sleeping outside on a roost. We do not have a door on the coop entrance. It just leads out to a 12' x12' run that is 7 feet high. The coop itself is built inside a large shed that holds all the feed and supplies for the chickens and our other animals. The shed is well secured with a concrete foundation. The coop itself is 24 square feet.There is food, water, nesting boxes and roosts in the coop with proper ventilation and light. All five birds have now been roosting every night on a branch that runs the width of the coop (12 feet) and is about 5 feet off the ground. I have tried to physically put them in the coop and bribe them with food and/or treats, all with no luck. I have cleaned to coop out, inspected it for any possible unwanted guests only to find it all clear. So far I have been just letting them stay out at night, as the run is secured to prevent anything from getting in or out. (The run use to hold our hunting dog who was quickly renamed Houdini)
    Does anyone have any suggestions on why they would do this and if there is anything I need to do? Thanks!
     
  2. EggSighted4Life

    EggSighted4Life Overrun With Chickens

    Hi, welcome to BYC! [​IMG]

    That does sound odd, and a lot like something scared them out. If you want you could always go out after they have roosted for the night and transfer them inside. They would probably stay if it was dark as they can not see well. Do you actually light the coop at night?

    If the door is open to the run, they are just as secure out there as they are inside the coop. However if it bothers you, you can always add a door on the coop.

    Are your food, water, and nesting boxes taking up some of that 24 square feet of coop space?If not, that should technically be enough for them. How high is the roost inside the coop? Do they all appear to be pullets?

    Good luck!
     
  3. junebuggena

    junebuggena Chicken Obsessed

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    Apr 17, 2015
    Long Beach, WA
    Is the roost out in the run higher off the ground than the roost in the coop? They instinctually roost in the highest spot. Can you make a door to the coop so you can shut them in? The main issue with letting them roost out in the run, is that raccoons can reach in and pull birds apart if they can.
     
  4. EggSighted4Life

    EggSighted4Life Overrun With Chickens

    I agree. I actually make sure to put either quarter or half inch hardware cloth at the end of the roost where something might be able to grab them and along the base of the run. I also suspected roost height was my reason for asking.

    If you used to have a dog in the run that you named Houdini, have you fixed where he got out? Also, is your run covered to protect from rain?

    Edited for spelling.
     
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2016
  5. jlw1976

    jlw1976 New Egg

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    Mar 19, 2016
    South Dakota
    The coop itself is 8 feet long 4 feet wide and 4 feet high. The nesting boxes (3) are at the far end and are just 5 gallon buckets with half lids to keep straw in. While the food and water containers are at the opposite end.The roost in the coop is only a foot up off the floor of the coop. The access door to the coop and nesting boxes is secured with hinges and two slider locks. The vents are secured with hardware cloth. Then they have a small door to go directly out to the run.
    The run itself is originally chain link fence 12x12 dog kennel. Because the dog that was in there previously would dig out or jump/climb over the kennel it has now been secured be adding a concrete trench around the perimeter of the run, hardware cloth wrapped around the whole perimeter and top, followed by hog paneling. So essentially, 3 layers of fencing on all sides and top. Oh and along with a roof. The run itself might have a bit of over kill on protection level, I blame the dog.
    The run has multiple roosts ranging from 1 foot off ground to 5 feet. The inside edges of the run are lined with tree logs for perching and pecking. They have a dust bath box and plenty of foraging area. Food and water are also present in run.
    I am not particularly concerned about them sleeping outside at night. The most I have seen for predators in our neighborhood is the random dog or cat and unlimited supply of rabbits. My main worry is will they actually go lay eggs in their nesting boxes when that time comes? And when the South Dakota winters return will they be smart enough to know they need to go in where the heat is? (I am beginning to see where the expression "bird brain" came from)
     
  6. EggSighted4Life

    EggSighted4Life Overrun With Chickens

    Sounds like you have a lot of layers of protection. Also sounds like where they are roosting outside is higher than the indoor roost, unless I misunderstood your description.

    They will probably lay in the nests you made. I put a golf ball or something similar in to give them a clue where they should lay. Like many others, my hens often fought for the same lay box and others went completely unused. Unless they deem somewhere else in the run safer. Since mine were free range, they laid behind some bushes. Just lock them in where the lay box is until after they lay for a couple days & they usually get the hint. They will go back to the same place every time.

    My chickens do seem to know where their shelter is when they want to avoid the weather. So it may not be an issue once winter hits. So you actually provide heat? What is your usual low? And what is your source? Just curious. On the Ca coast, we rarely go below 39 or so.
     
  7. jlw1976

    jlw1976 New Egg

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    Mar 19, 2016
    South Dakota
    We first put the girls in the coop with a heat lamp this past April. Nights still got down into the low 20's at that time. For the month of April we left the lamp on 24/7 since we had late winter storms run through and it still averaged below freezing. The coop is inside of a shed so they dont have direct wind coming at them. In May we put the light on a timer so it was only on during the night when averages were still below 60. By end of May the heat was off and just a regular light bulb was put in to offer light for them. The light is on a timer and is only on from 8:30 pm to midnight.
    Winters her can get as low as -10 to -15. We have recently had an unusual heat wave run through were it was as high as 112 for a few days. Which is incredibly warm for a SD June. We usually don't get that kind of heat until August.

    After reading everyone's comments and a few other threads I did some quick consulting with the hub and we will be adding another 4 feet in height to the coop. This will actually allow me to "walk" into the coop area instead of crawl. We can just remove the top add some plywood and sheeting made for siding then add a one of the spare doors we found in the shed when we moved in. This will allow me to put a few more roosts in the coop at higher heights.
    Because I read a few threads about mites, and how the hens wont go in a coop due to mite infestations I am going to also add herbs to deter mites after I do another thorough cleaning. If all else fails, I putting a door on the coop/run entrance and will put them to bed until they have it figured out.

    Thanks for everyone's help! Appreciate it! [​IMG]
     
  8. junebuggena

    junebuggena Chicken Obsessed

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    Apr 17, 2015
    Long Beach, WA
    The light is on for too long. They don't need supplemental lighting in spring/summer. And they won't need supplemental heat at all. The roost needs to be higher inside. And you should probably lower the roost outside a bit, to make the inside roost more desireable.
     

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