Help! We are losing our flock...

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by ak2177, Jan 1, 2009.

  1. ak2177

    ak2177 New Egg

    Jan 1, 2009
    My husband and I started with a large flock of chickens a year ago but are now down to only 5. We built a great coop for them in one of our outbuildings and for 8 months or so they came in every day at dusk and we closed the door to keep predators out. We keep their food and water in the coop. Over the past five months the chickens started preferring to roost in our nearby horse barn and no longer return to the coop in the evening where we can keep them safe from predators. We want them to be free range chickens and not confined to a specific area during the day. Any suggestions how we can re-train them to come back to the coop at night?
  2. The Chicken Lady

    The Chicken Lady Moderator Staff Member

    Apr 21, 2008
    West Michigan
    What you need to do is catch them and then keep them in the coop, confined, for several days (don't let them out during the day). After a week, they'll be used to roosting in the coop.
  3. maymiegirl

    maymiegirl Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 27, 2008
    I call my chickens at feeding time and then I feed them a small amount in the evening at roosting time. Use the same method of calling them every time you feed and this will eventually excite them and they will flock into the coop to eat. Feed them INSIDE the run or inside the coop at dusk--not a lot but just enough to get them inside.

    Also be sure you have an effective rodent and small animal plan to deter any varmits. Strong PURE peppermint oil is great if rubbed around the outer part of the coop where rodents may try to enter. Even a chipmunk or mouse can upset chickens from entering a coop--Especially a CAT or RACCOON, which usually try to visit at night.
  4. ak2177

    ak2177 New Egg

    Jan 1, 2009
    Thanks for the advice. We will try that this week and report back on our success.
  5. tim_TX

    tim_TX Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 4, 2008
    Roost mites will also result in them looking for an alternative. Check a couple of hours after dark with a flashlight.

    You have to solve the coop avaoidance problem or "free range" becomes "free lunch". This is why some of us prefer "cage free" safe chickens with a big predator and wild bird proof environment to "free range". Limited range also allows you to implement biosecurity, which is impossible with free range. Just read the posts under disease and emergencies and you will see that free range has its drawbacks, as most non-sanitation related problems occur due to your birds coming in contact with others, either wild birds or those that you add to your flock.
  6. chickenannie

    chickenannie Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 19, 2007
    Chicken Lady is right -- try her method. Just remember that chickens are creatures of HABIT, and that will help you train them.
    What I heard is that if a hen roosts elsewhere for even one night, she'll keep roosting in the new spot. So i count my chickens at night, and if there is even one missing I go find her (usually in the barn) and put her back in the coop. It's a pain, but it keeps them in the coop. If this happens more than once in a while, I lock them all up together for several days in the coop. Works like a charm!

    Also check to make sure their coop is safe. I discovered once that a possum had been sneaking in at night before I shut the door, and that's why they didn't want to be in there. It had made a sneaky nest in the middle of some haybales.
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2009
  7. allisojo

    allisojo Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 16, 2008
    Nuevo Mexico
    Agreed. I just switched coops (hen houses actually) and kept the ladies locked up in their new digs for 48 hours. I let them out the morning of the third day, kept a light on inside their new house that night and they all went dutifully back in to their new digs even with their old digs a few yards away and available. Hopefully it'll work for you too.
  8. digitS'

    digitS' Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 12, 2007
    ID/WA border
    Sounds like you now have some very well-trained predators.

    Are you sure that they are only taking chickens at night?


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