Hens don't want to sleep on the roost anymore -- what's up?

slg

In the Brooder
10 Years
Aug 15, 2009
17
0
32
SF Bay Area
Three days ago, our three hens decided that they wanted to sleep inside the nest box. We have a small coop based on the Garden Ark -- enclosed area is about 3 feet square; one roost bar (a 2 x 2) that goes diagonally across about a foot off the floor. Roost only has about 12 inches of head room so lowered it about 5 more inches yesterday thinking that they might want a bit more head room since I've seen them bump there heads jumping up to the bar.

First night didn't notice until morning poop clean up. Second night I checked on them and put them sleepy up on the roost. Last night didn't get out there but poops in the nest box and in two other places. Kinda looked like they didn't sleep together -- they usually do.

here's more info:
3 hens -- all about 6 months old; 1 RIR (Betty -- just started laying on valentine's day!) 1 Black Australorp (Harriet -- just started the squat-fluff thing so may be about to lay) and 1 New Hampshire Red (Chicken Noodle -- also just started the squat fluff so may be about to lay also).

Had a heavy rain storm the first night that they didn't sleep on the roost -- lots of ventilation in the coop with about 3 inches of space between the open top of the coop and the roof. Enclosed area totally dry. Coop and run very secure -- all open spots covered by hardware cloth.

So what the heck is going on? Freaked out by the rain (more coming today...) Thrown off by starting to lay? Any suggestions to get them back up where they belong? Block off the nest box at night? Put them up on the bar once they are sleeping?

Thanks!
 

scooter147

Songster
11 Years
Jul 30, 2008
2,042
77
221
Missouri
Are the nest boxes higher then the roosts? Chickens like to roost as high as they can get.
Blocking off the nest boxes will force the to roost on the bars.
 

Lesa

Songster
11 Years
May 28, 2008
839
6
139
Upstate NY
Sometimes a couple of my girls sleep in the nesting boxes. I don't sweat it. When I clean the coop in the am I just clean it out of the box...
 

HEChicken

Crowing
11 Years
Aug 12, 2009
7,552
209
356
BuCo, KS
My Coop
My Coop
My first thought was that you have a mite/lice type of problem. They might reside on the roost and the hens have started to associate roosting with itching.
 

slg

In the Brooder
10 Years
Aug 15, 2009
17
0
32
SF Bay Area
Quote:
I tried to get a good look at them this morning because Betty's comb was looking less red the last week -- I ended up giving her more protein the last few days and her comb seems to be perking back up. It wasn't looking terrible -- just a small change. I didn't see any lice or mites but maybe wasn't looking for the right thing (or in the right place!) Feathers all look nice, healthy and shiny. I didn't really look at their legs closely -- should I look closer to their skin? I'll look for links here with more instruction but if you have any hints/tips that's be great!

If it is mites, I really would like to try non-toxic methods first -- would a dusting of DE help? Regularly sprinkle on the shavings in the coop and in the nest boxes. Where does lice/mites come from? We are in an urban area. Squirrels do sometimes come in (not to the enclosed part) when the door is open to eat scratch if it is out -- and the neighbor cat (chickens chase him...) has been caught taking a snooze in the coop. Hens do free range in our back yard and hop the fence to see what's going on at the neighbors.

Thanks for your help!
 

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