Hens staying outside coop too late.

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by NHMike, Dec 29, 2013.

  1. NHMike

    NHMike New Egg

    I have a flock of eight hens, eight months old. All laying very nicely even during the cold winter months so I think that they're healthy and enjoying life. They have a very secure coop with an automatic door that closes at dusk and opens at dawn. When out of the coop they are in a secure, covered chicken yard. They have access to food and water both in the coop and in the yard. Until this past week, all of the chickens would be in the coop and roosting long before the door closed.

    In the past week, when temperatures have been in the single digits, I've found anywhere from two to six hens outside the coop at night. I did put a heat lamp out in the coop with the drop in temperature and think that this may have spooked them. I'd like to hear any opinions as to the need for a heat lamp in the coop and what else might be causing the hens to stay out in the cold.
  2. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Take the heat light out, they don't really need it and it IS spooking them.

    Put your location in your profile, will help with advice, I'm guessing New Hampshire.

    Do a search on cold temps, and you'll learn that most folks recommend AGAINST heating a coop....there are many cons to heating a coop, IMO the first being fire safety, the second being ventilation is much more important in regards to frostbite.

    advanced search>titles only>cold temps

    Good Luck and Welcome to BYC!
  3. Lady Badlands

    Lady Badlands Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 5, 2009
    I don't claim to be an expert, but I've had my chickens for over 5 years now in severe winter weather (SD). I have 4 heat lamps in the coop and two fan heaters blowing 24/7 during the single digit and below zero temps. My coop is old and there are always tiny leaks where frigid air gets in. So it's not airtight and I don't think I could ever get it airtight unless I insulated it and covered it in metal on the outside. When my hens want heat, they go under the infrared heat lamps. I check the coop 5-6 times per day because I have to pour water into their closed system chicken waterer.

    In this weather, if I were in your shoes, I would remove the food from the outdoors and only serve it indoors. That way they have no reason to stay outside late. I would have heat lamp(s) indoors, water and food indoors only. This has worked for my chickens and guineas to encourage them back into the coop from their outdoor aviary.

    On the past week, there've been some 50 degree days, where I let my birds out to free range. When I wanted them to go back into the coop sooner than they wanted, I put scratch out in their coop and they all came running back in.

    Just my experience. Hope this helps.
  4. If your coop is generally only ten or twenty degrees above the outdoor temperature (like ours is) the coop will drop below freezing from time to time. This means that the eggs and the water will freeze. So I would keep the heat lamp in, although the birds don't need it, it does make things simpler--you don't have to collect the eggs more than twice a day or so, and if you don't have a water heater, it will keep the water liquid.
    But it does sound like the heat lamp being on does effect your hens. So I would place a timed light in there if possible, turning on in the morning before the door opens and at night before the door closes. They will probably eventually get used to the heat lamp.
  5. NHMike

    NHMike New Egg

  6. NHMike

    NHMike New Egg

    Thanks for all the input. I took the advice of removing the heat lamp. All of the hens are again in the coop long before sunset when the door closes. They've tolerated a -15F night this week without problem. (I have Rhode Island and New Hampshire Reds; both cold tolerant) I did put a heated water font in the coop in addition to the heated water font in the yard so they don't have to leave the coop if they don't like the snow.

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