How do I make my chickens roost where I want them to?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by LegoVasavouchi, Nov 2, 2012.

  1. LegoVasavouchi

    LegoVasavouchi Chirping

    Oct 13, 2012
    Hey all! New here on BYC, though I've lurked for some time, and been a chicken owner & lover for more than a year now. So here's my deal (I'll try not to be too long-winded about it!). Right now we have 4 adult chickens. The first two, when we got them, didn't have a coop right away because it was summer and they found a nice spot in the garden to lay their eggs. At night, they perched on the fence outside our back door. Before it got too cold, and for fear of predators, we made them a coop after a while, but they still wanted to perch on the fence, so every night I'd go out before bed and put them in the coop and close it up. When we got two new chickens, they first followed their elders lead and perched, but since they were bullied a bit, they found a higher spot, up in our grapevines, and now I have to unceremoniously extract THEM every night as well, putting all four chickens in their coop manually EVERY night. Is there a way to change their night time roosting habits? It's driving me crazy, they know where I want them to sleep!

    In addition, we have 6 new babies that will be added to the flock once they're old enough. How do I keep them for copying the big chickens? I figure it may be easier with them, establish a new habit instead of changing a year-old one. Any help would be greatly appreciated, these chickens are stubborn!
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    :frow Welcome to the forum! :frow Glad you joined us! :frow

    How big is your coop? How much roost space do they have?

    I go through this a few times each year, training chickens to move from a grow-out coop to the main coop. The only way I've found is to do what you are doing, physically put them in there until they catch on. Sometimes I only have to do it once. Sometimes it takes weeks.

    I also have broodies that raise chicks with the flocks. These chicks are used to roosting with the adults as long as the broody is there to protect them. Once she weans them and they are on their own, it is fairly normal for one or two of the hens to pick on them as they are settling down to sleep. It does not happen each and every time but it's not that unusual for the chicks to quit roosting on the main roosts and find a safer place to sleep. I had one group leave the coop entirely and start to roost on shelves outside in a shed.

    Sometimes they would move to the top of the nest boxes. I finally put a separate roost over the nest boxes, high enough so they prefer to sleep there instead of in the nest boxes but lower than the main roosts and separated a bit horizontally so the hens don't go over there to bully the chicks on the roost.

    A lot of times when I move the chicks from the grow-out coop to the main coop (usually around 12 weeks old) they go from roosting in the grow-out coop to roosting on that separate roost instead of immediately joining the adults on the main roosts. Broodies often use that lower separate roost to transition from keeping her chicks on the floor of the coop to moving to the main roost.

    These things don't happen each and every time with each and every chicken, but it is a fairly common pattern.
  3. 1muttsfan

    1muttsfan Free Ranging

    Mar 26, 2011
    Upper Peninsula Michigan
    Hi and welcome to BYC from northern Michigan [​IMG]

    Keep them closed inside the coop for several days to a week so that they learn how to roost and sleep there. When you do first start letting them out, call them into the coop with treats before it starts to get dark, then close them in.
  4. WalkingOnSunshine

    WalkingOnSunshine Crowing

    Apr 8, 2008

    You might have to keep them locked up for more than a week; let them out after a week or so, and see if they go to roost at night. If not, put them in for a day or two. IF they still don't get it, lock them in longer next time. They will eventually start to go to bed on the coop on their own.
  5. LegoVasavouchi

    LegoVasavouchi Chirping

    Oct 13, 2012
    Thank you all so much for your input, and they warm reception! :}
    Well right now we have a bit of an odd setup; a coop within a coop. The smaller coop is about 3 ft by 4 ft, about 4 ft high. I realize that's a bit small, which is why we're building a bigger coop, that's about 8 ft by 10 ft, and 7 ft high. But the bigger coop doesn't have doors yet, so they still have to be shut in the smaller one for now. Skunks are my main worry. Is the small coop too uncomfortable, and that's why they refuse to get in by themselves, even after an entire year (for the two older hens)? Because I'm pretty sure they know what I want of them, but they don't like it. Is it likely that when the bigger coop if finished (at which point the smaller one will be just for egg laying, along with all the other egg boxes we've put in), if they like the size and comfort of it they will start going in on their own? Or am I stuck with manual chicken placement with these four forever, and just need to focus on teaching the newbies where to roost when they come out to join the others?
    Yeah, I suspected shutting them in may be the course of action - but that's just for the babies, right? Once I move them out there, I figured they'd be, er, cooped up for a while until they got used to their new base of operations. I like the idea of treats too, so they don't hate going into the coop, but look forward to it instead.

    But are these options good for my older chickens too? Because I can tell you, they would cluck themselves hoarse the first few hours; when they aren't let out early enough to suit them in the mornings, they have a cacophony of complaints to share until they are released! I can't imagine how they'd handle being stuck in their coop for several days.

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