How do you remind your chickens to go in the coop at night?

Mountain_artist

Chirping
Apr 6, 2018
51
60
96
Western North Carolina
Hi,
I have 4 barred rock hens that we got last March, who have been independently going in their coop at night all summer. We free range them when we're home and the weather is good, but about 1/3 of the time they are locked in their run at bedtime. Like clockwork, they used to all head towards the run at dusk and then put themselves to bed in the coop before dark, but that was when it was light until after 9 p.m. They did this for 5 months, and now they've stopped. We have a door to the coop on a solar timer, so it was really convenient to know that the door would close them up safely at night, and they'd already be in there roosting.

Now that the days are getting shorter, they will make it back to the run by dark, but they can't get their butts into the coop! Today it rained hard all day so we didn't let them free range, and still, they didn't go into the coop at dark. Every night, we have to go out and take them from the roost in the run and put them in the coop, then manually shut the pop door. It's getting cold at night now and I can't imagine why they won't go in! I thought that maybe they were just running out of time due to the days getting shorter, and they just couldn't find their way in time, so we put a light in there for them and also lit up the ramp going in, but still no luck. Sometimes 1 or 2 make it in but mostly all 4 of them just roost outside. They don't mind when we force them into the coop, and they go in and out without trouble to lay their eggs in the mornings.

The problem is that their coop is like Fort Knox and is really the safest place for them at night. We live in a national forest and there is every kind of predator--otherwise I might be more inclined to just let them roost outside and figure it out, but it's not as safe. The run is well-protected too, but not as safe as the coop. My neighbor just had a bear on his porch. I feel like we can't go out of town overnight anymore because of this!
 

ChickNanny13

Crossing the Road
8 Years
Jun 23, 2013
9,202
13,045
977
The Big Island/Hawaii
Toss some mealworms into the coop .... I put some freeze dried mealworms into a margarine sized plastic container, shake & toss on the ground or hold out in my hand. I start teaching this from day when they're chicks. Now the slightest noise or sight of the container they come running, toss some in their coop & done.
 

RWise

Songster
7 Years
Dec 25, 2012
1,270
1,011
216
Oakhurst Oklahoma
Is there enuf light inside the coop for them to see when they are ready to go in?

I locked one out a few nights ago, I thought it was dark enuf they would all be inside, she fooled me, and spent the night on her (hidden) nest. (I can see in it from my window)
 

aart

Chicken Juggler!
Premium Feather Member
8 Years
Nov 27, 2012
99,769
140,621
1,807
SW Michigan
My Coop
My Coop
so we put a light in there for them and also lit up the ramp going in, but still no luck.
Maybe try just the light in the coop and not on the ramp.

How big is your coop, in feet by feet?
Good pics always help.
How long is the roost in feet?
What kind of ventilation?
Windows for light?

5 months huh?
Maybe they are getting close to point of lay and the pecking order is changing.

Just some thoughts.
 

Mountain_artist

Chirping
Apr 6, 2018
51
60
96
Western North Carolina
Thanks for the replies! Removing the roost in the run seems like a popular suggestion, and it makes sense!

They just started doing this recently, as the days have gotten shorter. They *always* went into their coop at night, all summer long.

We *think* there should be enough light in there, there is a big window, and my husband put in a bright light that goes on at dusk and off around 9 to help encourage them to go in, but still no luck.

aart, I will try to post some pics that I have on hand from this summer. The coop and run are big for 4 hens. I forget the exact measurements, but I believe the coop is 4'x6', the run is 6'x12'. They get out to free range almost every day, with their canine guardian Finnegan, who has shocked us all by becoming a great chicken watcher! There are 2 roosts in the run, both go diagonally across the run at different angles, so I think they're 6' long each? One is about a foot off the ground and the other is 3-4' high. We *think* we have great ventilation, (but we're new to this so we could be wrong--open to suggestions for sure!) We have 2 big vents on the right side, and the window has a solar fan in it and has been open all day, and now we close it to a 1" opening at night since its getting colder (40's at night.) The roof also has vents--the walls don't attach 100% to the corrugated metal roof, but there is hardware cloth keeping creatures out. 37661455_10160618606420156_5890127697446699008_o.jpg My husband has a background in building, and I know he poured over this site and the coop plans as he was designing/building it. The coop is loosely based off the Wichita coop, I think.
 

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