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How important is it to get my chicks to use their coop?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by greenpixies, Aug 25, 2011.

  1. greenpixies

    greenpixies Out Of The Brooder

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    Mar 17, 2011
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    Hi, new to all this, but loving every minute!

    So here is my situation:

    I have a mixed flock of Silkies, Standard Brahmas and EE's. They are all 11 weeks old. Obviously nothing laying yet. FOR NOW, and at least the next couple of months they are living in a 10x10 outdoor chainlink dog kennel enclosure. We purchased a coop on line that I now realize I want to sell as soon as I can build a 'real' and big coop. When I finally got the chicks outdoors they were very happy to get out of the brooder, but they were of course nervous. I wanted to give them a few days to calm down before I pressured them about going in to the coop.

    I noticed that every night they huddled in to one big adorable sleeping mass in the front corner of the pen where the gate is. It's been so hot here that I added a box fan at one end of the coop to make it more inviting. I notice when I'm hanging out with the chicks that some will occasionally go in for a few minutes and sit by the door. I always meant to start putting them in at night but never did.

    My intention is to try to get my new coop built before or around the same time that they start laying so that there will be nice nesting boxes, etc. I'm in LA, it will not get cold for some months and it will be gradual when it does. I can't afford to start the big coop yet, but should be able to in a few weeks.

    Could you experienced folk weigh in on whether I should be trying to put them in their current little coop at night? I believe that it's really too small for them (7 bamtams, 7 standards all at 11 weeks old). They seem to be happy enough huddling together, and my pen is COMPLETELY preditor proof (I am quite proud of the amount of work I put in to it!)

    I mean, other than their having access to the laying boxes when they are ready, and keeping safe and warm, is there any other reason they need a coop anyway? My chicks use it as their shelter from the heat by hiding under it during the hottest period of the day, but don't go inside much. But if you think waiting will cause negative behavioral consequences, I'd like to hear what y'all have to say.

    Thanks for any help!
     
  2. dainerra

    dainerra Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Are the sides of the run just the chainlink fence? If so, you're not even close to predator-proof. Raccoons have tikny tiny h ands and will pulls birds through th e fence piece by piece.
     
  3. tarragon

    tarragon Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:Also, if it's just regular chain link, rats can get in and out and I've heard that they do terrible things to chickens. Not to mention eating all the food.
    If it were me, I would put them in the coop each night until they do it on their own.
     
  4. Kavellion

    Kavellion Chillin' With My Peeps

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    i went a year. then lost my entire flock of bcm's to a coyote. i now take security very seriously.
     
  5. ECBW

    ECBW Chillin' With My Peeps

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    It is not absolutely necessary to have them in the coop. The coop is to provide protection from predators as well as bad weather. If the run is predator proof and the weather is nice...
     
  6. Enchanted Sunrise Farms

    Enchanted Sunrise Farms Overrun With Chickens

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    If they are in a 10x10 outdoor chainlink dog kennel enclosure and you notice that each night they huddled in to one big adorable sleeping mass in the front corner of the pen where the gate is - that is definitely not safe. A raccoon (or raccoon family) can just reach right in and start pulling body parts through the chain link. i would hate for you to come out one morning and find that kind of carnage. i'm not sure what other types of predators you have in your area, but there might be many that can easily get through the large openings in a chain link fence.

    You really do need to lock them inside a safe and secure coop at night, every night. If they have secure ventilation, like 1/2" hardware cloth over the windows, they should be okay.
     
  7. greenpixies

    greenpixies Out Of The Brooder

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    Mar 17, 2011
    Natchitoches, LA
    [​IMG]
    O.K. Everyone, hold on.....!

    I see that no one took my word about our pen being predator proof. I should have explained the how and why, instead of just stating how proud of myself I was. All y'all know is that I am a newbie, so I understand all the concern about whether it really is predator proof or not. So let me explain:

    We have many predators in these parts so I was not going to put our birds outside until I had the Alcatraz of chicken pens prepared. The pen has the following precautionary features:

    1. An added A-frame roof that is bolted to the main framework of the chainlink rods. A combination of: chicken wire, hardware cloth and true wire securely covers the roof and all gaps between the framing metal. There's tons of extra wire worked in to tie everything tightly together and to thart any flying or climbing predators.

    2. The inside of the pen has the smallest grid size of metal hardware cloth running from the ground up 24" tall along the entire perimeter to keep chick parts inside and predator parts outside. This is securely wired all over so it will not slip or shift in any way and can not be easily moved.

    3. The outside of the pen has a chicken wire 'apron' that starts about 3 feet up from the ground and runs down diagonally forward, hitting the ground about 1 foot or more out from the bottom of the pen and then running along the ground another 1-2 feet more. This is to thwart both predators that might try to dig under and those that would try to reach inside the pen. The apron bottom is secured by a combination of pins and giant concrete pavers that aren't going anywhere. There is no way for an animal reaching inside the pen to actually reach a chicken, even if it had crazy long arms. I also check the pen regularly to make sure there have not been any security 'breaches'. So far I have never found any.

    4. I also have several wired sections and panels to make the gate area extra secure. These extra peices make it more difficult for people to enter, but ultimately the chicks are VERY secure.

    I took a ton of advice from wonderful folks like you on BYC forums to help me decide how to make my pen safe for the chicks. The predators that we are most concerned about where we live are hawks and ferral cats, there are lots of both. We also have the occasional stray dogs visiting our yard. We know that there are also rats, opossoms, and potentially coons and coyotes. I am confident that none of these critters will get my chicks any time soon. I am aware that snakes could get in to the pen if they wanted to, but we rarely have any big snakes around here.

    O.K., so all this is to say that, again, I don't feel that chick-security is an issue here. Could you go back and read my original question and speak to that? Thank you all so much, and I do appreciate that you've voiced your concerns about the safety of our chicks. I would probably have responded the same way. :)
     
  8. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Chicken Obsessed

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    Well, now that we've got run security established, let's move on! [​IMG] (BTW, sounds like you've done alot of hard work on your coop and run!) If your coop is too small for them anyway, I wouldn't encourage putting them in it at night. Especially in a hot climate like yours. You could get by with a 3-sided coop down there, I think, with tarp on the front during the winter months when it's cooler. (Sorry - I'm from MN and just can't bring myself to call LA winters "cold" [​IMG]) If you get your big coop built, the way to get them to go in at night is to put them in and leave them there for a few days to a week. They'll figure out that that's where "home" is and put themselves to bed at night.
     
  9. greenpixies

    greenpixies Out Of The Brooder

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    Mar 17, 2011
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    So, bobbi-j,

    you don't think it will cause a behavioral problem even though they have never slept in a coop at night?
     
  10. rancher hicks

    rancher hicks Chicken Obsessed

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    Pics would help but I say hey leave em like they are. If it's not pred proof you'll find out soon enough. As for roosting they'll learn sooner or later. All it takes is one to start and then they all follow suit. I've got some BR's in a new hoop coop and they huddle in the corner and I'm not worried. They have a nice roost too.

    I wish you the best,

    Rancher
     

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