How long do new chickens have to be locked in coop?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by armedtodream, Feb 14, 2011.

  1. armedtodream

    armedtodream Out Of The Brooder

    Feb 14, 2011
    N. Idaho
    Hi, I was just given 5 chickens yesterday, 4 hens & 1 rooster & I have heard you must keep them locked in the coop for a couple of days before this is imprinted on them as their new home. Is this true? If so, how many days? They would be let out into a large fenced yard (fence is only 5 foot, is that high enough to keep them in?) during the days & in the afternoons when my son & I are out in the yard we'd let the chickens out to free range an hour or so while we are out with the goats. I hate the idea of having them locked up but also want to do the right thing since this is our first experience with chickens :). Thanks in advance for any info because it wasn't coming up in any searches :)
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    [​IMG] Welcome to the forum! [​IMG] Glad you are here! [​IMG]

    That's a bit of a hard one. Some imprint pretty fast and some take longer. I'd recommend a week to be safer. That may be overkill and maybe it is still not enough.

    The five foot fence will not keep them in if they are motivated to leave. Any breed can clear a five foot fence if they are properly motivated. What motivates them is another question. If they come out too soon, they may leave to try to find home. Some may have a wanderlust and just like to roam. Sometimes a hen will scale a fence trying to get away from an amorous rooster. They can get real motivated if a predator (real or perceived) is around. If they see me with a feed bucket in my hand, I am their best buddy. If I carry a rake or even a camera, I am dangerous and must be avoided.

    Part of it depends on the type of fence. If you have a solid top where they can perch, they will sometimes fly up there to perch and who knows which side they decide to hop down on. And once they do that and get out, they absolutely forget how to get back.

    In spite of everything I've said, some people keep them in their back yard with a five foot fence with a solid top railing. They are lovable birdbrains.

    When you let them out, they probably (possibly) will not go back into the coop until it gets real close to dark and bedtime. Then, if they consider the coop their home, they will go back inside to sleep. Don't expect to be able to get them back inside when you want them to go without a bit of trouble.

    A couple of things I'd recommend. They are flock animals. I assume your coop is solid walls, not wire. The first time or two you let them out, consider putting one or two in a crate outsidse where they can see them. They will often hang around their buddies instead of leaving. It does not always work that way, but sometimes it does help. I think this is a common way for turkey owners to teach turkeys to hang around.

    Another thing. Be consistent with this. Whenever you feed them, shake the bucket or make a specific sound that they associate with feeding. This way, you can teach them to come to you and maybe even go in the coop for food when you want them to.

    It's hard to state anything for certain because they are all different. Good luck!
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2011
  3. domino7

    domino7 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 4, 2009
    N.E. Ohio
    I would think 3 or 4 days would be enough for them to know where their new home is. I have some chickens who could easily fly over a 5' fence, while others can't. It depends on what kind of chickens they are. Smaller chickens seem to be able to fly better than heavier breeds.
  4. OkChickens

    OkChickens Orpingtons Are Us

    Dec 1, 2010
    Owasso, Oklahoma
    I would keep them in a coop with a run for about 2-3 weeks to let them know that there will always be food and water there. After 2-3 weeks I would let them out about an hour before dark for a couple of days to get them in the rhythm of things.

  5. dsqard

    dsqard Crazy "L" Farms

    Jun 11, 2010
    York PA
    I agree with OkChickens here. A week just might not be long enough. I waited a month (more for quarrantine purposes than making sure they knew where home was) before letting my second group of chickens free range. By that time they knew where they lived and I didn't have a problem with them running away.
  6. sadies0111

    sadies0111 Out Of The Brooder

    Nov 18, 2010
    I let mine out after a week and a half, and I spent another 2 weeks chasing them back in, until after they learned to go in on their own. I'd suggest at least 3-4 weeks locked in.
  7. armedtodream

    armedtodream Out Of The Brooder

    Feb 14, 2011
    N. Idaho
    Thanks so much for the quick replies, very helpful:D Congrats Okchickens [​IMG]!
  8. wademach1977

    wademach1977 Out Of The Brooder

    Feb 2, 2011
    I usually keep my noob chickens up for at least a week or so. It seems to have worked well for me.
  9. gymbeau

    gymbeau Out Of The Brooder

    Sep 16, 2009
    West Alabama
    I kept mine 'cooped' for a week. The first day I let them out of the run an hour of so before
    sunset. Then a few hours earlier, by the weekend they were out most of the day.

    I did notice that if one got too far from the run and coop the rooster would call and all would
    come running.

    Good Luck and have fun!
  10. rancher hicks

    rancher hicks Chicken Obsessed

    Feb 28, 2009
    Syracuse, NY
    I would keep them in a 2-3 days and then make sure you herd them into the coop at dusk for a week. They'll get the hang of it. Count heads always if there is a run. I just put two new roosters in the rooster coop and found one tucked in near the door hiding. Of course he is young but fortunately they are in a run.

    Wish you the best


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