how to get hens to roost in new coop

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by ahoward, Oct 16, 2014.

  1. ahoward

    ahoward Out Of The Brooder

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    We converted a shed into our new chicken coop and moved our seven hens into it this afternoon. In their old coop, they had three thick dowels in a ladder style about 2, 3 and 4 feet high kiddie-corned in one of the coop's corners for roosting bars.

    In the new coop, my husband used three 2x4s that are about 6 feet long and screwed them to the studs of the shed. So they are about one or 1.5 feet apart going in a ladder style to the back of the shed. They are about 3, 4, and 5 feet high.

    Our nesting boxes (we have four) are about 18 inches off the floor, which has worked well for our hens.

    The problem is that the hens basically had no idea where to roost tonight. I went to check to make sure they weren't roosting in the nesting boxes, and sure enough they were. I shooed them out (I don't like the eggs getting dirty and having to clean the boxes all the time) and put some plywood over the boxes.

    I picked up one of the hens and put her on the lowest roosting bar. She squawked for a few seconds and jumped off. The others seemed to be huddling together under the nesting boxes in the darkest corner of the shed. This is where they still are tonight.

    So, my questions: Will they eventually find the roosting bars? Is the first one too high at 3 feet? Maybe they are too out in the open, and they would like them better in a corner?
     
  2. Blooie

    Blooie Team Spina Bifida Premium Member

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    Chickens are a lot like this old lady - not real big on change. I would suggest that you go out after dark and, with as little light and fuss as possible, put them on the roost one at a time. When you put one up there, stand there and pet her quietly for a few minutes until she settles down. Then repeat for the rest. Note : This is one of those rare times in life when a flashlight with drained batteries is your friend - it's dim but trying valiantly to put out a little light, and "a little light" is just about the right amount.

    That's the advice I was given. Let me tell you, with 22 chickens (most of which didn't like me much to start with) it turned into an episode of Keystone cops! They were all huddled in a corner in a big pile of feathers. I reached into that pile, not knowing which chicken or which end of said chicken I was grabbing. I put him or her on the roost, petted for a few minutes, then reached for the next one. I got a few up there. Um, for a few minutes. Then it became a game of "Hokey Pokey". You put the Wyandotte on, you put the Orpington next, you grab an Easter Egger and you put it with the rest. You do the Hokey Pokey and you keep on loading more - and that's when they all jump down." <sigh> Admit it, you sang it, didn't you?

    So, after a couple of nights out there with frostbitten fingers and much wiser chickens, I gave up. A wise friend said that they'd get up there on their own when they were good and ready. I liked that advice waaay better than the advice I'd been following, so that's what I did. I still did, however, go out and check them every night just to see if they'd actually figured it out.

    One night I went out there as usual and shined the dim flashlight on the roost. Nothing. But I got this creepy feeling that something was watching me. I caught just a hair of movement in one of the studs of the coop wall - a dark blob was up there watching me. As the kids say, OMG!! I hot-footed it out of that coop with my heart thudding and at that point realized I'd have no need to use a restroom for the next few hours. But then I kept thinking, "I've got rats in my coop! How am I gonna get those rats out of my coop?" So I ran into the house, grabbed a bright, BRIGHT flashlight, and I went back out there. I was so brave! I opened the door back up a crack, shined that light where I'd seen that movement and guess what I saw. Not rats, I saw chickens. Chickens roosting in every exposed stud frame in the entire building. Oh, yippee - they were roosting,finally. I got a couple of shaky, not very good photos of them up there and then I went back inside. The heck with it. They were now roosting on 2x4s and if those weren't the ones I'd carefully designed and put up for them then so be it. They'd figure it out when they got to big to fit up there. Me? Well, it took a few weeks for that creepy, something's-gonna-get-me feeling to leave when I'd go out there. But eventually they all started roosting in the right place and they figured it out without my help. Good thing, on accounta after that I'm DONE helping them learn to be chickens.

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  3. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    This is not only great advice, but a wonderful little story. I enjoyed it very much.

    I totally agree that chickens are perfect little fuddy-duddies when it comes to change. While they love variety, they hate change, if that makes any sense. You took away their familiar coop and plopped them into a totally new one. They are pretty much lost.

    Probably the best thing to do when you're moving them into a new coop is to enclose them inside for several days, thus shrinking their world to cope only with this space. Make sure they have all the food and water they need and then leave them to explore their new digs at their own pace. Try to understand that this is very stressful for them, and they may not feel like laying eggs until they get comfortable again.

    But they will adapt. No need to worry that they won't.
     
  4. Blooie

    Blooie Team Spina Bifida Premium Member

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    If I'm not mistaken, azygous, weren't you the one who so patiently tried to help me figure out how to get all 22 of those silly critters on the roost? I seem to remember you from that exchange of posts.....and you were so very kind, with a great sense of humor about it.
     
  5. woody1

    woody1 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    No, not too high at 3 feet. Not to worry, just keep 'em out of the nest boxes and they will find the roosts. I'd bet that within a few days they will be roosting on the highest perch they can get to in their coop. Just always keep the roosting space higher than the nest boxes and it'll be the odd chicken that tries to roost there. Occasionally the lowest in the pecking order may try to roost in a nest box to get away from the harassment if roosting space is limited.
     
  6. ahoward

    ahoward Out Of The Brooder

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    Aug 26, 2014
    Thanks, everyone! Great story, Blooie! I can imagine myself doing that...

    Yes, we are going to keep them in the coop for the next few days so they can get used to it. I will prevent them from roosting in the nesting boxes and hopefully they'll find a high place soon!
     
  7. ladyhawk124

    ladyhawk124 Out Of The Brooder

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    Jun 5, 2014
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    My 11 hens and 1 roo would huddle in the corner on the floor of the coop. They refused to use the roosts. Finally i did what was suggeste previously. Every night for 3 days after dark i went in coop picked up each chicken and placed on roosts. Day 4 they used the roosts themselves and have never slept on the floor again! Silly chickens just needed a little training!! Good luck with yours
     
  8. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    Blooie, I thought I remembered the chickens and the roosting inside the wall studs!

    Yes, they are "bird brains" for sure! Gotta love 'em don'tcha?
     
  9. Hbarth12

    Hbarth12 Out Of The Brooder

    I love those chickens :)
     

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