How To Teach Chickens To Use A Ramp?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Whitewater, Jun 18, 2010.

  1. Whitewater

    Whitewater Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jan 18, 2010
    Greetings, all!

    Just a quick question for everybody, I hope you can give me some advice or techniques to help me solve a problem that's come up with my 3 new pullets.

    In brief, they don't use the ramp down or up from their hen house to the run. They have been with us for 4 days now and they were hatched on a hobby farm where they didn't have ramps at all -- they lived in a ground level shed with an open door through which they free ranged during the day and came home at night. So they're used to walking around on flat surfaces. Ramps are a totally unknown concept.

    At the moment I am having to catch each bird separately and put them down into their run, which is stressful on everybody. And then, I have to catch them in their run and put them back in their henhouse, which is also really stressful, and not what I want to do every day for the next few years. The whole point of having an integrated coop/run was so that they can go in and out whenever they want to. But that's not happening. Is it just the fact that they're still very new? Will they eventually figure it out on their own? What do I do in this situation?

    There has to be a better way! Unfortunately I don't know what that way is -- hoping somebody out there might be willing to give me a pointer or two.

    Their run is cooler, bigger, and they relax more when they are in it (based on their behavior yesterday), not to mention the fact that their food and water is also down there (at least, until I can buy smaller feeders to go in the hen house). I have been scattering handfuls of their flock raiser in the henhouse for them, and bringing them water, but again, this really isn't optimal -- very soon I won't be able to be with them all day every day like I am right now, to hand feed them, and I really don't want them to see me as That Big Chicken Grabbing Predator (which is kind of where they're at right now, because I have to catch them, and it freaks them out).

    What are some techniques I can use to get them used to using their ramp, hopefully within the next week? Would putting treats like cracked corn or sunflower seeds on the rungs help? It's all I can think of for right now.

    Your advice would be appreciated. TIA!


    Whitewater
     
  2. Renee'

    Renee' Chillin' With My Peeps

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    When you catch them, rather than setting them down at their final destination, set them in the middle of the ramp so they are forced to either walk up or down the ramp, their choice. Do you have other chickens that can set an example?
     
  3. Oven Ready

    Oven Ready Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Where is their food? If it's in the coop then there's not a lot of reason for them to come out.

    Move their food to the run, leave water in both places and stay well away from them so they're not scared that a big monster is going to grab them AGAIN !!!

    If they don't go back in on their own, let them settle in the run and then pick them up in the dark - they won't mind getting picked up in the dark - not the best survival technique but hey !

    Ours never use ramps, they fly up and down wherever they want to go.
     
  4. Whitewater

    Whitewater Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jan 18, 2010
    -- Nope, I don't have any other chickens. They are new to being urban chickens, and I am new to chicken-keeping totally [​IMG]

    -- Their food and water was in the run until, about 3 hours after Hubby and I brought them home, I got worried that they'd starve to death because they couldn't figure out how to get into the run to get to their food/water. So I have been scattering handfuls of feed and bringing their waterer up to them. Tonight I am going to go to somewhere and get one of those small quart waterers to put in their hen house, and leave the big gallon waterer in the run. I am also going to leave their feed in the run . . . and put cracked corn down as well as some sunflower seeds.

    Hopefully they'll get the idea that way.

    We're making progress, I guess, today -- after I wrote the original post I went out to get the pullets and caught Antigone the Bold and put her in the run. The second I cleared the door and put their water back outside, I heard a great rush of wings and the other two sort of paraglided out of the hen house access door and down to the run!! They didn't seem to take any harm. Wonder if they'll be able to get back that way! The hen house is 3' up from the ground, btw.

    So obviously they have figured out that their run is a good place to be . . . now if I could just get it through their bird brains that the ramp is the better option, we're all good. Though I am glad 2/3 took the big leap (literally!) all by themselves.


    Whitewater
     
  5. Whitewater

    Whitewater Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jan 18, 2010
    Just an update:

    They are figuring out how to use the ramp to get back into their coop, even though they prefer to make with the high jump in and out of the access door.

    They have not been in their run today yet because they can't seem to figure out how to use the ramp to go DOWN into the run, even though they figured out going up last night. The henhouse access door is shut. They have water in their hen house, but no food. The food is in the run. I'm going to go out there in a few minutes and open the door.

    We put yummy cracked corn and black oil sunflower seeds on the ramp rungs last night, which helped enormously.

    Still trying to figure out how to get the chickens to go down the ramp out of their henhouse.

    We don't want them to get used to having the henhouse access door open all the time -- there goes our predator protection! And it lets light into the henhouse at night when they're trying to sleep, because of the streetlight.

    Any other ideas? We're frankly baffled!


    Whitewater
     
  6. Renee'

    Renee' Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I assume that your ramp has steps or cleats try placing a few snacks on each step/cleat.
     
  7. Whitewater

    Whitewater Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jan 18, 2010
    Yay, success!

    Today their henhouse access door was shut and locked and all 3 chickens were out in their run when I went to let the dogs out when I woke up.

    What appeared to work was to give them a problem to solve: Before leaving for work at 8am, Hubby put some some of their most favorite treats, black oil sunflower seeds and cracked corn, on the ground of the run, where they could see him do it. But he did NOT open their henhouse access door so they could jump down.

    Solution to getting the tasty treats? Going down the ramp!

    Hubby and I realized yesterday that not only is the ramp a new and difficult concept, but the other problem we were running into was that our 3 pullets have never had any ability to choose for themselves whether they wanted to be out or in. The hobby farm folks would let them out in the morning, then put them to bed at night. Therefore, the chickens never got to decide for themselves when to leave their 'bedroom' in the morning, or when to go back to the roost to go to sleep.

    We, however, want them to have that independence, just like we want to eventually have them learn that they can roam about our back yard and yet go back into their run (and out of it again) for whatever they need. For now, though, learning that they can leave and re-enter their henhouse whenever they want is the priority lesson. They will soon start to lay eggs (they'll be 16 weeks old this Saturday, and the one I think may be a Black Sex Link instead of an Australorp is showing definite signs that maturity is very soon approaching) and we want them to understand that they can go back and forth on their own.

    We promptly began rewarding our chickens when they think for themselves, and today, they all went down the ramp -- but it seems we have chickens that like to sleep in, because Hubby never saw them in the run at 8am, LOL!

    Snacks on the rungs of the ramp have also helped, and turned the ramp from Big Scary Thing to Thing That Has Treats, which is good.

    Here's hoping that they keep using their ramp to go in and out of their henhouse. We will not always be around to open the door!


    Whitewater
     
  8. Oven Ready

    Oven Ready Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Well Done - Secretly chickens are smarter than they let you think
     

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