How to train free ranging young chickens to go to a different coop at night?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by LestersFlat, Sep 4, 2014.

  1. LestersFlat

    LestersFlat Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have a chicken coop about 500 feet from the house with 9 free-ranging adult hens in it (at night only). Just this summer I raised 10 new chicks, born in March. I had them inside during the cold months, then outside in a protected area near the house, then finally let them start free-ranging about 2 months ago. They were really good about going back in the evening to the large dog crate (inside a fence) that was their home.

    The older girls often come back here by the house and the little-chicken fenced area, and all 19 chickens are getting along well. I held off putting the chicks in the big coop because we had 3 mean roosters who would have beat them up for sure, especially since one of the chicks turned out to be a rooster. Then I got rid of the 3 older roosters, so the youngsters could safely go in with the big girls, but after 3 weeks of carrying them out there, they still won't go on their own. They spend every night closed up in the big coop, but still congregate in the hay bales back by the house as it is getting dark. I can't leave them out there because we have too many night critters who would like a nice chicken dinner!

    Husband and I are getting really tired of transporting chickens every night, and chickens are getting more difficult to catch and carry out there. I have scratches on both arms to show how much they don't like being escorted back home. Their safe house (the dog crate) now has a mommy duck with 8 ducklings in it, so they can't go back in there.

    Not sure what to do?

    Any chicken whisperers with some advice?
     
  2. Euarto Gullible

    Euarto Gullible Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Have you tried herding them just as they start congregating while they can still see? I use two long branches forming a "V" and herd them where I want them to go. Go slowly and deliberately so they don't spook. Chickens learn better if they are trained to go to the right place on their own vs. simply being picked up and physically relocated. If you are moving them when it's already dark, they won't learn.
     
  3. ShockValue

    ShockValue Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Do the hens also lay in the coop or do you have a different area for that? General wisdom is that you need to lock them in the coop that you want them to roost in for a week or 2 so that they rewire their brains that the new coop is "home".
    Would be difficult if the hens need access there to lay. If not, throw em all in there, but only let the older girls out during the day for a week or so to see what happens.
     
  4. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener True BYC Addict

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    Can you remove the hay bales by the house so they don't have any shelter there? What about penning them by the big coop during the day, and offering access through a pop door as it gets closer to night? Does your coop have an option for 2 entrances? Can you put a divider in the big coop so the littles have their own entrance and their own space for a week or two?
     
  5. LestersFlat

    LestersFlat Chillin' With My Peeps

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    May 17, 2011
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    All of these are helpful, thank you!

    Euarto: Herding will not be easy with 10 of them, but I will try. (must say I am a bit put off by your name telling me "I am too gullible" [​IMG])

    Shock and lazy: The main nesting box (with 10 spots in it) is in the main coop. Some of the older hens stay out there all day, so I am reluctant to lock them out. But maybe some combination of what lazy is saying about moving the hay bales and possibly dividing up the big coop, which DOES have 2 entrances.

    I will figure this out somehow!

    Thanks again!
     
  6. Den in Penn

    Den in Penn Chillin' With My Peeps

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    If you don't have a run to lock them in the coop/run, you might use a temporary fencing to hold them in the coop area for the two weeks.
     
  7. rawheid

    rawheid Out Of The Brooder

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    Offer scratch feed where you want them to go. That's how I get my flock back to the coop when I need to leave the yard. I just call Here chick, chick chick and they come running. I started by just giving them scratch in front of the coop and then letting them free range again. I did it a couple times in a day so that they expect treats when I call them. Then when I need them to be in the coop I call them and give them scratch in the coop.
     

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