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Is roost training necessary? A: Probably not

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by gtaus, Jul 21, 2019.

  1. gtaus

    gtaus Songster

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    This is my first year with laying hens, so I am learning a lot of things many of you probably already know. So this is for someone who is marching along the same first year experience as me. Here is my experience with chickens learning to use the roost bars, or not. For reference, I have a mixed flock of 10 pullets.

    Weeks 1-7: Chicks in the brooder.
    Week 8: Chicks moved into outdoor coop and run.
    Week 9: 2 six foot long roost bars built, one at 24 inches off the coop bedding, and another at 48 inches high. Only 1 pullet found to be using the low bar. All other chickens sleeping on the bedding.
    Week 10: 3 pullets on the lower bar, all others on the bedding.
    Week 11: 3 pullets on the higher bar, 2 pullets on the lower bar, others still on the bedding.
    Week 12: 3 pullets on the higher bar, 7 pullets on the lower bar for the first time yesterday. Wish I had my camera with me, but I did not. Anyway, exciting to open the coop and see all the pullets roosting on their bars.

    Now that I know they are using the roost bars if they want, I will not worry about having to train them to use the roosts. My primary concern was to have the pullets using the 24 inch and 48 inch high bars before they start laying eggs, because the nest boxes are designed to be 12 inches off the bedding, and I don't want them to sleep in the nest boxes.

    I was wondering if I would have to train the pullets to use the roost bars, but I followed the advice of others who said just give them more time. And still others who said that it does not really matter if they use the roost or not anyway.
     
  2. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler!

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    You can train them... or not, up to you.
    I like them to sleep on the roosts, so when I lock up after dark any bird not on a roost gets put on one. Haven't had to do that in a few years tho, the follow the older birds example.

    Are the nests open yet?
    I advise to open nests a couple weeks before estimated onset of lay.
    Chances are if they are using the roosts before that, they will probably not try to sleep in nests.

    You might add a pic of inside of coop showing nests and roosts to your coop page. ;)
     
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  3. gtaus

    gtaus Songster

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    @aart Thanks for the response. I snapped a quick picture this morning (before reading your post), but this will give you an idea.

    20190722_073448.jpg
    7 of my 10 girls were still on the roost bars this morning when I went out there to open the pop door. You can see just the corner of the nest box frames on the lower left corner of this picture. I have not yet put in the sliding dish bin nests because I don't want any of them thinking that would be a nice place to spend the night. But yes, I am hoping that a month or two of sleeping on the roosts will train them not to use the nest boxes for sleeping when I do put the bins in there.

    I also put the nest box frame close to my main access so if I do find some girls sleeping in the nests at night, I will be able to easily cover the access with a board and only open the nest boxes in the morning when I open the pop door.

    Since my coop is elevated, I have designed it so most everything is easy to access from the open doors. If I need to go into the coop, I have to use a step ladder. I may make some wooden steps in the future, but as of now, I rarely need to go into the coop. Food and water is also located just inside the open access doors.

    My idea is to add the plastic dish bin nests a few weeks before estimated lay date, along with a couple wooden fake eggs in each nest. I hope the young girls will get the idea of the nests as a place to do business and if they try to peck the wooden eggs, they will learn that wooden eggs don't taste good.
     
  4. gtaus

    gtaus Songster

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    Good idea. I'll have to set up a better picture. Maybe after I have the nest boxes in place so it makes more sense.
     
  5. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler!

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    That's a good pic for now.
    I don't think you'll have any problems with the heights,
    but might want those steps ready ;)

    I rigged a hinged cover for my nests, because I have chicks every year and it's also handy when I am breaking a broody, so I can drop it down an hour or so before roost time, then uncover when I lock up after dark. Works a treat!

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
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  6. gtaus

    gtaus Songster

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    I could add a hinged cover like that to my nest box frame. I already have the slanted top cover for the nest boxes. For now, I was just thinking of putting a board in front of the nest boxes to prevent access, if needed.

    Don't quiet understand why you drop the hinged cover an hour before roost time, but then open up the cover again when you lock up after dark. Are you making multiple trips to the coop in the evening?

    My idea, if I needed to block access to the nests, was to put a board in front of the nest boxes when I put the girls to bed at night and lock up. I would remove the board and allow access to the nests in the morning when I feed the girls and open the pop door. I suppose I would have to collect any eggs at lock up. But my idea was to service the coop only twice a day. Your thoughts? Thanks.
     
  7. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler!

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    Yep, I make multiple trips to coop every day, some days more than others depending on what going on.
    Cover down an hour before roost time for the obvious reason...
    ...cover back up when I lock up after dark so I don't have to go out at the crack of dawn to uncover it.
     
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  8. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

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    I like the idea of being able to lock a hen in or out of a nest. That's come in handy for different reasons.

    Some hens lay at the crack of dawn. It can be a good thing to have the nest open when they wake up so if you like to occasionally sleep in opening them the night before but after it is dark can be good idea. I can see why Aart does that.

    Personally I never lock a nest to keep a chicken from sleeping in it. I deal with chickens sleeping in nests in other ways. With my set-up that practically never happens anyway. I agree with having the nests open at least a week before they start to lay. If they are sleeping in the nests there is a reason. I want to know in time that I can fix the problem without getting poopy eggs or training them to lay somewhere other than the nests. I think you are doing it right.
     
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  9. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler!

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    What do you do?
    It's usually only a 'problem' here with little chicks just getting off the heat.
     
    gtaus likes this.
  10. gtaus

    gtaus Songster

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    Frankly, I did not know that they would lay eggs at the crack of dawn. Which is what I think @aart was getting at when he reopened the hinged cover.

    And I might not have any problem with hens sleeping in the nest boxes. Also, my removable plastic dish bin nest boxes were designed to be easily removed and cleaned. So that too might reduce any issues. For now, they seem to be roosting well on the bars I installed.
     
    Ridgerunner likes this.

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