Need help please!! New owner of four girls!

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In the Brooder
6 Years
Sep 1, 2013
I became the owner of four RIR pullets five days ago. My girls won't come out of the coop to grass feed. They will walk around for maybe five minutes then go back in the coop. They are sleeping on the roost at night but laying in their nesting boxes MOST of the day. I was told they will start laying eggs any day now. Why will they not come out of the coop? Why are they sleeping in the nesting boxes most of the day? The coop has doors and windows, should I install a light too? Please help me!
You should be fine. They are just taking time to get used to their new surroundings. You shouldn't need a light. I don't even have windows on my coop. I hope they start laying soon!
Hi! I'm from KY too so welcome!

It's fairly common for chickens new to a coop to not wander about free ranging for some time after moving in. For chickens, moving is a pretty big deal and a stressful event for them. So, give them time and they'll eventually feel settled and then start wandering around outside.

One suggestion is to make sure you have things for them to hide under and climb up on fairly close to the coop door but outside. This will help them feel more safe when they do go outside and give them shade. When my chicks first moved from the brooder in the house to the coop outside, I put a few benches and a picnic table just outside the coop. This also provided them with shade and it just helped them feel safer. I also sat on the bench sometimes and because they know me and I am "safe" to them (raised them from week old chicks), they would only come out when I was there for the first few weeks. If you have time, try sitting just outside the coop and it will help them become comfortable with you as well. It just takes time for them to adjust, even at your pullet's ages which is just near laying. That puts them around 20 ish weeks, I'd guess.

Another thing to try is feed them their treats (table scraps or scratch grain or whatever little treats you may give them) just outside the coop in the grass. It again helps them get used to being outside. But, don't force them, never lock them out of the coop for example. You want the coop to be their safe place. In a way, it's a very good thing that they're staying close to the coop early on. This will allow them to imprint the coop as home and when it comes time for them to go to bed, they'll return to the coop at dusk by themselves. This is WAY better than you having to chase them or bait them every night to get them to go into the coop for the night.

And no, you don't need to install a light. Chickens are used to the dark at night and the day/night/day natural transition helps them maintain their natural rhythm. Some people use lights to induce more laying in the winter by extending the winter days to make the chickens believe the days are longer. But, this is for a different reason than you're suggesting. And, btw, there is debate about how good this practice is of using light to artificially induce laying in the winter but this is another topic all together.

Also, regarding them hanging out in the nest boxes during the day, I would try to discourage this. They'll poop in the nest boxes and then you'll have soiled eggs once they do start laying. It's a bad habit for them to get into and hard to break once they get started. So, a few things you might try/verify. One is make sure your roost is higher than your nest boxes. If this is the case already, then I would put something additional in the coop for them to perch on. I have a very big, round potted plant bucket in mine. It's about 2 feet high and maybe 3 or 4 feet around. It's supposed to be their dust bath so there is fine clay like dirt in it, which weighs it down and keeps it nice and stable. They love roosting on the edge of it (but never dust bath in it, they like the dust baths they made themselves outside when they free range). This potted plant bucket thing is near the coop door so they like it because they can see out and get a nice breeze. The nest boxes are in the back of the coop where it's much darker and never are they on top of them (the tops are flat, even) or in them unless they're laying an egg.

Because they're close to the age when they start laying, I don't think it would be a good idea to close off the nest boxes. Because you want them to use the nest boxes to lay in right when they start laying so they develop good habits that way, vs. laying on the floor of the coop or elsewhere outside. Do you have fake eggs (plastic, ceramic or wooden Easter eggs or golf balls) in the nest boxes? This might discourage them from hanging out in the nest boxes. I keep 3 fake eggs in each of my nest boxes.

Hope this helps,
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