New Chicken Angst. Some questions about doors, stupid birds and more

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Underwhere, Dec 9, 2010.

  1. Underwhere

    Underwhere In the Brooder

    Sep 2, 2010
    I have 5 girls.
    2 White Silkies
    1 Gray Silky
    2 Cochins

    I have an automatic door to the coop that I had set to open at 6:30 AM and close at 5:30PM (It gets dark here around 4:30 now)

    The 2 white silkies are by far the dumbest and they go out some time during the day and pretty much every single day get stuck outside until I get home at around 6:30-7PM. I find them huddled together next to the coop and only on 2 occasions have I actually found them inside.

    They don't roost but rather sleep in their nesting boxes.

    They have had their automatic door since day one and I know that they are capable of going in and out (it took a while). Is there a way to force them to go inside when it's dark? I am afraid they will turn into chicken popsicles given that the temperature around here has been dropping pretty fast (in the teens last night). When I find them I pick them up and put them in the coop manually through a window.

    The birds also do not go out until mid-day. Should I set my automatic door to open at a later time? The door opens directly into the coop so when it is open it gets very cold in there. Cold enough that their water freezes.

    If water will freeze in the coop is it too cold?

    I'm debating on whether I should set the door to work from Noon-5:30 or even a smaller timeframe.
  2. tedabug

    tedabug Songster

    May 2, 2010
    Pacific Northwest
    You could try letting them out a little later in the morning and keeping the door open another hour after dark? Like 6:30? Of course you know your predators better than I do. I have a buff orphington who we call "party girl" because when the others have long ago put themselves to bed, she is outside in the rain, in the dark having a blast until the bitter end! She eventually goes in, but it's about an hour behind the rest. If you think they would be safe if the door stayed open just a little longer, maybe your 'party girls' [​IMG] [​IMG] would make it inside before lock-down.

    As far as sleeping in the nesting boxes, I have an americana that is the same way. No matter how many nights I take her off the boxes and put her on the roost, I always find her back on the boxes. I have given up and put two pieces of cardboard at night on top of the nests so her poop lands on that instead of in the nest. I have to clean it all out in the morning *sigh*
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2010
  3. elmo

    elmo Songster

    May 23, 2009
    When certain birds don't go freely into the coop at night, sometimes it's a pecking order problem with the higher ranking chickens keeping them out. Have you spent time observing your flock dynamics to see if this could be the problem?

    Do you have a low roost or some kind of ladder for your silkies to use to access the roost? I don't have this breed, but I do recall reading that because of the structure of their feathers they really can't fly, but have to hop up to roost.

    The problem with frozen water is a more immediate one: birds need access to liquid water during daylight hours or they can become dehydrated. You could get a heated waterer, or bring out water several times a day.
  4. Dogfish

    Dogfish Rube Goldberg incarnate

    Mar 17, 2010
    Western Washington
    My birds head out in the AM, around 6:30 when the door opens, and my auto door closes about 8pm, well after dark, but they have a large protected run of about 1200 SF that the coop is attached to. The run is ringed with electric fence and 2x4 no-climb fence.

    I'd say attach a run about 8x10 at the minimum, to as large as you can buy 2x4 no-climb fence for, and give them a secure run. Push the close time on your door later, and give that a try.

    Only on weekends when I'm on site most of the day do the birds get to free range the whole day. Otherwise they get let out of the run around 3pm when the boys get home from school, and they return to the run by about 5pm (it gets dark around 4:45 or so).

    I have a separate shelter with power that houses the waterer and feeder, and a heatlamp near the water takes care of freezing water.
  5. Underwhere

    Underwhere In the Brooder

    Sep 2, 2010
    Thanks for the advice.

    I guess I'm experiencing something totally different from the rest of you.

    When the door is open my girls literally don't go out until after 12PM. Maybe they are just late risers?

    As far as coming in at night. When I find my 2 white silkies outside after the door is closed they aren't "partying" [​IMG]
    They are huddled in the corner in the pitch black darkness. I tried giving an extra hour of door opening but it doesn't do much good. It gets dark around 4:30PM these days and there is significantly less light around 4PM. The coop door closes at 5:30 but by that time it's already pitch black and the girls just sit down and don't move. I think it is doubtful they'd even attempt to go inside the coop if I left the door open for longer.

    Maybe it is pecking order. I have watched the chicken dynamics and realize that the 2 white silkies are not the Alpha chicks...but I haven't seen the Cochins really bully them that much. There is the Gray Silky which makes it back into the coop just fine

    I've given up about the roosting bar thing. They can sleep in the nest if they want. Only 1 cochin sleeps on the roost. I don't think the silkies could get on there and even if they could they are probably too brainless to do so...after all they get stuck outside in the dark when they've taken the ramp many many times before (and I leave a light on in the coop).

    Perhaps I should light up the ramp like an airport runway? [​IMG]

    I'm not concerned about predation, more of the chickens turning into popsickles. There is a 12x12 enclosed run that they have access to.

    Last edited: Dec 10, 2010
  6. Underwhere

    Underwhere In the Brooder

    Sep 2, 2010
    Do the chickens not like going out in the cold?
    Maybe that's it.

    I need chicken sweaters. I can hunt some squirrels or something and make them some pea coats.
  7. black star homesteader

    black star homesteader Hatching

    Dec 1, 2010
    Are you lighting the inside of the coop? I got new birds 1 mo ago and two or three times caught (probably) the same two birds on the metal roof in very cold weather after dark. I think they got confused about where to roost at night. IT hasn't happened since; perhaps they figured it out with the light on inside; who knows. (the light does shine out of the chicken door; offereing the the 'way in'. Wasn't a pecking order thing. It also took them this long to figure out the 'flap' over the door; I no longer have to prop it open; they can push it aside.

    I always offer fresh water as soon as possible in the mornings their water is frozen; even change it in the middle of the day as necessary. If you have an automatic door; heat the water. I don't have that oopt ion.
  8. Underwhere

    Underwhere In the Brooder

    Sep 2, 2010
    Quote:There is a light on. Goes on in the morning for bit and then shuts off around 8AM.
    Then it goes on at 3:00PM when it starts to get dark and stays on until 8PM.
  9. TheSitcomGirls

    TheSitcomGirls Songster

    Nov 17, 2010
    Maybe it's the light at night. I tried a light at night and found that only half of the chickens wanted to roost on time.

    I changed to only turn the light on from 4:00 AM - 8:00 AM. Now they all go inside when it starts to get dark. They clammer to find a place on the roost before it gets too dark for them to see in the coop. It's an event!
  10. Underwhere

    Underwhere In the Brooder

    Sep 2, 2010
    Quote:Interesting. Maybe I should shut it off. I have read a lot saying that they should have roughly 14 hours of light

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