Newbies - getting chicks in/out of coop

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by basicliving, Jun 25, 2008.

  1. basicliving

    basicliving Keepin' the sunny side up

    Mar 20, 2008
    Shenandoah Valley, VA
    I'm a newbie myself, but I've read a lot of people questioning how to get chicks to come out of the coop the first time and then how to get them back inside. I thought I'd share my experience and what I've accidentally learned in the hopes it may work for others.

    We raised our day old chicks in a brooder in a spare bedroom for the first 2 weeks. At 2 weeks, we put them in their coop. The chicken yard wasn't fenced yet, so we just let them stay inside their coop and get used to their new home for about a week. It wasn't really intentional - I would have let them out right away, but the fence wasn't ready - but I think it was a really good thing because this taught them to be comfortable and feel safe - and associate the coop with these feelings and know it is "home".

    After about a week, the fence was complete and we had a shrimp net over the entire top of the chicken yard to protect them from aerial assault. We opened the coop door to let them out while we waited in the chicken yard for them. For about an hour, there were no takers. Then one of the cockerels came out into the yard and started eating ants like crazy. I felt that was a measure of success - until he got spooked (long story) and managed to squeeze his fat body between 2 of the wires of the field fencing we used for the chicken yard fence. Long story short, I caught him and decided they wouldn't be going into the chicken yard again for a while.

    Instead, I stapled a piece of chicken wire over the opening of their chicken run door and opened the door of their chicken door each morning and closed each afternoon for a week. This allowed them to get used to the environment just outside that chicken door and familiar with us walking around each day and the noises we make. They spent a lot of time right at the chicken door looking through the chicken wire and sun bathing.

    When they were 4 weeks old (a week after the above incident) we put chicken wire all around the inside of the field fencing of their chicken run so no one could escape again. Then I removed the chicken wire from their chicken door. The minute I removed the chicken wire, almost all of them came outside immediately. They were very comfortable - and I believe it was because they had gotten used to that area immediately outside the little door they looked through each day for a week or so.

    So, I tell you all of the above to suggest that what I accidentally experienced may help you when you go to let your chickens out. In a nutshell:

    - Keep your chicks inside the chicken coop for at least a week to get them used to their new home.
    - After a week (or maybe even when you first put them in the coop) cover their chicken door opening with chicken wire and open the chicken door each day to familiarize them with that opening and what goes on just outside of it.
    - When you decide to let them go outside, insure the chicken yard is secure, and then remove the chicken wire.

    Just a note about insuring the safety of your chicks - chicken wire is great for keeping chicks in, but it will not keep all predators out. You probably know that - I only mention it as a warning to keep an eye on your chicks (especially while very small) while in the coop with the chicken wire over the chicken door to insure a snake doesn't get in there. We never had an issue with that - but it was the one thing that worried me the most. But then - I'm a worrier [​IMG]

    As for getting them back in the coop, the first night I decided when they should be inside and spent half the night chasing the handful that didn't go in on their own. It wasn't fun for any of us. Every night since then, I just keep an eye on the coop every few minutes starting around 7 PM, and sure enough, at some point they all decide on their own (between 7:15 and 8:00) that it is time and every one of them go inside the coop on their own. Then I run outside and close them in. So my lesson in all of this has been to be patient and let them tell ME when it's time to go to bed.

    I realize that not everyone will have the same type set up as we have - and may not have the same results as I did by doing the above. But, then again, you may. I just thought I'd offer my experience and maybe give some newbies an option to try.

    I'm sure others with more experience have some suggestions that they can weigh in with. This forum has been SO helpful to me, I just figured I'd try to help someone else if I can.

    Hope this thread helps.

    Take care,
  2. lovemychicks9

    lovemychicks9 Songster

    Apr 29, 2008
    South Carolina
    Thanks Penny for the great thread . I too spent 1/2 the evening in the heat chasing 4 week olds into the coop last night and never even thought about stapeling chicken wire over the opening! That is a great idea and I think I will go out and do it now. I opened the door and they have not even gone out yet today and yesterday I forced them out, they loved the outside but it was a killer getting them back in. I really don't think that they knew that they were supposed to GO back in and I really do not want a repeat of last night. Trudy [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
  3. basicliving

    basicliving Keepin' the sunny side up

    Mar 20, 2008
    Shenandoah Valley, VA
    I hope it works for you, Trudy. Keeping them inside and letting them look through the chicken door with the safety of the chicken wire there for a week or so really seemed to help my chicks when it came time to go outside. Before that, they acted to frightened to go outside, but after having the chicken door open every day, all day, when the chicken wire window was removed, they tumbled right out without trepidation. Let me know if it works for you! Hopefully yours will be as good as mine when it comes to deciding it's time to go inside for the night [​IMG]

  4. CathyB

    CathyB Songster

    Apr 6, 2008
    Thanks for all the tips! Here is what I did. The first night in their big girl coop I chased and caught every single one and put them to bed. The second night the same. I got smart the third night. I had tried to turn their light off the second night and it was a big mess. They hated it off. So, the third night I went out there while the sun was going down. I turned the light on in their coop and sat on my chair in the run. The came over to say goodnight, then one by one they all walked into the coop and got settled in. I just had to get off the chair and close the doors! Well, except for my lovey Kelsea. Every night she roosts on my shoulder. I sit there with her a good half hour and then I have to take her in the coop with the others and physically take her off of me. It breaks my heart but I can't sleep in the coop! Or can I........[​IMG]
  5. Country Gal

    Country Gal Songster

    Feb 2, 2007
    Capac, MI
    My methods have been similar... with my first batch, I kept them in the coop without access to the run for a week. Then I allowed them access to the run, and for a few nights I needed to chase them from the run back into the coop at night before they started going in on their own. After a couple weeks of run access, I allowed them to free range and never had an issue with them going back in the coop at dusk on their own, so I just have to shut the doors before I go to bed.

    I now have my second batch, which are about 8 weeks old, and I just moved them last week from the brooder into their coop (which is a different coop than what my first batch are in due to the first batch being on layer feed and the second still being on the grower). I gave these ones instant access to a run, but I didn't chase them in at night. By the third night they had figured it out and were going back into the coop on their own.

    This past Saturday I decided they were ready to try free ranging. They were more than happy to come out and explore, and there were no issues between them and my older chickens. The problem I ran into was that at the end of the day, I had to chase them OUT of the first coop. I think I will have to alternates days that each batch gets to free range until they are all on the layer ration...
  6. DottieMarie

    DottieMarie Songster

    May 6, 2008
    South East MI
    Great information and perfect timing for me. We'll be moving some chickens in the coop either this weekend or next week sometime and we'll be using Penny's method. I'll let you know how it works.

  7. basicliving

    basicliving Keepin' the sunny side up

    Mar 20, 2008
    Shenandoah Valley, VA
    I'd be interested to see how it works for you, chickennewbie. Please be sure to let us know. Good luck!

  8. Lydia

    Lydia In the Brooder

    May 21, 2008
    Seattle, WA
    I just put my 4 hens out in their newly finished coop -it's beautiful- this morning. All this information is so very helpful to me. Our run hasn't been built yet so this gives us a little time to get it done before the hens come outside. We've been putting the hens in our fenced garden for supervised afternoon ranging but I'll curb that so they can get used to their coop. They looked so huge in their indoor brooder but once in the coop they look tiny. It was almost tearful to take them out of the house and put them outside. I never knew I could have such strong attachment to chickens of all things.

    I have more chicks that will be going outside in about a month- we're already planning our second coop believe it or not.
  9. Sulteric

    Sulteric In the Brooder

    Jun 7, 2008
    Central Massachusetts
    My run is right outside the coop. I need to cut a door in the outside wall and the inside wall so they can get out when they need to.

    My question is how do I make the doors so I can just slide them up and lock them in place or should I hinge them? I'm thinking I should hinge them as it would be easier to keep it secure with a lock or hook.
  10. swimcoch

    swimcoch In the Brooder

    Jun 1, 2008
    Boonville, IN
    Penny, Thanks for the detailed info. I have had chicks in the coop for three weeks and will be finishing the run today. I will certainly try your technique.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by: