no chickens yet, just a lot of "dumb" I do apologize!!


In the Brooder
9 Years
Feb 25, 2010

If I have free-range chickens with access to a coop....and IF coop has a timer so that the door will shut at "dark-thirty" and open at "light'-thirty", will they have sense enough to head for the coop at dark and go outside at light? The reason for this question, is that if we are gone over a few days, and we get someone to just daily provide water and collect eggs, then will the chickens do the rest???? My apologies to all of you professionals out there for such a question...........
Hi there:

There are no dumb questions so ask away. And good for you asking BEFORE you get the chickens. That is responsible animal ownership. Unfortunately, the answer is maybe. My chickens put themselves to bed pretty regularly at sunset. But I know lots of other flocks don't and their owners have to shoo them to bed or climb into trees and pluck them out and put them in their coop. I think the real danger of what you're suggesting is the door shutting before all the chickens have wandered in. Then someone is left outside amongst the predators all night long. I don't know where you live but I think raccoons, oppossums and other predators are a danger pretty much everywhere. I live in Oakland, California and the raccoons and skunks are in my yard every single night looking for a way in to the coop.

When we go away, we have a house sitter come and care for our home and animals. She makes sure they are all safe and tucked in at night and fed and watered in the morning. It costs a little bit of money but in the end the peace of mind is worth it.

Hope that helps.

I would think they would if they have slept in there before. Perhaps if you keep them in for the first few days then let them out they will become accustomed to going in at night. Mine do, although I do not have an automatic door. Just me!!
Short answer is yes. Mine have a large coop and fairly large run. They are usually brooded inside until 4-5 weeks and then locked up in coop for a week. After that they are free to come and go. Since my run is so secure, There is not even a need for a pop door and it is an opening 12x15. Within 10 minutes of sunset everyone is in the coop and on the roost, I start seeing some in the run about 30 minutes after sunrise. Regardless of what some people may tell you, chickens are very smart. When mine roam the back yard a few times a week I leave the run gate open and they are back in on their own an hour or two before sunset and I close the gate.
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The whole purpose of auto doors is to capitalize on the natural habits of chickens to put themselves to roost at night, without any chasing or herding. Of course, when they are young chicks, they'll need to learn the coop IS their safe haven, first.

That's why one usually locks them in the coop for a few days once they are put outside to live in it, before letting them out at all. It helps "set" the "Coop is Safe" mode in their little heads.

My flock ranges freely every day, whether I am there or not. I leave for work before dawn and return after the sun is down. Their auto door opens, they come out, and go in and out at will throughout the day. They all go in, even the ducks and geese, at night... And then the door closes.
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Well, as an old chicken keeper, I say you have to train them when they're young! Chickens are creatures of habit, so they'll usually do whatever they usually do. If you have them trained to go to bed in the coop at night, and they're happy there and have room on the roost, then, yes, they most likely will do that. Chicken training is just like any other critter or children training - you decide what kind of behavior or habit you want, and figure out how to train them into it. But don't make the pop door close too early - if that happens, they'll have to make a new plan for where to sleep, and that will become the new habit. But, not to worry, it isn't that hard, and the enjoyment you get out of the chickens is well worth the training.
I have a question also since I do not have an automatic door. Can the door shut on a chicken and injure it? I ask this because every single night one of my silkie's rearend is halfway out the door and I have to push it in to close the door.
It never fails, everynight this happens and it is a different silkie's rearend each night. Haha.
The three doors I use (two different manufacturers) are the guillotine type, and the sliding panel moves very slowly. It also stops and slides up when it encounters a barrier, such as, well, perhaps a chicken lolly-gagging in the doorway.
Not only do the doors close slowly but are noisy as well. I have a barred rock that will sit in the door some times, but when the motor starts she has plenty of time to go on in and does. Oh and their not real noisy kind of like an electric can opener but plenty loud for the chickens to hear and move.
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