Our hens prefer sleeping in the run vs the coop and winter is coming, should I be worried?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Tom and Kathy, Nov 8, 2017.

  1. Tom and Kathy

    Tom and Kathy In the Brooder

    Aug 28, 2017
    Ann Arbor, Michigan
    Forgive me for asking probably an age old question, here's the details:

    We're new owners (2.5 months) of 4 grown hens (2 Leghorns, 1 ISA Brown, 1 Easter Egger) we got from Craigslist (previous owner raised them from chicks April 2017). We bought their coop (3.5ftx3.5ftx3ish ft) too and I built the run (6ftWx12ftLx8ftH). They don't get to go out of the run at all (busy street, neighbor has a dog, oodles of raccoons and hawks and etc).

    Since we got the ladies they've slept outside in the enclosed run every night but the first one in all types of weather - their previous owners said they slept in the coop exclusively (they free ranged a backyard then got shoo'd into the coop at night - they had a smaller attached run, 3ftWx9ftLx4ftH). I hang their food and water outside and plan to do so in the winter (I'll do a heated dog bowl for the water). They lay like champs in the nest boxes in the coop but that's the end of their use of it. They LOVE the run and the roosts we put up and have been out in what I'd say was horrid weather so far (rain/wind/colder than 30F).

    run 2.jpg
    There's no light or heat in the coop (yet).


    I've got half the run roof covered with a tarp for rain and have a better and bigger tarp I plan to put on for winter.

    Short side (6ft) of the run with the roosts faces East and the street with a street light, coop is on the West side. Picture above of the side of the run (12ft dimension) is looking North.

    It's calm and 37F right now and they're happily snuggled up outside.. but it'll be yucky sooner than later.

    So the question/worry is, will they be smart enough to go in the coop when the snow hits the fan? Did their little bird brains forget they have shelter from the elements? Should to shoo them in and re-teach them, maybe get a small LED light for inside the coop? Or am I overthinking this like everything else? :)

    Any and all constructive advice and criticism is greatly appreciated!

    Attached Files:

  2. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Rolling Down The River

    Jul 16, 2015
    central Wisconsin
    That coops gonna be a nightmare when the snow falls. They don't go into it probably because it's too small. I definitely wouldn't be heating it or adding a light to it as it's too small.

    Chickens don't feel the cold like we do. They have a big down parka of feathers and are quite warm. You may want to solid up the side where your winter snow and winds will blow in.

    Do you have days of blizzards or cold snaps? Your coop will be tight to lock them in during storms, especially if they last a few days.

    @21hens-incharge , ideas?
  3. sylviethecochin

    sylviethecochin Crowing

    Jun 14, 2017
    Central PA
    You could try and re-teach them, but I think part of the issue may be with your coop itself.

    Space (width-wise) should be fine for four hens, if they have use of the run as well, but I think you need to lower the perch by about six inches--both to allow for heat and water evaporation, and to give your hens a little more headspace.

    My hens prefer room to stand up and turn around and crowd for position on their perch.

    Also, you might remove your exterior perches.
  4. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Crossing the Road

    Nov 7, 2012
    Your coop is too small for them to successfully get up onto the perch without them hurting themselves. The perch is too close to the ceiling, they will risk frost bite b/c they will be too close to the ceiling. I don't see any ventilation, or windows. Recommended sq. footage for BYF is a minimum of 4 s.f. in coop/bird, 10 s.f. in run/bird
  5. SeramaMamma

    SeramaMamma Songster

    Jul 12, 2017
    Time to take down external perches. This time of year they need to go away. And you need to re-train them to go inside at night.

    That means every night when it's dark out, you go outside and pick them up one by one and put them in the coop on the perch. You do this forever, if needed, all winter, or they'll freeze. They need to go in.

    As far as coop sizing and whatnot I'll leave that info up to people who are more knowledgeable than myself on those things, but they need to go indoors and you need to teach them.
    Tom and Kathy likes this.
  6. 21hens-incharge

    21hens-incharge Enabler

    Mar 9, 2014
    Northern Colorado
    Oh man that is tight.
    I agree with the above posts about space and roost height.
    I see another issue. When blowing up your pics they are sleeping right up against the large holes in the welded wire. Raccoons and other night predators have been known to rip birds apart through holes even smaller openings.

    Options are there. There are lots of good ideas in the coops section here.

    Time to build is limited where you are since winter is looming....
    Do you have any available funds to buy or build something larger?
    How about a hoop coop? They actually work really well.

    Lots of us get heavy snow. Being in Michigan I am sure you do as well.

    Oh and definitely would NOT even try to put a heat lamp in that coop.
  7. 21hens-incharge

    21hens-incharge Enabler

    Mar 9, 2014
    Northern Colorado
    Oh and the tarp on the run roof will likely cause it to collapse under snow load.

    I think you can keep the roosts in the run. I don't see an issue keeping them except the hole size in the wire.

    I strongly encourage a much larger coop.
  8. Tom and Kathy

    Tom and Kathy In the Brooder

    Aug 28, 2017
    Ann Arbor, Michigan
    Few thoughts in reply, thank you all so much for your comments, hopefully nothing below sounds overly defensive, I'm just an overthinker - almost all your comments have churned around in my brain:

    - I threw them in the coop last night, the silly things were content to roost outside in the snow. we'll get 'em retrained to remember they used to sleep in it.

    - I really don't see the coop as being ridiculously small- again, the previous owners reported they all slept in the coop every night before we got them, and they had 6 full grown birds at one time in there (I think that's way too many, 4 is max I'd say). It's not optimal but it's not a nightmare by any stretch. That said... yeah, it needs some work to be better.

    - The head room is higher than the picture shows and there is ventilation at the very top that also doesn't show in the picture. They hopped up last night fine, 2 on the middle bar, 2 over the nest boxes (there's a roof over the boxes... man they poop a lot). There is a wire window on the north side of the coop door but I covered it for winter.

    - That said I think y'all are right - I will raise the roof this weekend. I'll go up and maybe in the Spring I'll expand it out but they'e got more than 3sq ft per bird in the coop now and truthfully they're gonna have to suck it up and go outside into the run during the day this Winter (all my neighbors who have/had chickens say their birds were out during the day in all but the worst weather). I've no plans for moving the water and food into the coop unless it's really nasty out.

    - I'm toying with the idea of wrapping at least the lower half (4ft) of the run for the sake of wind and snow. maybe get a little greenhouse warming effect but since the coop blocks most of the west dimension and that's our prevailing wind direction here... eh, maybe I won't? Quick census of neighborhood flock owners says no one around here wraps their run in Winter and their birds were peachy.

    - I do plan on some sort of battery powered red "night light' for inside the coop so they can jostle around to their roosts in something other than pitch black. Just enough light of the right type to move around in, not enough to give off any heat. And yep, NO heater in the coop. They can use their fluffy butts to keep their toes warm.

    - Raccoons reaching their paws in thru the 2x4" wire by the outside roosts... yeah I thought about that too but they'd have to climb 4ft of 1/2" hardware cloth to do it - sure, they could, but not likely. I could do hardware cloth on the top 3 ft of the run, but not this Fall, maybe Spring. I can tell you no one around here has anything to compare to the super-max chicken prison, er, run, that I've built and the only people in my neighborhood who have lost birds were folks who let them free range in their yard or didn't roof their run. Most used 2x4" wire top to bottom or ugh, chicken wire. I think I balanced safety and cost pretty well for now.

    - Snow load if I the tarp the roof of the run... sure, I worry about that too but I've got a roof rake and if I don't tarp the roof then the snow piles up in the run - six of one, half dozen of the other. I think I'd rather rake the roof than shovel the run any more than I have to, especially if I do wrap the run. With our snow falls I don't see it being an issue I can't take care of - I'm out in the snow all the time, I don't mind raking the roof as needed or I can task my oldest kid to do it.

    - I'm not totally happy with the outdoor roosts either but the girls love them. I think I will rework them, maybe put them on hinges so I can lift them up at night, but, nothing against my girls, I'm not really looking to make tons more work for myself. Any re-do will have to balance their safety and my time... and somewhat money. I'm not broke but I'm not rich and I don't want to drop a ton of money. Plus the ladies love using them during the day - they're staying year round, at least during the daylight hours and folded up at night.

    - Hoop coop... they are cool but I want a coop up off the ground for easier egg collection and ease of cleaning out. I got a 9-6 job, wife, 3 kids, and all the other things that go with the above... and I am the main caretaker of the ladies so it's gotta be convenient for me. I think anything I (re)build will be on legs. I'm also limited by my city permit how far I can be from the lot lines (and I'm on a corner lot) and I don't want to go out any further towards my neighbor's yard who has a dog. That's why I think I'd stay with the footprint for the depth and go wider, maybe make it 6x3.5 ft but up off the ground.

    - The coop in general: plan was I'd build my own and we'd start with chicks. But.. I saw the ladies, their coop and run on Craigslist listed by folks who needed to get out of the chicken business in a hurry so we moved up our time table (their run was 4ft wide 4 ft tall 8 ft long - not super convenient to get into which is why they let them free range their yard). Maybe not the best decision I've made but they're healthy happy birds that got a new and good home with a safer and larger run than they had - again, nothing against the previous owners but they lost 2 to predation letting them free range their back yard.

    I'm my worst critic - EVERYTHING you all have said I've worried about also, so thanks for all the great advice, it confirms my thoughts. I'll get working best I can this weekend and post the progress.
  9. 21hens-incharge

    21hens-incharge Enabler

    Mar 9, 2014
    Northern Colorado
    I totally get it with checks and balances.

    Sounds like you have a plan.
    Tom and Kathy likes this.

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