Pullet questions?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Fringe, Nov 19, 2014.

  1. Fringe

    Fringe Out Of The Brooder

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    Aug 23, 2014
    Connecticut
    Hi All,
    Got my pullets one week ago. They are about 15 weeks old. Just four, all different breeds. They seem to be doing fine, filling out a bit and very, very slowly getting used to me.

    At what point do they learn to roost? I have a nice roost set up for them in the coop but I don't think they've been up there yet as I see no feathers or poop on the shelf under the roost. So at night when I go out to close the pop door they are all huddled in one nesting box together. As you know it's been very cold here as in most of the country this past week. I wasn't planning on heating the coop but because they are still so young and until they get bigger I decided I would and put some heat in. (We lose power a lot and I can't be at work and come home to find out we lost power and I have dead birds because they are not used to the cold. So once they get bigger/older I don't plan on heating the coop unless it gets frigid.)

    If I go out to the coop at night they hear me coming and wake up so I can't move them up to the roost. I'm wondering if they just haven't found it yet. There are no older hens for them to learn from. I don't want them used to sleeping in the nesting boxes, they soon will have to split up as they won't all fit in one! LOL! And obviously down the road, once they start laying that wouldn't be good either. Maybe I need to build a small ramp for them to get up there? It's only a little over a foot from the bedding to the shelf and another inch up to the roost. Even though they have adult feathers maybe they can't fly/hop up there yet?

    Also, I know it's been cold but they don't want to go out into their outdoor run. I've had to coax them out and block access back into the coop to clean up a bit and check their water and food. As soon as I unblock the door they run right back in.

    So I'm assuming they're just still a bit shell-shocked and still trying to get used to their new surroundings? The outdoor coop has been winterized. I covered the North and West sides with plywood to keep the wind and snow out.

    Thanks for any ideas. I love this site and all you helpful people to us newbies!
    Heather
     
  2. chicmom

    chicmom Dances with Chickens

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    Feb 24, 2009
    Strasburg Ohio
    Hello! What you've described is typical behavior for young pullets in a new environment. They will huddle together at night, and they don't learn for a while to roost. Also, they will hide inside, because chickens do take a while to get used to new things.

    If your hens are just 15 weeks, it won't be long before they lay eggs. Some chickens will start as early as 17 weeks, but it depends on the breed. It can be longer...some wait until 25 weeks. I usually keep the nest boxes closed by putting a board in front of them until I notice the girls are squatting when you reach out to touch them. That's a sure sign that it's time to open the nest boxes because the girls will become very interested in the nest boxes and they'll get in there, scratch around and pretty soon you'll find that egg. So I would recommend that you close those off for a while. It might be just for a few weeks, but it'll keep them from sleeping (and pooping) in the nest boxes. And also it'll help them to begin looking around more and they'll discover the roosts.

    It's cold here in Ohio too! Today it's 16 degrees! Going out to the coop is SO COLD! If you don't already have one, a heated waterer is very nice. They sell them around here for $35.00. I just love mine. They don't get so hot that they would catch the bedding on fire, they just keep the water from icing over.

    :)
     
  3. Fringe

    Fringe Out Of The Brooder

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    Aug 23, 2014
    Connecticut
    Ok, that makes me feel better. I debated blocking them off after reading some other stuff on here but they're still so spooked about everything I hated to stress them out any more than necessary. That will just take time I guess.

    I haven't been able to get close enough yet to reach out and touch one so wouldn't know if they're squatting. I've read that on here too. They're finally getting enough used to me coming out there that they don't all run and push on top of each other in the farthermost corner anymore, LOL! They've started figuring out that when I come out a bring a bit of treats. Been putting a little scratch in a plastic cup and shaking it as I approach the coop to open up or lock up the pop door. If it stays cold, I'm not sure when I'll get eggs. At this rate it could be next spring!

    It's supposed to be in the 40-50 degrees next week so I hope to entice them to come outside a bit more. I've got my waterer wrapped lightly with some heat tape. It's on a temperature controlled thing that only comes on when it gets below 30 outside. So far the coop is staying just warm enough that it's not come on much. That will change when they get bigger and I stop using the heat lamp as much.

    The other thing is that since they don't come out into their outdoor area much they've not been taking advantage of the dustbath tub I have set up for them. Do you think they'll figure that out eventually also? I've not had a chance to check them for mites or lice since I got them because they won't let me get that close, let alone pick them up. They seem healthy enough and are filling out so I hope everything is good.

    Thanks for the input. I love this site!
     
  4. chicmom

    chicmom Dances with Chickens

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    Feb 24, 2009
    Strasburg Ohio
    It does take chickens a while to get used to everything. Then they get braver and they'll explore their area more. I bet they use that dust bathing tub one of these days....Great idea about the heat tape. Sounds like you've got a nice setup there!

    I've found that even the pullets that aren't so tame will squat for you. The way to a chicken's heart is definitely with treats ! LOL

    I hope the weather improves.....We have sunny days, even today is sunny, but the cold is brutal. I think they probably don't have mites or lice, if they're looking good, but if you really want to take a look, you could check them after dark with a flash light. When it's dark, for some reason, chickens get very docile. You can pick them up without much of a problem.

    Take care stay in touch!
    Sharon
     
  5. Fringe

    Fringe Out Of The Brooder

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    Aug 23, 2014
    Connecticut
    Blocked off the nesting boxes and lo and behold, they've spent most of the day out in the outside portion of coop! Scratching around and generally acting like chickens. I just checked on them and I can tell they're a bit confused, just kind of wandering around inside the coop now that it's starting to get dark and they went in. Funny.

    So what I noticed while watching them for awhile (love to sit and watch but freezing my butt off!) is that one of them squats down once in awhile for no apparent reason, other than maybe she's just warming her feet? She's one of the bigger ones, a light brahma. I was told two of them would be at 16 weeks right now and the other two are at 13 weeks of age. I think she was one of the 16 week ones. I can't believe in this cold but maybe in a few weeks I might see an egg? Or do you think she's just warming her feet?

    It will be interesting to see if they all huddle in a corner tonight or find the roost.

    Thanks again for your input!

    Heather
     
  6. Dizzygirl

    Dizzygirl Out Of The Brooder

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    Sep 13, 2014
    Fairfield, CT
    Hi Fringe, I have 5 RIR and 3 White Leghorns which didn't start laying till they were about 27 weeks old! I thought I was never going to get an egg! I think I have 4 RIR's laying and 2 of the leghorns laying at the moment. Because of the shorter days, the others might not lay until Spring, but I notice that their combs are still small and pale-ish, whereas the layers have big, red combs.
    I'm in CT and we have had really cold weather here these past few days. I have been switching out the water every morning as it's frozen, both inside the coop and in the run. I might have to run some electricity to the coop next year so I can use a heated waterer.
     
  7. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Is your roost higher than your nests?
    They like to sleep as high as possible, so if roost is at least foot higher than the nests they're more likely to choose the roost.

    Best roost size in cold climate is 2x4, wide side up, they like to sit on with feet flat to sit stable and can nestle all those lovely feathers over feet to keep them warm.

    Are there any strong drafts (strong enough to literally ruffle feathers) on the roost area?
    That can make them avoid the roost....ventilation vs strong drafts can be tricky and confusing.

    Pics of your coop, inside and out, might help us make suggestions.
    Tho one week is not much time to acclimate, and that is probably most the issue here.
    Hang in there, first winter is tough(on us) until we learn how tough they are first hand.
     
  8. Fringe

    Fringe Out Of The Brooder

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    Aug 23, 2014
    Connecticut
    I live in CT also Dizzygirl. It has been pretty cold but at least it's not Buffalo!

    So here are some coop pics (and my ladies) couldn't help it.

    The poop shelf and roost are higher than nesting boxes. I've temporarily blocked off nest boxes and now they're coming into the outside part and seem to be enjoying themselves instead of huddling in a corner of boxes.

    The roost is a very thick bannister/handrail with the 2" flat side turned up for their feet. I could change that out if it needs to be wider.

    Thanks!

    Heather

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  9. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Nov 27, 2012
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    I'd go wider, they'll be more comfortable as they get older and their feet will stay warmer at night.

    And lose the heat lamp.........got lots of good ventilation?
     
  10. Fringe

    Fringe Out Of The Brooder

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    Aug 23, 2014
    Connecticut
    Hi Aart,

    I will make a new brace to go wider on the roost. They just need to find it. I came home tonight and they were all huddled together at the top of the ramp at the pop door. Fast asleep until they heard me and then wide awake so I can't even grab them and put them up there like some people have told me to try.

    The heat lamp is VERY temporary. I didn't plan on getting one at all but the lady I got them from told me that since they were only 12 and 15 weeks old and not totally filled and fluffed out yet I should get one just to get through this very frigid weather we're having in CT right now. Normally it's in the 50's daytime and low 40's at night.It's been in the teens at night and 20's during the day. She told me just for a couple/three weeks during this cold snap. It's supposed to be in the 40's and 50's all next week so I think that's going to go away. We lose power here all the time and have a generator we run only if we're home. Believe me, I'm not going to be at work and hear we have power out at home and come home to find 4 dead birds because they weren't acclimated to the cold. They'll get used to the cold and hopefully next week will be an easier segue into the colder temps of December.

    Lots of ventilation. The top of the coop is covered with hardware cloth and then the exterior roof is about 8-10" above that. Only on these really cold nights I slid a piece of plywood over the hardware cloth but even then you can see in the one picture there's about an 8" gap open across the hardware cloth. With the pop door open it gets lots of airflow.

    I guess they'll eventually find the roost. Maybe I need to build a ramp up to that but maybe they just need to grow up a bit more. Guess I'll give it a bit more time to figure it out. It's been just over a week.

    Thanks for all your help! I think you were the one who talked me through some suggestions on my coop design back in August or September. So appreciated!
     

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