Pullets Sleeping in Trees: Can't Solve the Situation

MikyPiky

Songster
Feb 2, 2021
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I've been having this problem for months now and I've been doing everything in my power to get it to stop, but nothing has worked. All 7 of my EE pullets love to sleep in the evergreens, way up high. I can get all but one down and she goes so high there's nothing I can do. Now that it's getting cold I need to fix this so she doesn't freeze at night! Also she's easy prey for predators. :(

Here's what I've tried:

Clipping wings: I clipped one side and it didn't affect her flight at all.

Encouraging them into the coop with food: the pullets know I am trying to trick them into the coop, so that doesn't work.

Getting them into the coop before they roost: these EEs are SO elusive and are SO hard catch. It takes at least half an hour to get them all in there. Not an option.

And a million other small things that didn't work.

I thought that now that it was getting cold they would stop roosting in the trees and come inside to get warm, but nope. The older hens can be quite rude at night getting settled in, so the pullets don't even want to go in there, which makes everything so tough. I even built a larger roosting area to fix the problem, but it didn't change anything. I feel like I've tried everything and I'm starting to get very frustrated! :barnie

What should I do?
 

Lacy Duckwing

Autistic Chicken Lover
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They might be doing this BECAUSE of the older hens.

Have you tried locking them up in the coop for two weeks straight yet? Have you tried setting them up in a covered run? Clip both wings of the Primary feathers. If you clipped the feathers you see when they're walking around, you've clipped the wrong feathers. ;)
 

NatJ

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Mar 20, 2017
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All 7 of my EE pullets love to sleep in the evergreens, way up high. I can get all but one down and she goes so high there's nothing I can do. Now that it's getting cold I need to fix this so she doesn't freeze at night!
How cold does it get?
A chicken roosting in a nice dense evergreen will probably do BETTER than a chicken in many styles of chicken coops. She's got protection from wind, rain, and snow, and I'm sure the tree has great ventilation!


Also she's easy prey for predators. :(
I agree that is a concern (although she obviously hasn't been eaten yet.)

Getting them into the coop before they roost: these EEs are SO elusive and are SO hard catch. It takes at least half an hour to get them all in there. Not an option.

I would probably spend the time to get them all in once, and then shut them in for a while (like the two weeks Lacy Duckwing suggested.)


I thought that now that it was getting cold they would stop roosting in the trees and come inside to get warm, but nope.
Chicken feathers are as good as a down coat, and evergreen trees provide good shelter.
Also, chickens are creatures of habit.

So I would not expect them to change just because the weather got cooler.

The older hens can be quite rude at night getting settled in, so the pullets don't even want to go in there, which makes everything so tough. I even built a larger roosting area to fix the problem, but it didn't change anything. I feel like I've tried everything and I'm starting to get very frustrated!

Pictures of the coop sometimes help us make suggestions.

Other than locking them in for two weeks, some possibilities I can think of are:

I assume the hens get the "best" roost (usually the highest one), but do you have a lower roost? If there is a roost the hens do not want, the pullets might be able to roost in peace there.

Are your roosts close together so a hen on one roost can peck a pullet on another roost? If you have 3 or more roosts, you might try taking out the middle one, to make it harder to reach from one to another. Or if you have two roosts, you might move them further apart.

Are you able to make a second coop? Or divide the current coop so the hens have one part and the pullets have a different part?

Have you noticed whether all the hens pick on the pullets, or if certain hens are doing most of the pecking? If one or two hens are the biggest bullies, you could try putting them in a dog crate or similar pen for a few days. That might let the pullets form the habit of roosting in the coop, and they might continue even after you release the bully hens again. (Maybe, because nothing is certain with chickens.)

The situation might improve if you just leave things the way they are until the pullets start laying eggs, because the pullets will probably become less timid then. But that does not always work, and you obviously have good reasons for wanting to solve this sooner rather than later!

How big is the coop and how many total chickens do you have? A common guideline is 4 square feet of floorspace in the coop per chicken, and one linear foot of roost per chicken, but some problems go away when you provide a lot more space than that-- so removing some hens, or expanding the coop, or building a separate coop all have the potential to help.

If your chickens cannot all be comfortable at roosting time, you might also have problems in the winter if bad weather makes them stay inside on some days. This is a bigger concern in some climates than others, so I do now know whether it will be an issue for you.
 

MikyPiky

Songster
Feb 2, 2021
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They might be doing this BECAUSE of the older hens.
I do know that. The pullets don't want to be anywhere around the older hens.

Have you tried locking them up in the coop for two weeks straight yet?
Not yet. I really don't want to lock them up for these last couple of weeks of warmth. It's probably going to snow soon so I wanted to make the most of it. This was my last option and I will probably have to end up going with it.

Have you tried setting them up in a covered run?
No. The previous owners of this land had chickens and the run they made is about 1/4 of an acre, and there's really no way we'd be able to cover it all.

Clip both wings of the Primary feathers. If you clipped the feathers you see when they're walking around, you've clipped the wrong feathers. ;)
The only reason I clipped only one side was because I saw lots of people advising to clip only the one side because it unbalances them. So should I clip her other side? I am sure I clipped the primary feathers. I researched thoroughly how to do it, and you definitely can't see the clipped feathers when she's walking.
 

MikyPiky

Songster
Feb 2, 2021
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How cold does it get?
A chicken roosting in a nice dense evergreen will probably do BETTER than a chicken in many styles of chicken coops. She's got protection from wind, rain, and snow, and I'm sure the tree has great ventilation!
It gets up to -30 C here. The spot where she sits in the tree is completely uncovered so she is exposed to all the elements.

So I would not expect them to change just because the weather got cooler.
The reason I expected that was because a month or two ago we got one colder day and all the pullets came inside to get warm and roost.

I assume the hens get the "best" roost (usually the highest one), but do you have a lower roost? If there is a roost the hens do not want, the pullets might be able to roost in peace there.
We used to have a ladder-style roost. There were four bars and yes, the older hens all went to the top. The problem was the pullets were always trying to get to the top roost but the hens bullied them off, and there was so much fighting! So I changed the roost to a 2x4 plank and it's very long, giving each chicken over a foot space each. That definitely has helped with some of the roosting problems, but there is still a squabble every night to get cozy, which is normal. I'm thinking of putting a curtain as a divider at the halfway mark, so they can sleep without seeing each other.

Have you noticed whether all the hens pick on the pullets, or if certain hens are doing most of the pecking? If one or two hens are the biggest bullies, you could try putting them in a dog crate or similar pen for a few days. That might let the pullets form the habit of roosting in the coop, and they might continue even after you release the bully hens again. (Maybe, because nothing is certain with chickens.)
It's not really one specific hen. They are all a little mean, but it's nothing serious. No blood or feather picking. The reason why the pullets first started roosting in the trees was that when they were smaller the hens were a lot rougher with them so they started roosting outside. But now that they can fend for themselves and the bullying isn't bad, they've just got into the habit of roosting in the trees and won't stop.

The situation might improve if you just leave things the way they are until the pullets start laying eggs, because the pullets will probably become less timid then. But that does not always work, and you obviously have good reasons for wanting to solve this sooner rather than later!
Six of the pullets have been laying for a good while now. They did calm down a bit but are still very timid. I think it's just their breed (not that EEs are a breed, but because of their heritage) not how I trained them, since our other hens are super tame.

How big is the coop and how many total chickens do you have? A common guideline is 4 square feet of floorspace in the coop per chicken, and one linear foot of roost per chicken, but some problems go away when you provide a lot more space than that-- so removing some hens, or expanding the coop, or building a separate coop all have the potential to help.
It's about 85 square feet and we have 15 chickens, so plenty of space I should think.

I would probably spend the time to get them all in once, and then shut them in for a while (like the two weeks Lacy Duckwing suggested.)
I guess that will have to be done, and soon. Not excited to coop them all up in there for so long. :(
 

NatJ

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Mar 20, 2017
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It sounds like you have been very thorough in addressing the points we could come up with, so probably the only thing left is to break the pullets' habit of roosting in the trees by locking them in for a while :(

Your idea of a curtain to divide the roost might help too, but probably isn't enough by itself.
 

ChickenLeg

Crowing
9 Years
Feb 15, 2012
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Id skip a day or 2 of feeding them then feed them in the late afternoon inside the coop area. Start only feeding them in the evening inside the coop and locking them in after they go inside for a few weeks. Should be enough to start a new routine then you can go back to your old way of feeding. If they revert to sleeping in trees then might be best to keep on with the evening feedings if all else fails
 

MikyPiky

Songster
Feb 2, 2021
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Id skip a day or 2 of feeding them then feed them in the late afternoon inside the coop area. Start only feeding them in the evening inside the coop and locking them in after they go inside for a few weeks. Should be enough to start a new routine then you can go back to your old way of feeding. If they revert to sleeping in trees then might be best to keep on with the evening feedings if all else fails
That sounds like a pretty good plan and I'll implement it tomorrow. I love these chickens to death, but oh boy, can they be frustrating! :lol:

Thanks for the advice, everyone! I hope these pullets finally stop roosting in the trees. :fl
 

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