Refusal to roost -- new(er) members of flock

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by anjainCA, Jun 5, 2016.

  1. anjainCA

    anjainCA New Egg

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    Hi all!

    I'm new to the forum scene here, but I've exhausted my online search options and I'm hoping someone here might be able to offer me some advice.
    We currently have 6 hens -- 4 about a year and a half old, and 2 pullets about 4 months old. We've had the pullets since they were 6 weeks old, and they've been integrated with the established hens since the beginning (in varying stages -- first a dog kennel inside the run, then a separate area of the run, and for the last 6 weeks, fully integrated without restraint.) Outside of the new chickens definitely being aware that they are at the bottom of the social totem pole, they don't have any problems coexisting (no pecking/fighting, at least that I've seen).
    Here's the problem: At night, the two young'uns refuse to roost like the older birds. They huddle in the corner, on a tiny piece of 2x2 (so I guess they are roosting, in a way). We have tried physically moving them late at night (they always jump off and go back), giving them multiple roosting options (all wide enough and high enough), getting rid of the original ladder-like roost and making one super-long single height roost so everyone is equal, and obstructing their corner huddle spot (they just huddle elsewhere). Here's the thing: I don't really care if they sleep on the floor, BUT - if given the option, they will always retreat to the nesting boxes. So now, we run up there at night to block off the nesting boxes (we have an afternoon layer) and then run up at 6 am to unblock the nesting boxes, only to find one hen has already layed in the pine shavings by then. We've been doing this for over a month -- the routine is getting tedious!
    Oh, and in case it matters: it's warm here (avg 90 daytime/55-60 nighttime), the pullets are almost as big as the old gals, the pullets know how to roost -- they do it in the run all day long, and they all share food and water now without drama.

    Help!!
     
  2. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Sits With Chickens Premium Member

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    Many younger chickens will pile and sleep on the floor for a few months, it's quite normal, they will move up to the roosts when they are ready. It takes some time for them to master being able to grip a roost all night while sleeping. I wouldn't worry.
     
  3. anjainCA

    anjainCA New Egg

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    Thanks @oldhenlikesdogs. In that case fingers crossed they get it together soon!
     
  4. eleaserek

    eleaserek Chillin' With My Peeps

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    do they jump off immediately? I know I have one chicken who gets bullied off the roost on occasion. We finally set up a game cam to see what the heck was going on. I had to check the nesting boxes every night pretty much all winter [​IMG] We recently added a few new pullets so the previously bullied chicken has had a break now. However, the new pullets are about 3 months old and are having similar issues as you describe. Except they havnt discovered the nesting boxes at least!!
    I'm currently working on adding roosts myself to help make roosting the a little less stressful!
     
  5. anjainCA

    anjainCA New Egg

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    @eleaserek Let me know how it works! We tried everything - adding another roost (no one used it), one super long roost instead of a tiered one (thinking maybe the pullets didn't like being below the older hens), dividing the long roost into two sections with a giant piece of cardboard so they can't see each other -- nothing worked!! :-/ Never knew chickens could be so particular...

    And yeah, if we move them onto the roost after dark they jump off immediately while the older hens squawk and fuss. For a while the older hens were guarding their food and water -- they've since let that go. Hoping the roost situation is similar.
     
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2016
  6. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    When trying to solve the problem of chickens not roosting where you need them, it helps to observe the flock dynamics at roosting time. There may be things going on that you aren't aware of, such as conflicts and bullying.

    It's important to rule these other things out that may be interfering with young pullets' learning to roost. Your older chickens are still young enough that they may be preventing the juveniles from using the perches.

    As far as illicit use of the nesting boxes to sleep in, you really have little choice but to block them off until the pullets learn to roost properly.

    You can help the pullets learn to roost by placing them repeatedly on the perches, pushing them as close together as possible for security and as far from the older chickens as you can get them. Laying your hands on their backs lightly and making a "shhing" sound will help calm them so they will remain.

    Repeating this training for several nights may be tedious and demanding on your part, but well worth it to establish the habits you want to see.
     
  7. Ermine

    Ermine New Egg

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    My hens are about 6 mos old, still sleeping in a nest box inside a coop. I had to put an extra nesting box for eggs and they`re all laying in it
     
  8. anjainCA

    anjainCA New Egg

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    Thanks @azygous! At least now I know there's not some magic chicken-training trick that I'm missing out on :)
     
  9. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Am curious how long you tried these things?
    It can take a few days to a few weeks to 'train' a new habit.
    Adding another roost has always worked for me, but it can take time and 'training'.
     
  10. eleaserek

    eleaserek Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Well, procrastinator that I am, I still have not gotten any new roosts up. But they all seem to be working things out on there own! I peek in on them just after dark, and I haven't had to move anyone in about a week! Success! I still may change things up down the road (I want to add a poop board, that will require some rearranging) but the one long roost seems to be working now. The littles (who are about 3 months) are working there way into the pecking order. Yay! There is definitely something to be said about persistence.
     

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