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Refusing to Coop at night - Missionary in Africa needs help

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Colonel, Jan 11, 2013.

  1. Colonel

    Colonel Chirping

    Mar 19, 2007
    I am vice president of a non-profit corp. that provides financial and logistical support for missionaries in Sierra Leone, West Africa. Today, I received the following from Laura Holt and am hoping that folks here can offer some guidance. They have quite a bit of experience raising chickens in America, but being in Africa changes the whole game. This is one of several chicken problems they need help with, but I am splitting it up so that it goes to the appropriate forum section. The complete letter and a couple of photos are posted here - http://www.southernagrarian.com/chickens-in-africa/
    Notes in [brackets] are mine.

    Problem One: they utterly refuse to go into the coop at night. Initially Mercy [their Australian Shepherd] and I were herding them in. He is extremely good at it and we managed to force them in with relatively little trouble. Slowly but noticeably they became more difficult to persuade to go inside. We tried a light; a leg off the PV [solar power] system. No way. For the last week I have given up and allow them to sleep outside. They are so content and my reluctance to force them in is that when they are in the coop they bunch up so badly that I regularly had suffocations. They tightly pack just inside the door as if to say, “Alright, you want us in but we will go no further.” There is plenty of room. They are not afraid of the coop; they go in and out all day; that is where the laying boxes are. I am just stymied by the behavior. When outside they loosely group together for the night but not in heaps like when inside. We are considering closing in the feeding shed, which is open on two sides, with gates that can be opened during the day to allow ranging in the yard and closed at night.(see picture at the bottom) The trouble with letting them just be out in the open at night is animals and particularly cobras whom we are told have a fondness for chicken. Suggestions?

    [If you think you have predator problems where you are, "you ain't seen nothin"]


  2. willowbranchfarm

    willowbranchfarm Chicken Boots

    Oct 3, 2011
    My Coop
    Sometimes if there is a severe parasite infestaion (mites or lice) in the coop, chickens will not go in at night. Here is an article I wrote on them. https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/mites-lice-treatment-and-prevention You can check for these parasites by looking in the coop for little bugs crawling around and looking under your chickens feathers.
  3. Gargoyle

    Gargoyle Crowing

    Apr 13, 2011
    Fox Valley, IL
    My Coop
    Did they ever go roost in the coop by themselves? Also, what breed of chickens are they? Perhaps they are a breed that roosts differently, maybe high up in a tree or something.
    edit to add- I just read the full letter that you linked to:

    Quote: They will bunch together because they feel safe that way, but then they over heat. Perhaps you could add a fan for increased ventilation? It looks like it might have a metal roof, which could add to the heat.
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2013
  4. ChickensAreSweet

    ChickensAreSweet Heavenly Grains for Hens

    It could be that there are red mites (chicken mites) in the coop crevices, feeding on them at night. Hence they don't want to roost in there. Red mite might be seen if you go in with a flashlight and look under the roosts, and near cracks or in nestboxes, for bugs crawling in the dark.

    The cracks and crevices of the coop can be sprayed with a poultry-specific insecticide and then again in 7 days unless something is used with residual killing power (permethrin's residual killing power isn't good). Permethrin might not be the best one for red mite- here:

    see esp. about neem oil and other non-toxic methods of control- I wasn't aware of this either until reading this link


    This is just a possibility.
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2013
  5. 1muttsfan

    1muttsfan Crowing

    Mar 26, 2011
    Upper Peninsula Michigan
    You might try calling them into the coop in the evening before it gets dark with treats, then closing them in for the night. Can you extend the roost space near the door so that they can spread out a little? I assume heat is a problem - possibly a fan in the coop to prevent overheating at night?

    I bet you do have predators! I dont mind snakes, but cobras - ugh.

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