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Seeking advice on making sure free range birds go back to coop at nite

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by MadChickensVT, Sep 5, 2011.

  1. MadChickensVT

    MadChickensVT Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Sep 5, 2011
    Middlebury, Vermont
    We have 15 hens and 1 rooster. They're a few months old and have been outside for about two months now. We haven't built a coop yet, they stay in a pen in our garage at night and free range during the day. When it gets close to dark we let them back into the garage and usually have no problems. Every now and then we have to go find one. It's nice being able to see them easily in the pen so we can count them.

    We also have a 2 year old German Shepherd who free ranges during the day as well. This surely helps keep the predators away. We have 18 acres in the country and can hear coyotes and bears regularly.

    We're about to build a coop that will be approximately 8x8x4ft tall. I'm a bit worried that it's going to be harder to count the birds once they are living in the coop, and I worry that we might accidentally close it up with a chicken left outside.

    Does anybody have any advice on how to make sure all the birds go in at night before we close up the coop for the night? Do we really need to worry about it?

    Thanks!
     
  2. chisNchickens

    chisNchickens Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Apr 16, 2011
    Strange...I almost could have written that. Although my german shepherd dog protects them at night. We are in the process of building our coop as the one we had planned to use initially was termite infested upon closer inspection. So, ours free range during the day and go into a huge cage at night (my gsd's old crate which is covered to make them feel secure). What we plan to do is fence the coop in at least initially until they get the "we're home" feeling. Then I will let them back out to free range during the day. (Our property is fenced already, so it would be fence within fence...)
     
  3. MyShunshyn

    MyShunshyn Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Sperrassoville, OK
    The way that we did it was when they were old enough to be out of the brooder we put them in thhe coop for a couple of days, and kept them in there so that they would know that was "home" then I only let them out in the run, no free ranging for a few days. Then only free range for a short time in the evenings right before dark. Now at 20 weeks they can stay our all day and come and go from the coop and nesting boxes, going in just before the sun sets to argue over who gets the best spot and go to bed, thenwe just go out and shut to coop and run.... Safe and Sound for the nite.

    Hope this helps
     
  4. gritsar

    gritsar Cows, Chooks & Impys - OH MY!

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    Once they are in the coop, lock em in for about a week. Sure, they'll hate it and complain alot but it will train them to consider the coop home and a safe place to be at night.
     
  5. MadChickensVT

    MadChickensVT Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Sep 5, 2011
    Middlebury, Vermont
    We're going to have an approx 12x12 fenced area attached to the coop for days that we don't want to let them free range. So perhaps we'll just keep that closed for the first week or so.

    It sounds like the chickens are pretty reliable about going back to the coop at night once they know where it is? I haven't been leaving the garage open except for when I want them to go in because otherwise they'd wander around in there and poop all over. Because of that I don't really have a sense of how reliable they are about going in by themselves without anyone watching them.
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2011
  6. MyShunshyn

    MyShunshyn Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jan 16, 2011
    Sperrassoville, OK
    Quote:Sounds like you have the idea... The 12 x12 run will be a good, there is always a time when you dont want the kids inthe yard running amok. You may have to go out and put them in the coop once or twice at night....our goofy girls slept right by the door...LOL so we put them on the roosts but they caught on pretty quick.
     
  7. Beekissed

    Beekissed True BYC Addict

    Why not extend your coop height to 6 or 7 ft. so you can walk in and view your flock? This makes it nice if you ever have to catch them and treat them in some way, as you will find it easier to just lift them off the roosts for this. If you cannot do this, then maybe a hatch opening for the same purpose?

    You will get the occasional rogue bird that thinks it's super cool to roost outside in weird places....this one will get picked off one night if your dog doesn't free range all night also. As suggested, every once in awhile free rangers have to be retrained to the coop for laying and for roosting purposes and you just shut them in for a week until they are used to the arrangement.
     
  8. MadChickensVT

    MadChickensVT Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Sep 5, 2011
    Middlebury, Vermont
    We're keeping the height of the coop low to help the birds stay warm in the winter. Unless someone in a northern area thinks otherwise.....?
     
  9. Beekissed

    Beekissed True BYC Addict

    We get pretty cold temps here in the mountains and my coop/hen house is about 9 ft. tall. You'll probably get more mileage out of using deep litter than you will with lowering the roof. Heat rises, so just locate roosts high in the coop.
     

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