Thoughts on why my chicks didn't go into their coop tonight?


8 Years
Jan 27, 2011
Vancouver Island
My older group of chicks has been in their coop for 3+ weeks now, and have been free ranging for at least two and always gone back in the coop at night. Usually a lot earlier than I expect (sometimes as early as 6:30 I've gone in and found them roosting already and it gets dark here around 9:30 or 10 right now). My younger group has been out in the coop for about 2 weeks and actually free for about a week, and again, have always been back in the coop by dark. Often earlier than the older group.

Tonight, I went out around 8:00 to close up the coop and was surprised they were all still out, wandering around, pecking at grass, etc. They seemed happy, so though I made a half-hearted attempt to shoo them all into the coop, I decided to leave them and come back after I'd put the baby down. I went out again around 9:30, almost completely dark, and the older group of chickens were all huddled together on the top step of our deck. I thought that was really odd and grabbed a couple of them to start taking them back, and realized the younger group were all huddled on (and under) the bottom steps. I put them all in the coop (on the roost, which hopefully is okay, the younger ones haven't actually started roosting yet, I'm hoping the Silkies will be able to get down in the morning), two-by-two, and they were all there (though I couldn't find two of them at first, but they were just fast asleep and not peeping until my hand managed to make contact with one of them under the step). I went back out with a flash light and searched the coop to make sure nothing was hiding in there that would have spooked them. Got the stink eye as I shone the light near the sleeping chicks. They were all amazingly calm as I picked them up to bring them to the coop and settled on the roost quite happily.

The room where I put the baby down is right over the coop and deck stairs and normally if something spooks them I hear it pretty clearly, and I didn't hear anything at all. Both the run/pop door and coop door were open because the younger group haven't quite figured out they have to go in the run to get into the coop yet, so it's not like they were locked out. They don't really like each other yet and don't mingle, so it's odd that neither of the two groups were in there. I don't get it and now I'm a bit paranoid about letting them free range again. At least this time they were right by the house and I couldn't have missed them. I'm on an acre and a half though, if they chose to roost in the woods I'd never find them.
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Well, you're wise to have checked out the coop for predators. But if it was a pretty day there, they may have simply got caught up in it until it was too dark inside the coop to look safe. You mentioned they'd been going in as early as 6:30, so it wouldn't be so dark inside the coop to look scary. Kind of like going home and entering your house (without turning on lights) at 6:30 vs. 9 or 9:30. I'd bet the latter moreso than a predator. If you have electricity available, you might consider a small light on a plug in timer inside your coop - set to turn on around 8 and off around 10...
That is an interesting point that I hadn't thought of! The weather yesterday was beautiful and sunny, even right into the evening. I bet you're right. Unfortunately, we don't have electricity in the coop. Is that something they will eventually get over or is it a problem even for older chickens? The coop is pretty close to the house and we have a flood light I could shine in that direction. With the door open it might provide them a little more light in there.

Thanks so much!
This is how I have done it for over a year. The light shine through the door and shows them the way in. The timer was a perfect add to the coop.
Within a few months, they'll have it down so that should never happen again (although on really nice days my big girls will stay out much later than normal). Chickens are pretty helpless in the dark, which is why it's so easy to catch them/handle them at that time, even wilder flock members that are normally very flighty. It's also what makes them so vulnerable to night time predators. Anyhow...I think the floodlight might make things worse, as then it really WILL appear lighter (safer) outside than in. If it happens again tonight, I'd invest a few dollars in one of those little battery operated pushlights (I think even Kroger has them) and mount it inside. Turn it on right before dark, and off when you go out to shut your pop door. A few weeks of that and they will be well set into their pattern of going inside. But I'd guess, since you said they'd been in the coop for a few weeks, that last night was just a fluke...
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