Time for Tough Love?


10 Years
May 27, 2009
Hello everyone,

I am a new chicken owner and this message board has been a tremendous help to me so far. Now I need some specific advice on how to handle the transition (for me and for the chickens) into coop living.

I have 3 BRs that are almost 6 weeks old. We moved them into their coop last weekend, and finished their permanent pen a couple of days ago. The first couple of days in the coop/pen combo, I moved their food and water outside during the day while they were out, and in the evening moved them back inside and manually placed the girls inside and closed the door.

What I would like to have happen, is to keep the food and water inside the coop, and have the girls "put themselves to bed" in the coop in the evenings, but I'm not sure I'm going about this the right way. Today I left the food and water in the coop and I've gone out there several times and placed each chicken in the coop so they'd see that that's where the food is. Each time was like a revelation to them: "Hey! There's food in here!", and they each gorged on feed like they hadn't eaten in days. I was hoping they'd eventually go in there on their own when they got hungry, but so far that doesn't seem to be happening. My question is, do I stop "reminding" them where the food is and let them figure it out, or do I keep helping them? I'm worried about them not eating/drinking enough during the day. To add to my distress, it's been raining off and on today and the girls have not figured out that they should take shelter in the coop. Should I go out there and place them in the coop when it starts raining, or let them figure it out? What about at night, should I be placing them in the coop, or should I let them wander in there when they're ready? I don't want them to think that they way to get food/shelter is to wait for the human to arrive and bring them to where they need to be; on the other hand I keep thinking they're still babies and maybe they need a little help. Any advice? Thank you all in advance. I'm loving my chick-rearing experience so far!


Me + Peeps

In the Brooder
10 Years
Jun 16, 2009
Sometimes for chickens to get where their home is they have to be kept inside the coop for a few days and then let out and if you feed them in the evenings they will go back there every night.


Rest in Peace 1956-2011
11 Years
Aug 25, 2008
from South Carolina!

Second, since they are only 6 weeks, you may need to coddle them a bit, show the food and water often. Keep it in the coop, and as said by Me + Peeps, you might have to keep them in the coop a few days.

They will eventually figure it out, but it does take patience.


11 Years
May 23, 2009
I think the idea of locking them in the coop for a few hours at a time is a great idea.

From what I've observed in the last month, chickens are creatures of habit. Once they get into the habit of doing something, they're fine.

When I moved my four chicks from their brooder out into a pen on our breezeway for the daytime, they all freaked out at first. Gradually, they got used to it, as I sat in a chair and talked to them periodically. Now when I go inside from time to time, they're fine with it.

I'm getting them used to their coop in the back yard now by bringing them out there for chicken field trips. I sit with them in their yard for a little bit, and then leave them alone for a little bit. They don't like the alone part, yet, but gradually this, too, will become routine.


10 Years
May 27, 2009
Thank you all for the great advice, and thank you ranchhand for the warm welcome.

I persisted yesterday and kept showing them the food, in addition to closing them in the coop for a couple of hours in the afternoon. Last night we tried a combination of suggesting it was bedtime by placing them in the coop (but not closing the door) and waiting for them to wander in. It mostly worked, and I suspect I was just trying to get them to bed too early in the evening as they did eventually settle down, just much later than I would have expected.

The upshot is, I think your suggestions are working - this morning we opened the coop and they all went outside, and an hour later we saw them entering the coop for food! Yippee! I guess the lesson in it for me is patience and persistence (and asking the experts for help

Thanks again, guys.


10 Years
May 11, 2009
Orange, Texas
when i first put mine out --- i kept the food and the water in the coop part

after a week - i moved the food down to the run and showed them where it was --- and put them back in the coop every night

after another week i moved the water down to the run -- so now they know where they need to sleep (except for the silkies) and they know where the food and water is


Cows, Chooks & Impys - OH MY!
13 Years
Nov 9, 2007
SW Arkansas
With summer heating it up it's a good idea to offer them water both inside and out. Food can stay inside, but they really need the choice of having water in either place.
As a newbie chicken owner I wondered why my hens combs always looked so dry, not waxy as they should. Their coop door is open all day and I figured they'd go in if they were thirsty. I was wrong.
My DH suggested I add waterers in various locations outside and I saw an immediate difference in their combs. Their combs were dry because they were dehydrated.
Don't count on them going into the coop to eat and drink. My chickens free range all day, when they're not begging at the back door. They only eat and drink in the coop when they go in to lay eggs and at bedtime.


10 Years
May 29, 2009
I was worried about the same thing. Turns out though, around 6-8 weeks, my RIRs started putting themselves to bed just fine! You can try locking them in the coup, sure, but if you make sure its filled with fluffy warm things for them to snuggle in or nice roosts to perch on they will discover it for themselves and put themselves to bed just fine.


13 Years
Jan 11, 2007
Northern Va.
The farm where I take care of the chicks, chickens and bunnies has twenty 8 - week old chicks. They built the brooder to combine as a coop until they get moved in the Fall to better quarters. After it was decided they needed to be allowed out of the brooder, I had the owner open the door, build a ramp and predator proof run so that they could go in and out as they pleased. The food stayed inside and I see them go in to eat several times while I'm there. I moved the water outside for two reasons: they keep kicking shavings into the waterer, even though I have it elevated and, also, they spend most of their time outside anyway. (Only seem to go in to eat). The brooder/coop is raised enough that they can go underneath to get cool and that's where they seem to hang out until bedtime. They go in on their own and this seems to have worked out well. I just wish they could roost now but the coop is too short to put a roost. They do have something to "practice" on outside. Sorry I kind of ran away with this thread. I haven't talked chicken in a while! Can you tell?


10 Years
Apr 11, 2009
Highlands Ranch
We offered water and food inside and out, and now food just outside. Our 6 teenagers learned after a week of sticking them in their at bedtime that the coop was very comfy, and I went down to get them and they were all inside. They will get the hang of it if you keep sticking them in their, just hang in there! Good luck

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