Transitioning young chickens from brooder to coop/run


Mar 18, 2017
I'm a chicken-newbie and will be putting the finishing touches on my small coop/run tomorrow. I put my 3 chicks (6 weeks old) into the run for a couple of hours today and will do the same tomorrow. I'll probably move them into their new digs permanently on Thursday as they are getting too big for their brooder area. I've added an automatic coop door and want to train them to get into the coop into the evenings before the door closes as dusk.

Any suggestions on how to get them oriented to enter the coop in the evenings?

Also, I've read here that the nest boxes should be blocked off until they start laying so that the chicks don't get used to using that area for general coop activities. Any other suggestions for transitioning young chickens to a coop/run environment?

Thanks in advance.
Keeping your chicks confined to the coop (with food and water) for around 72 hours before opening the coop door to the run will help them associate the coop with "home". Also, hanging a flashlight in the coop at dusk will also help encourage them to migrate to the coop before nightfall. Here's a link of a search on the subject that you may find interesting -
I put my chicks out a few weeks ago and they were about the same age. Mine just went into the coop when it was getting towards dusk. I also put in an automatic door, but I have mine to go by time. It opens at 5:30 am and closes at 8:00 pm. It gets dark with me about 7:30 right now, so the chicks are inside by about 7 or 7:15. I was worried about them getting inside, so that's why I use the time setting and not dusk to close the door.

I would suggest putting them in the coop with the door open so they know where to go and then can go outside on their own. That worked for me when I did it a couple of times at first. I haven't had a problem with them going into the nesting boxes yet, but I have two older ones so I can't close them off. I also let one of the older chickens sleep in a nesting box as she has a crippled foot and has a hard time with a perch at chickens are just a little spooled. They seem to have the natural instinct to go in at night but may just need a little encouragement at first.
When we transitioned our chicks from brooder to coop, we kept them closed in the coop for about a week (the run wasn't finished anyway). It seemed to help them learn that the coop was home so they went in at dusk on their own.

The weather was still cool as well as the coop being large and well ventilated, so there were no issues with them being too hot.
There can be some issues moving chicks to the coop. My grow-out coop is elevated, I think that causes me some problems. I usually don’t have these issues with my two coops at ground level. My grow-out coop is about two feet off the ground.

I normally keep the chicks in the coop by itself for about a week before I open the pop door to their run. Sometimes all the chicks are on the ground within 15 minutes of opening that pop door, sometimes it takes a couple of days before all of them venture out, I let them decide. Normally they all do get out that first day.

It’s very normal that they go to sleep on the ground under the pop door the first night, no matter how long they have been locked in the coop. After it’s dark enough to catch them easily I toss them in the coop and lock them in there. My broods are normally in the 15 to 25 range, not three like yours. On extremely rare occasions I only have to do this once. Sometimes it takes three weeks before all of them put themselves to bed. What normally happens is that a few start after a night or two doing this and all learn within a week, but each brood is different. And since you only have three my guess is that they will all want to be together, wherever that is.

In my opinion, the main benefit in keeping the nests blocked until they start to lay is that you have trained them to lay somewhere other than the nests so you get to open a new thread about how to get your pullets to lay in the nests. It helps keep the forum going.

My brooder-raised chicks normally start spending the nights on the roosts around 10 to 12 weeks of age. I have had some start about 5 weeks, I’ve had some go longer, but 10 to 12 weeks is a good average. When they start roosting at night will be important to you.

I don’t know what your coop looks like internally. With only three I’d assume it is pretty small. Typically chickens like to roost on the highest point available. If your roosts are the highest thing in the coop and there is ample room, they tend to roost on the roosts, not in your nests. But even then, sometimes one or more will sleep in you nests. They are not that consistent in behaviors, there are always exceptions to what they normally do. If they are going to sleep in your nests, I’d want to know it before I get poopy eggs so I can fix the problem. To find out the nests need to be open before they start to lay, not when or after.

Normally about a week before they start to lay, the pullets start looking for a safe place to make a nest. I want them to include the nests as part of that search. That can’t happen if the nests are blocked. Often part of that search includes some scratching. This can help you find another problem. If you find the bedding and maybe a fake egg on the coop floor, your lip is probably not high enough. You may need to modify your nests before good eggs wind up on the coop floor or an egg gets cracked when laid because you don’t have bedding in the nest or there is some other problem.

For these reasons I want the nests open about a week before they start to lay. I’ve had some pullets start to lay at 16 weeks though that is really rare. So my goal is to have the nests open by 15 to 16 weeks. There is nothing wrong with leaving the nests blocked until then, that may help train them to sleep on the roosts instead of in the nests. If yours are late to start roosting, at about 13 or 14 weeks you may want to start moving them to the roosts after it is dark to try to train them to sleep up there.

I never blocked my nests and it was never an issue, but with some people it is. I now have older hens so I cannot block my nests. When I integrate new chickens it sometimes becomes an issue, so I put a juvenile roost in, above my nests, lower than the main roosts, and horizontally separated from the main roosts so the chicks have a safe place to go that is not my nests. But you are not integrating, this should not be a problem for you. If your roosts are higher than the nests and they can get to them, you should not have problems. But if you do and you have a big enough coop so you can do something in there, we can help you fix that problem.

Good luck!
Assuming their are no adult chickens in the picture, the best way to transition the chicks to coop living would be to move them into the coop early in the day and close them in so they can explore and become comfortable in their new surroundings before it gets dark.

This is important. Chicks panic in strange surroundings as dark descends if they don't know what to expect, much as young children who are convinced monsters reside under their beds and in the closet after dark.

A dim night light in the coop for the first few nights during this process will help immensely. I find it really is of limited value to keep the chicks cooped up for several days following their initial move as they still will view the coop as alien for the simple reason it will appear different when they view it from outside.

The chicks will not automatically know to go inside when night comes no matter how long you coop them up. You will need to show them how to go through the pop hole for a few nights until they grasp the concept. The night light will aid in this endeavor.

If your coop is large enough for you to get inside and coax them in with treats, that can help hurry the process. It eliminates the need to collect, chase and grab, and stress out everyone which creates a negative learning experience.

It helps, when choosing the right moment to teach them to go in, to wait until the chicks are gathered in a bunch and making their nighttime trilling noises which signify readiness to go to bed. Keep it low-key, gentle, be patient, and they will learn in just a few nights what to do.
Thanks for your feedback everyone.

My setup is indeed a small commercial coop/run. I've had a low (4") roost in the brooder with them since about week 2. They spend a moderate amount of time on it during the day, but I've never seen them use it at night. They always sleep on the floor. The roosts both in the coop and run area are higher, but I expect that they will adapt easily enough.
Well, I kept the ladies in the coop for he last three days and let them enjoy the run today. I went out around dusk and they had all disappeared! :eek:

It turns out that they had all turned in and were settling in for the night back in the coop area. Worked far better than I had expected. :yesss: I'm going to turn on the automatic dawn/dusk function for my coop door and see how that works.

Thanks all for your suggestions!
Well, I kept the ladies in the coop for he last three days and let them enjoy the run today. I went out around dusk and they had all disappeared! :eek:

It turns out that they had all turned in and were settling in for the night back in the coop area. Worked far better than I had expected. :yesss: I'm going to turn on the automatic dawn/dusk function for my coop door and see how that works.

Thanks all for your suggestions!
What did you use for your automatic door?

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