Warm weather--hens staying outside

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by jeannedeaux, May 20, 2019.

  1. jeannedeaux

    jeannedeaux Chirping

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    I have 12 hens and a rooster. All are at least 14 months old. Last year when it was warm, a few of them stayed outside the henhouse and I had to grab them and reopen auto door, insert them, and re-close. I thought it was just because they were young and still determining the pecking order in there. However, it is now getting warm again and anywhere from 2 to 6 of them stay out very late. I've changed the auto door closure to 10 pm (it is very dark by then) but there are always a few still sitting on the coop's porch roof or on the top of a little nursery run I built. They are inside the very large caged area, but I've had trouble with weasels cutting through any fencing plus the top is covered in chicken wire which many animals can pierce. I want them inside the hen house with the auto door closed to feel completely secure. There are at least 13 linear feet of roosting poles so I think overcrowding is not an issue. It's true they fight over the nest boxes (I have four) so perhaps there are social issues but once it gets dark, why can't they just go in and sleep? Short of having to go out every night to reopen door and manually put them inside, what can I do?
     
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  2. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Puppy Dreaming

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    What size is your coop? Chickens will always choose to go inside unless the coop is small, crowded or full of parasites, bugs, or other scary thing.

    12 hens and 13 feet of roost aren't quite enough. Not every bird wants to sleep next to another. Bottom ranking birds will often be driven off the main roost and will need to find elsewhere to roost.
     
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  3. jeannedeaux

    jeannedeaux Chirping

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    I was told the coop was built for 20 chickens. It's an L-shape about 5' x 3' twice. I've had as many as 15 hens without any problems before this. The odd thing is that the lower-ranked hens are the ones inside--it's the more dominant ones who are choosing to camp outside.
     
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  4. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Puppy Dreaming

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    That's a very small coop for that number. Manufacturers like to over estimate what can fit in their coops. They are okay up until they are not.
     
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  5. jeannedeaux

    jeannedeaux Chirping

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    Hmmm. It wasn't manufactured; the previous owners built it. Perhaps I should try to find a spot to add another roosting pole? Right now there are two in each corner, but maybe I could put one between, sticking out from the wall. I also wonder whether the fact that the rooster crows before the door opens in the morning, starting at like 4:30 am, bothers the hens? He is SO loud--it would drive me crazy.
     
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  6. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

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    5 x 3 twice and 13 linear feet of roost makes me think of an ell-shaped building with the outside dimensions 5' along one side and 8' along the other, and both sections 3 feet wide. That's 30 square feet and sections of the roosts are out of sight of other sections. That's not horrible as long as it is only used for sleeping but is tight if you leave them locked in there very long when they are awake. As you said, you have used it for 15 hens before. The thing that bothers me the most is that it is only 3' wide. One chicken can't walk past another without invading personal space. Once they are integrated it's usually not an issue but I would not want to try integrating new chickens in that.

    You don't have the typical problem where the dominant chickens are beating up on the less dominant so the less dominant look for a safer place to sleep. It's the more dominant chickens that want to sleep outside and dominant chickens sleep wherever they want to. I don't know why those roosts outside are more attractive. I don't think the rooster crowing has anything to do with it. They may be higher than the roosts inside. If your coop is only 3' wide it may not be very tall. My chickens have a preferred spot to roost, near the window. Maybe they like the view better out there. They go inside all right when it is cooler but when it warms up they want to sleep outside. How good is your ventilation on your coop, is it too warm? When the weather is colder mine tend to sleep closer together but when it warms up they like to spread out more on the roosts.

    What time do you open the pop door in the morning? The coop is small but if that pop door is open when they wake up they have the entire coop and run as space. How you manage them makes a difference as to how much coop space they need.

    I don't know what your real base problem is, why do they want to sleep outside? You can keep doing what you are, maybe they will retrain to go in at night. Can you make the places they want to sleep outside less attractive, maybe block them off so they don't have access without giving them new places to roost.

    Good luck! This could be a challenge.
     
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  7. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler!

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    My Coop
    Please post pics of coop and run, inside and out.
    How's the ventilation in the coop?

    Where in this world are you located?
    Climate, and time of year, is almost always a factor.
    Please add your general geographical location to your profile.
    It's easy to do, (laptop version shown), then it's always there!
    upload_2019-5-21_10-10-44.png
     
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  8. jeannedeaux

    jeannedeaux Chirping

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    I've updated status. Here are photos of (well-ventilated) coop. Thanks.
     

    Attached Files:

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  9. jeannedeaux

    jeannedeaux Chirping

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    Oh, and I have the auto-door open at 6:00 am during the longer days; 7:00 in the winter. This is mostly in respect to neighbors and because weasels once cut through all layers of wire and got in at dawn to slaughter nearly everyone. You can see in the photos that I did built a little nursery outside into which I could put the rooster for awhile if you all think he's the problem? That the hens don't like being around him?
    With some of them he over does it; others he ignores. Not sure how they actually feel about him since he often protects them and points out food (when he's not tearing off their feathers in his enthusiastic mating routine).
     
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  10. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Puppy Dreaming

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    That's a cute coop. Is there any places higher up to add some roosts? That may help.
     
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