Why are 5-8 week old birds huddling in a group by the wall at night?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Woofless, May 27, 2010.

  1. Woofless

    Woofless Chirping

    Apr 7, 2010
    Just curious as to why they might be doing this?

    The last few times I've gone out to the pen after sunset to shut all the doors I've found all of my birds (28 chickens and 5 ducks) all clustered in a group in one area, against the wall, practically on top of one another. Temps have been above average, high 50's to 60 at night.....the youngest birds in the group are two 5 week old bantys who are fully feathered out, but most of the birds are 8 weeks old. They've been off the heat lamp and out in the pen 100% for a good 2 weeks now; I prolonged the heat lamp a bit due to a late season frost we had in early May.

    There's an old dog crate, several 5 gallon buckets and some other random wood boxes for sleeping spots but they aren't being used. The crate and 3 buckets are up against the wall right where the birds cluster, and rather than using the buckets, they push them to the side and sleep against the wall. I also have a perch set up (it gets used a lot during the day, nobody's perching at night yet). The pen I have them in is quite large- I'd say 15x25 feet, and most of the poultry netting is covered in that black ground cloth stuff to keep it dark & quiet and to keep predators from peeking in. (The pen used to be a growout pen for a large scale pheasant hatchery.) The wall they're huddling against isn't even the darkest, most "secluded" area of the pen- there are 2 corners that are MUCH darker and quieter, one with a perch, both with buckets and a lean-to for hiding....so I don't think they're trying to seek safety.

    This is fairly new behavior, unless I've just been going out to shut doors too early to see this (usually I DO go a bit before dusk)....the first time I noticed it, there was a big nasty storm approaching so I figured they were just wigging out from the thunder. Last night was clear, calm and mild, and yet there they were in a cluster. Odd that the ducks get in on it too- since the ducks (and two little black chickies who got put in the ducks' brooder for a while and apparently think they're Cayuga ducks lol) generally segregate themselves during the day.

    I've been gently picking them up & placing them inside the crate, buckets, etc when I close them in for the night....they seem to stay put. Is this just a habit they'll have to learn, or do I need to provide them with different kinds of sleeping spots??
    Last edited: May 27, 2010
  2. ozark hen

    ozark hen Living My Dream

    Apr 4, 2007
    Mansfield, MO
    Sounds like they need some roosts to sleep on at night instead of crates and boxes? You might try putting in some roosts about three feet off the ground (or more). My roosts are at three different levels. Possibly something has frightened them, too? Even my five week old chicks roost on their roost in their brooder inside the coop. The brooder roost is only about a foot off the ground. Try removing all boxes and using only roosts in there and see what happens. You may have to put them up for a few nights till they get used to it. Let us know and good luck. You are right, you don't want them to make that a habit. I found a black snake in the coop yesterday [​IMG]
  3. patnjess

    patnjess Songster

    Apr 2, 2010
    all my chickens sleep in a big huddle on the roosts, I've seen them fighting for a spot up there, they will knock eachother off.
  4. gettinaclue

    gettinaclue Songster

    Mar 12, 2009
    I have tried to figure this one out as well. My ten, 10 week old chicks have been in the coop for over a week now with plenty of roost space and they all huddle together in one nest box practaclly on top of each other. Anyone who doesn't fit will perch on the edge.

    During the day if they nap, they go on the roost. For bed they all gather in the nest boxes.

    Can anyone tell me why, or at least how to correct this behavior.
  5. A.T. Hagan

    A.T. Hagan Don't Panic

    Aug 13, 2007
    North/Central Florida
    It takes time for chickens to catch on to the idea of roosts. They don't all automatically just jump on from the first day.

    Unless there is something that makes them unappealing they will all eventually catch on to the idea and start using them. Some adventurous bird will try it first then the rest will gradually follow.

    One way to speed up the process is to put a "practice roost" in the brooder itself. They'll just play on it at first, but gradually they'll get the idea it's a good place to sleep once they no longer need additional heat. When you move them into their permanent quarters they should take to the roosts more quickly.
  6. fldiver97

    fldiver97 Songster

    Aug 5, 2009
    Middleton, WI
    Mine did not roost at night until they were a bit older. They did use the roost, it did not seem to be an issue of height etc. They slept huddled together until they were about 3 or 4 months old. Once a couple started roosting at night, the others followed within a couple of days. Just make sure you have a roost at a level appropriate for their size or several level roost. Maybe put them on the roost after dark a few times if you don't want to wait and see. Now, I don't know anything about ducks....or the chicks that think they are ducks. Maybe they will be a bit confused?? [​IMG]
  7. cluckers&quackers

    cluckers&quackers Songster

    Aug 29, 2008
    I don't really have an answer, but sometimes I wonder if it is just a comfort thing, that maybe they just feel safer cuddled together.

    I have some 4 week olds that had been in the house because our weather had been so crazy I hadn't put them out. Even inside with the house nice and warm they all were cuddling up together on one end of the brooder box. And knowing that the house was plenty warm enough for them I ruled out that they were cuddling because they were cold.

    I have also noticed that my adult girls will get on the roost, but normally there are several in one spot all tight together in a row. Not usually a single bird in one spot.

    Sometimes I think they just feel safer being together. I don't know if that is the case, just my thoughts [​IMG]
  8. feathersnuggles

    feathersnuggles Songster

    Sep 4, 2009
    I had the same experience with our young birds. They had plenty of low-enough roosts, everywhere in the coop. Yet they huddled at night together on the floor in the straw and shavings -- usually they packed together into a single corner of the coop, in a suffocating heap. Eventually, I tore a cardboard box apart and fashioned them an "ark", which had a corner and a surrounds. They slept on the coop floor, inside the confines of their "ark" for many weeks, until they were quite a bit older.
  9. Neilette

    Neilette Songster

    Apr 18, 2010
    Seattle, WA
    Give all those buckets to some rabbits -- they'll appreciate them! But if you think about it, chickens descend from birds who would rather huddle under bushes as a last resort, than enter a den(!). Against a wall (/tree?) is probably the best cover they can come up with, which is why it's so popular.

    After physically moving the chicks to the coop every night, they got the hang of it in under a week.
  10. Sunny Side Up

    Sunny Side Up Count your many blessings...

    Mar 12, 2008
    Loxahatchee, Florida
    Mine do the same thing, I call it "playing Bait Bucket" because they draw additional attention to themselves by cheeping really loudly and desparately until night falls. They press their soft little sides up against the wire, even though they have roosts or boxes well inside the pen at much safer locations. What a temptation to any passing raccoon, opossum, or cat. They must be physically moved night after night after night until they finally change their habit.

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