Why are my hens so weird?

GoatsandGuineas

Songster
Oct 29, 2021
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north central Arkansas
So, I've said in passing in other threads that my 16 RIR laying hens refuse to be "caged" and resist going into the protected run at night and will only go into the fenced (but not covered) run. But this evening, I go out: pitch black, damp ground from heavy rains last night, 38°F...and only 6 of the hens are in the actual henhouse. Of those six, four are on the roosting bars and two are on a pile of straw on the floor in the corner. The other ten??? Three are roosting on the upturned roots of a giant fallen tree (this I understand). One is on a "branch" of a sucker root about a foot off the ground, with two others on the ground at the base of that main tree. Three huddled on the cold wet ground against the chain link fence. And one off by herself against another side of the chain link fence about 5 feet away from those by the tree.

The henhouse, to explain, has been regularly treated with ash and diatomaceous earth to prevent mites. I clean out poop piles every morning and add fresh straw every few days. There are two 6-foot wide roosting bars and 9 nesting boxes. Not that it's ideal to use nesting boxes for sleeping, but my point is that there is room for the rest of the ladies...even if it's not perfect. The ladies all lay their eggs in the nesting boxes and eat from the hanging feeder regularly, so it's not like they're opposed to entering the henhouse. Why on earth are they sleeping ... on the cold wet earth????? And against a chain link fence where a predator that does make it's way past the dogs could grab them through the fence??? The roosting bars were mostly free with two hens on each. I don't understand why they'd choose to sleep in such inhospitable conditions as wet cold ground when there's cozy dry house to sleep in.

Any thoughts?
 

Gigi_The_Chicken

Songster
Premium Feather Member
Aug 18, 2021
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When I was training mine to go in at night, I would pluck them up one by one and place them in the coop. I did this for a few months until they started doing it on their own. Sometimes, you just gotta be straightforward about it.
 

GoatsandGuineas

Songster
Oct 29, 2021
261
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north central Arkansas
When I was training mine to go in at night, I would pluck them up one by one and place them in the coop. I did this for a few months until they started doing it on their own. Sometimes, you just gotta be straightforward about it.
I tried this several weeks ago (all of mine I adopted after they were already grown and accustomed to being fully free range). The result was a bunch of freaked out birds frantically trying to escape the evil henhouse.
 

GoatsandGuineas

Songster
Oct 29, 2021
261
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north central Arkansas
Photos of your coop, inside and out?

Have you had these birds since they were chicks, or did you get them when they were older? Have they ever slept inside the coop?
No, these 10 have never slept in the coop. I just wish they'd not sleep on the cold wet ground. So maybe adding more hiding places to the run would be a good compromise.
 

aart

Chicken Juggler!
Premium Feather Member
9 Years
Nov 27, 2012
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My Coop
My Coop
Lock them in the coop for a week or so.....to home them.

The henhouse, to explain, has been regularly treated with ash and diatomaceous earth to prevent mites.
Neither ash nor DE will really prevent nor eliminate an infestation.


Have you checked them, and the coop, over real well for mites and/or lice?

Google images of lice/mites and their eggs before the inspection so you'll know what you're looking for.

Part the feathers right down to the skin around vent, head/neck and under wings.


Best done well after dark with a strong flashlight/headlight, easier to 'catch' bird and also to check for the mites that live in structure and only come out at night to feed off roosting birds.

Wipe a white paper towel along the underside of roost to look for red smears(smashed well fed mites).

Good post about mite ID by Lady McCamley:
https://www.backyardchickens.com/threads/my-chicken-has-mites-now-what.1273674/page-2#post-20483008
 

GoatsandGuineas

Songster
Oct 29, 2021
261
1,025
181
north central Arkansas
Lock them in the coop for a week or so.....to home them.


Neither ash nor DE will really prevent nor eliminate an infestation.


Have you checked them, and the coop, over real well for mites and/or lice?

Google images of lice/mites and their eggs before the inspection so you'll know what you're looking for.

Part the feathers right down to the skin around vent, head/neck and under wings.


Best done well after dark with a strong flashlight/headlight, easier to 'catch' bird and also to check for the mites that live in structure and only come out at night to feed off roosting birds.

Wipe a white paper towel along the underside of roost to look for red smears(smashed well fed mites).

Good post about mite ID by Lady McCamley:
https://www.backyardchickens.com/threads/my-chicken-has-mites-now-what.1273674/page-2#post-20483008
Thanks aart for the thoughts. I've gotten the ladies fairly accustomed to being picked up and handled. I've checked them for mites since we got them. At first, they were (from a newbie's standpoint) pretty bad. But after being here on our patch of earth and having access to good food and loads of places for dust baths, I haven't found a single mite in months. I'll go out and check their coop like you said tomorrow evening after dark.
 

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