Why are my hens so weird?

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
12 Years
Feb 2, 2009
28,308
23,668
907
Southeast Louisiana
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.
It would be uncomfortable to you but it isn't to chickens. They are equipped to handle it. The simple answer is that is where they want to be. Otherwise they would be somewhere else.

I lived outside Fayetteville for several years so I have an idea of your climate. I grew up in the ridges of East Tennessee which has an equivalent climate. Mom and Dad had chickens sleeping in trees in the winter. Even temperatures below 0 F (-18 C) didn't bother them. Very few people on this forum have seen how chickens manage in that kind of weather. It gives you an appreciation of what chickens need versus what we think they need. Much like the wild birds that overwinter there, I think your chickens have the option to find a place that protects them from the weather according to their needs. Most of the flocks of people on here don't have those options, they are restricted to pretty small and often barren coops and runs. With that tree stump in your run I envision something really nice.

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.
Yet they lay in there so the henhouse isn't totally evil. I suspect that reaction had something to do with them not liking change (being locked up). Chickens can be pretty adaptable so if you give them a little time they should calm down before too long.

I can't find where you said how big that coop is. With two roosts 6 feet long it implies it's only 6 feet wide. It may be too small to leave them locked in there for long. That may have had something to do with them not liking being locked in there during the day.

I'm not sure how predator proof your chain link run is, that would be my concern. You have fox, wildcat, raccoons, and other critters that can climb chain link. Owls hunt at night. If you are not going to lock them in the coop overnight if they go in there it really doesn't matter, but yours can be trained to sleep in there. It will take some work and consistency on your part. There is nothing in their instincts that tells them they need to sleep inside a building. You have to get them in the habit of sleeping in there.

If you can't lock them in there for weeks on end, you can go out when it gets dark and they go to sleep. They are usually pretty easy to catch then. Lock them in the coop overnight. It may take a while, even weeks, but they should eventually all put themselves to sleep in there. That's the way I'd approach it.
 

GoatsandGuineas

Songster
Oct 29, 2021
291
1,163
181
north central Arkansas
It would be uncomfortable to you but it isn't to chickens. They are equipped to handle it. The simple answer is that is where they want to be. Otherwise they would be somewhere else.

With that tree stump in your run I envision something really nice.


I can't find where you said how big that coop is. With two roosts 6 feet long it implies it's only 6 feet wide. It may be too small to leave them locked in there for long. That may have had something to do with them not liking being locked in there during the day.


If you can't lock them in there for weeks on end, you can go out when it gets dark and they go to sleep. They are usually pretty easy to catch then. Lock them in the coop overnight. It may take a while, even weeks, but they should eventually all put themselves to sleep in there. That's the way I'd approach it.
LOL Yes, today I constructed all sorts of neat little shelters (for example, one is a giant trough on its side with nice fresh straw for bedding to give them shelter above and on three sides without them feeling trapped) right where the birds have been sleeping. But I just went out to check on them and sure enough, they're sleeping BESIDE the shelters, on the ground. I tried putting them into the shelters, but they scurried right back out again.

The tree stump is nice, but the coops are not. These were all constructed prior to us buying the property and both are in need of TLC. The protected run is much better now that I've pulled off all of the old broken wire and replaced it. It's not perfect, but it's far better than it was, but only connects to one of the coops. The connecting run between the two coops is not covered, just surrounded by chain link fencing. I envision so much more, but alas, money doesn't grow on that tree stump, so it will all have to just be an ongoing project.

I never locked the birds in during the day as the coop is too small for them to just live in it (12×7). I just tried putting them in there at night, but I think I tried too fast with too many birds at one time. The same number of birds (16) sleep in the other coop quite happily. It was constructed differently though, with two 11ft long roosts. I think it was originally built for guineas with roosts at 4ft high, but the younger flock loves it.

I think I may try adding one bird at a time into the coop at night. Meaning, get one bird sort of used to it for a few days, then begin with another bird. It might take a month to finally get all of them in there, but I'll try.

Never a dull moment.
 

musikfan

Chirping
Nov 23, 2021
74
232
68
I'm no expert, but do you think the hens would actually roost in the coop if they thought it was the ideal place? My first impression is that some will just insist on being outside, regardless. Who knows? Mine automatically go into the coop as soon as it gets dark. I figure that if they are happy, then I'd let them alone. However, you always have the greater risk of critters. I used to have some RIR's that wanted to roost in the high parts of some pine trees next to the coop. They did that a few times, but most often they were in the coop. Should you force your chickens ito the coop?
 

3KillerBs

Enabler
Premium Feather Member
12 Years
Jul 10, 2009
12,053
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North Carolina Sandhills
My Coop
My Coop
Should you force your chickens ito the coop?

The purpose of the coop is twofold, to keep the chickens safe from predators and to keep them from wandering away so that you don't have chickens anymore.

I had pullets who didn't want to go in so, knowing that their facilities were perfectly adequate, I put them in until they learned that their coop was home.
 

GoatsandGuineas

Songster
Oct 29, 2021
291
1,163
181
north central Arkansas
While predators are an issue (far less so due to the LGDs' pens surrounding the chicken runs, but still something to consider), the danger of them running off is next to zero. They have a good life here and they quite willingly all put themselves up at night...it's just that the RIRs put themselves up in the run, rather than in the coop. No matter where or how far they've wandered during the day (and some wander VERY far), about 30 minutes before sunset, every one of them is either in the run or right next to the entrance. As soon as I come out with treats, they all rush into the run.
 

musikfan

Chirping
Nov 23, 2021
74
232
68
The purpose of the coop is twofold, to keep the chickens safe from predators and to keep them from wandering away so that you don't have chickens anymore.

I had pullets who didn't want to go in so, knowing that their facilities were perfectly adequate, I put them in until they learned that their coop was home.
Sounds like a plan! :)
 

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