Winter is here and the chickens won't go to bed


5 Years
Jan 1, 2015
I think I've nurtured a bad habit in my chickens. Temps here are now below freezing every night but for some reason my chickens won't go into their coop at night. They huddle together under the coop in the run and will stay there all night. But if I go into the run to check on them, they all head up the ramp and into the coop. I have NO IDEA what is wrong! No mites in the coop (I use diacatameous earth with their bedding). Lots of space. Food. Treats. Water. Light. A little dust bath. They wander in and out during the day no problem but won't go up to bed unless I'm there to "tuck them in". How do I break that habit?! In the summer, when it was hot, they went to bed on their own, but when fall came they stopped. Anyone else have this problem/a solution? I'm worried they're going to freeze. Thanks!
Maybe the shorter days just messed up their schedule or something. I hope someone can help you, i have no idea. Mine stay out a little after dark, but they are inside by the time i go to lock up, sometimes 1 or 2 take their time going in, even though everyone else is roosting already.
If your chickens were roosting in the coop on their own all summer, and now they don't want to go inside unless you are there, then something in the coop has them nervous about being in there.

Chickens are strict creatures of habit. For them to suddenly break a habit, and I'm not talking about needing you to be there when they need to roost, they are off about something in the coop, something that's changed since summer.

You need to find out what's changed. It wouldn't be out of the question to have a small crack enabling rats or even a raccoon to come into the coop at night. If something like that is occurring, that would account for why your chickens don't want to go in at night.

If the coop is secure, then it's a matter of re-training the chickens to go in at night. You can either coop them up for a few days until they imprint on the coop again, or each night train them to go inside again as you did when they were first moved into the coop as chicks.
Do you have lots of windows for light in the coop?
Low light of winter can make the coop very dark inside before it gets dark outside.

Is there plenty of ventilation up high?
Thanks for the help, everyone!

The coop has lots of light (windows and I put an LED night light in there to help draw them in) and ventilation up high. I followed some advice and cooped them up for 2 full days and nights and for the next 2 nights they went to bed no problem! Tonight's the third night: they were sleeping outside under the coop again when I went to check on them.

Will leaving them to sleep outside (well secured run and we're in a residential neighbourhood but I know that's still not safe) teach them to go to bed properly? Or is that just going to reinforce bad behaviour?
Interesting mystery. It definitely seems like there is something in or about the coop that they are a little uncomfortable with. What type of lights are in there? LED? Incandesent? Turn the lights out and see if they go in as the natural sunlight fades. It seems they know to go to the coop but refuse to go in. If it's not the light, leave them in the coop during the day and watch them at sundown and see if they start freaking out and want to escape or if they just settle down and go to sleep. What else is inside the coop? Maybe a snake is coiled up in there hibernating somewhere?
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