Once chickens develop a good routine you shouldn’t usually experience any problems with them going into the coop to roost at night. If chickens suddenly stop going into the coop, there’s usually a reason why it’s happening and there are ways in which the issue can be resolved.
We’ve found that creating a routine with new chickens straight away, they will quickly get used to doing what they should when they should. So, in this article, I’m going to share our tips with you to help you troubleshoot possible reasons as to why your chickens may not be using the coop to roost.
Reasons why chickens are not roosting in the coop include; the coop is dirty and unappealing, there’s been a recent predator attack or risk of a predator attack, the interior layout of the coop isn’t right, there’s a pest infestation such as red mites or there’s no ventilation.
Read on to find out more about how you can deal with your chickens not roosting in their coop along with more possible reasons why this might be happening and how you can teach them to start using the coop again.
Why are my chickens not roosting in their coop?
Chickens can be sensitive to changes and potential problems within their home and the surrounding area. They can sense danger and will become unhappy if a pest is invading their space and causing them discomfort.
All of these things can lead to a chicken not feeling comfortable enough to roost in their coop and to look elsewhere for an alternative place to sleep, such as on top of the coop, on branches or on top of garden furniture.
Below is a complete list of possible reasons why your chickens might not be sleeping in their coop along with ways you can deal with each issue so you can get things back on track.
1 – The chicken coop/roosting bars are dirty
Although chickens do tend to make quite a bit of mess through scratching with their feet and going to the toilet where ever they feel like it, they don’t actually like to sit in dirt.
When they sleep (or roost) they will usually sleep on a perch in a perching or squatting position. They will poop while in this position if they need to and it can quickly build up on roosting bars if left unchecked.
A build-up of muck can make it difficult for chickens to find a spot where they can comfortably perch and it can also be bad for their feet because chicken poop is very high in nitrogen.
How to deal with a dirty chicken coop
Cleaning little and often is the best way to keep on top of things and to stop dirt building up.
By cleaning out the coop once a week you can keep on to of any build-up along with replacing any nesting material which becomes too mucky in between.
Using a wall-paper scraper on the perches is a quick way to knock off any much which has become encrusted and will prevent any build-up.
2 – Recent predator attack or predator threat around the coop
If there has been a recent predator attack to one or a few of the chickens in your flock this will create uneasiness within the group.
A chicken will instinctively want to stay as high as possible to avoid danger from potential predators such as foxes, mink or stoats and if there has been a recent attack they might feel unsafe in the coop.
Once a predator has taken one chicken, they may come back for more in the nights to come, so it’s essential that action is taken to predator-proof straight away.
How to prevent predators from getting into a chicken coop
Predators come in all shapes and sizes and some can fit through the smallest of spaces and find ways of getting into a chicken coop.
A fox and other larger predators can lift a coop door which isn’t secured down and some can even burrow in from underneath, so full defences are key, here are some ways you can increase security around the coop:
- Make sure the outer run is secure all around and over the top – ensure the bottom of the run is secure on the ground so nothing can get underneath.
- Use high-grade wire mesh and fencing which cant be chewed through or stretched.
- Consider an automatic coop and/or run door to make sure the coop is closed up once it goes dark if you’re not around.
- Make sure nothing can get under a coop door to push it up – placing something heavy like a large brick at the bottom of the coop door after you close it can prevent this.
- Make sure the coop is on a surface which can’t be burrowed through such as large paving stones.
- Clear away any uneaten food at the end of the day to prevent any unwanted visitors such as rats – hungry rats have been known to kill chickens while they sleep (especially small breeds).
- Make sure there any holes or gaps in the coop are patched up (except ventilation holes).
3- Lack of roosting space
Chickens normally like to roost on perches which are raised up from the ground, although in some cases chickens may not choose to use them favouring nest boxes instead.
It’s important to make sure you’ve got enough roosting space for all of the chickens in a flock.
Roosting bars don’t need to be anything fancy, although you can buy them you can also easily make a roosting bar from a narrow plank of wood or a branch.
Perches and roosting bars should be secure with no risk of collapse because this could lead to injury or even the death of a chicken.
In larger coops, I’ve even seen people using dining old chairs and wooden ladders as ingenious ways to create free roosting space which chickens love.
4 – A pest infestation in the chicken coop
A pest infestation in the coop can lead to chickens not wanting to go inside to roost.
The most common pest which gives chickens and their owners the worse time is red mites. Red mites live in the chicken coop and will bite and feed off chickens while they roost at night.
This can lead to the chickens becoming stressed and in more severe cases mites can lead to illness and even death.
Chickens can also get a specific type of flea which can lead to them being uncomfortable during roost time along with lice which can transfer from bird to bird while they huddle together.
Dealing with a coop infestation
Red mites can be very difficult to get rid of once you have an infestation, especially if you have a wooden coop.
The mites can hide in tiny cracks and crevices in the wood grain and no matter how much it’s treated and cleaned they can keep coming back.
Plastic coops are very good in helping to avoid mite infestations because they’re much easier to clean and there is much less opportunity for the mites to hide in small crevices.
There are also a number of treatments for chickens and the coop its self which you can buy to help prevent mites. When it comes to mites, prevention really is better than cure because they do just keep coming back once you have them.
5 – Poor ventilation or the coop is too hot
Chickens are good at self-regulating their body temperatures when it’s hot, but if there’s a lack of ventilation and air in the coop this could lead to them wanting to sleep outside.
Most chicken coops come with ventilation holes already cut in, but if yours doesn’t you can drill holes yourself. Make sure they’re big enough for ventilation but small enough that rodents can’t get in.
What to do when chickens won’t go into the coop at night
If you have considered all of the above potential issues and your chickens still won’t go into the coop, it might be a case of the fact they’ve just developed a bad habit.
Or there might have been an issue which has now been resolved, but the chickens are still wary about going into the coop to roost.
The best way to resolve this issue is by waiting until dark and then picking up the chickens from wherever they’re sleeping and gently placing them inside the coop.
This article was first published on November 10, 2020 by Pentagon-Pets.
This way the chickens will get used to roosting and waking up in the coop and will start to recognize that this is where they now sleep.
You might have to do this a few times before they get used to things, but perseverance is key in getting them used to their new routine.
Because chickens can’t see in the dark you may need to shine a light or a torch inside the coop when you first put them inside so they can find their roosting spot, otherwise, there’s a risk they’ll just stay where they are.
I hope this article will help you to deal with any issues you have with chickens not roosting in the coop. You might also find the following related articles helpful:
Pentagon Pet is the owner of this article that was first published on November 10, 2020.
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This article and its contents are owned by Pentagon Pets and was first published on November 10, 2020.