How do you get your chickens to return to the coop at night?
DST is over, bringing with it the return of shorter days and longer, colder nights. Winter is fast approaching. Although it means that we can stay in bed for an extra hour, it does pose the challenge for us as chicken owners to return our chickens to the coop at night. Of course this is a question we would like to answer, because we want you to have the peace of mind that your chickens are safely protected from those pesky predators. After all, when it is dark, it is an excellent opportunity for them to strike.
The great thing about the ChickenGuard automatic chicken coop door opener is that it effectively locks your chickens up for the night, safe and secure. At dawn, the door opens automatically without your having to do anything, allowing you to stay warm and cozy in bed, leaving your fuzzy friends extremely satisfied.
We hear you say, this is all good in theory, but what (and we all know they can be pretty cheeky) if your bridle just doesn’t want to cooperate? First, let’s see how their natural habits actually lend a helping hand:
Very good eyesight (but not at night)
Did you know that chickens can see in color better than us humans? They can perceive and see light and color shades much better than we can, aided by their three eyelids and their ability to move each eye individually. They can even turn their eyes 300 degrees without turning their heads! But despite their impeccable daytime vision, they have no night vision, so they are almost always night blind.
Chickens can feel light and dark changes due to their pineal gland, which is located just above the midbrain behind their eyes. This means that at dusk, the chickens will naturally begin to move to the warmth and safety of their coop.
Creatures of habit
Chickens are creatures of habit by nature and once they know it is time to return to the coop, they will likely stick to it. This should encourage the rest of the flock and once they get in the habit of returning to their loft at dusk, they are highly unlikely to deviate from it in the future.
The Problem – Three reasons why chickens don’t return to their coop at night
Despite Mother Nature’s gentle guiding hand, many owners find that their chickens do not return to the coop as expected. Often this behavior comes from younger chickens who have yet to learn the habit. This is especially the case if they are first introduced to a new loft and so they don’t consider it ‘home’ yet.
If you are having problems with some of your older chickens not automatically moving to their coop in the evening, the coop may have mice, rats or red mites in the wood. These pests can scare them, which will disrupt their sleep and prevent them from wanting to go inside. A predator, such as a fox, may have entered without you noticing. Your chickens will then associate the pen with the predator and will therefore avoid entering it, especially at night.
Harassment and hormones
If there is just a problem with one or two older chickens, bullying could be the cause. Usually this will have consequences for the chickens at the bottom of the pecking order, who really only want to avoid being pecked all night long! It is also possible that hormonal changes are the cause, even if there is no rooster around! Occasionally broody hen searching for a place to find away from the berth, which for them is more pleasant than the loft.
The Solution – Make the chicken coop their home
A safe place
Unfortunately, all your efforts to make their loft beautiful, colorful and welcoming will not convince your flock to consider it their ‘home’. Ultimately, this will be determined by the fact that the hutch is comfortable and safe. They go to roost to rest, so it’s important to make sure the hutch has everything they need and to encourage them to use it. If they don’t seem ‘h-enthusiastic’ about it, lock them up for two or three days. This may seem a bit extreme, but make sure they can sit safely, securely and in a comfortable temperature and let them get used to their environment.
Another option is to use food to entice them into their chicken coop. Leaving some of their food in the pen in the early evening is an ideal way to encourage them to enter their pen every night. As soon as this habit has been learned and they go to their loft on time, you can remove the food again.
Leave a light on
Placing a light in the hutch can be the solution to encourage your flock to return to their home, especially if they are already used to entering the hutch and yet suddenly start wandering at night. Avoid anything that is too bright or they won’t go in to rest. A flashlight or 25 watt bulb would be ideal. Try to light the lamp in the loft before dusk as a pleasant welcome
Beat the bullies
Bullying is often an indication that there is not enough space in the cage. Expanding your pen or buying a larger pen could be the solution, as well as considering reducing your litter size. If the bullying continues, you may need to address the bully in question, but that’s a whole different topic!
Keep the predators out
Pests and predators can cause a change in behavior. So if your chickens suddenly change habits, this could be the reason. Investing in a ChickenGuard is essential to ensure the coop remains safe and secure. Attract them back to their cages by giving their home a spring cleaning and try to keep this up; chickens do have standards though
Hopefully these suggestions will help you address the issues of chickens not returning to the coop at night as this is very important if you want to keep them safe. Predators can emerge from the most unlikely of places and therefore it is always better to prevent than to cure. Good luck!
We are always looking for tips to share with other chicken owners, so get in touch through our Facebook profile and share what worked for you.