My chickens have been driving me absolutely bonkers lately.
Egg production has been down – which I think primarily has to do with the fact that we’ve had some bad weather moving through. I’m not sure if others have had this observation, but we have noticed that our chickens almost always drop off in egg production when cold or very wet weather is coming through.
Anyone else? Or is that just us?
In addition, our chickens seem exceptionally resistant to our roost bars lately. No matter what we do or how hard we try, they just don’t want to roost on the beautiful bars my husband made.
I took to the Internet to do some research in the hopes that even if I couldn’t figure out how to solve my particular issue, I might be able to help you learn how to get your chickens to roost where you want them to.
Here’s what I learned.
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Why Aren’t My Chickens Roosting?
If your chickens aren’t roosting at all, there could be a few culprits at play.
Consider the age first. If your chickens are very young, or they have recently been introduced to your flock, they might have just not yet learned the ropes. Pecking order also can affect roosting, so if you have older chickens bullying some of the younger ones, you may find them sleeping in odd places.
You might also be trying to put your chickens to bed way too early. Chickens have natural body clocks that tell them when it’s time to settle in for the night. If you head out to the coop and there’s still some natural daylight, it’s likely that they just aren’t ready to roost yet.
Try heading out a bit later (yes, you’ll need a flashlight or a coop light). Alternatively, you could do what we did when we still had our chickens in a coop and install an automatic coop door opener.
This thing is a lifesaver because you can set it to be either time- or sunlight-activated. No more worrying about getting your chickens to bed at the proper time!
Why Aren’t My Chickens Sleeping Where I Want Them To?
The second predicament you might have is that your chickens are roosting – just not where you want them to. This is our problem, and unfortunately, we know exactly what caused it.
When we first put our pullets outside, they went right to chicken tractors. We had excellent egg production last summer, since the chickens had constant access to fresh green pasture and all the bugs they could ever hope to eat.
Sadly, though, we neglected to put roost bars in the chicken tractors. We just honestly didn’t think of it. Our chickens grew into adulthood without ever having a single inkling about what a roost bar was.
We thought we would be able to break it, but we’ve had some trouble. Here are some general tips you can follow, though, to make sure your chickens are roosting exactly where you want them to.
Make sure you have plenty of roost bars for all of your chickens. If you don’t have enough perches – or if your perches aren’t wide enough -there is a chance that they won’t roost in this area, even if it’s the most secure. In general, your roost bars should be at least an inch and a half wide and two feet off the floor. You will need eight to ten inches of width on the bars per bird.
Don’t want to make your own roost bars? Here are some cheap ones you can buy instead.
Count at Night
If your chickens are roosting somewhere outside, you’re going to have to commit to herding them into the coop at night. That means doing a thorough count every time you go out to lock them in. Once you get the chickens inside the coop, gently place a few hens on the roost if they don’t hop up on their own. This will show them where to sleep.
Ditch the Nesting Boxes
There are some nesting boxes, like these, that have a design that makes it more difficult (though certainly not impossible) for chickens to sleep inside. However, our homemade nesting boxes have a very naptime-friendly design, so we have to close them off every night.
You need to make sure your chickens don’t acquire the bad habit of sleeping in nesting boxes! Not only will it dissuade them from roosting in the right spot, but it can affect laying as the hens will stop laying in the boxes, eggs will become soiled, and eggs can even be eaten.
Make sure you discourage this behavior from the very beginning!
Are the Roost Bars Dirty?
If your roost bars are dirty, your chickens might be turning up their noses (well, beaks) out of a bit of snobbery. You might need to engage in some thorough cleaning.
Often, ammonia fumes over a roosting area can be stronger than they are anywhere else in the coop. Take a good, ahrd look at your roost bars and see if you can do some clean-up to encourage your chickens to roost there.
Look for Mites
Sometimes, chickens will roost in odd places because they are being harassed by mites. Usually, they’ll roost in the nest boxes – but not always.
Mites aren’t going to be possible for you to see, in most cases, because they will come out at night and feed on your chickens. They can make your birds super uncomfortable. You might be able to see signs of mites, like red streaks, on your roost bars. You can also examine the chickens themselves.
If your chickens have mites, you will need to take steps to treat them and prevent them from coming back.
Here are a few natural dewormers you can try, too.
Re-Examine Your Roosts
Is there something about the roosts that your chickens don’t like? Are they too thick, too thin, or too rough around the edges? If there’s anything you can do to make the roost bars more attractive, do it. You may even need to raise or lower them so they are at a more optimal height.
Similarly, if you have spots that have proven to be irresistibly attractive to your roosting chickens, do whatever you can to convince them not to roost there. Some people use the spike strips that are meant to deter pigeons in urban areas, but this seems a bit extreme for me.
Put Your Chickens Under House Arrest
Don’t do this if it’s really warm out – above 70 degrees in the coop – and make sure your chickens have plenty of feed and water if you give this a try.
But keep in mind that “chicken house arrest” or perhaps more appropriately, “coop training,” can be a helpful way to reinforce to your chickens where they are supposed to roost. Keep your chickens indoors for a week or more, which will reinforce the concept of home.
This is helpful if your chickens are roosting somewhere outside of the coop – but for us, it didn’t help a ton since they were still roosting inside the barn…just not on the bars!
Higher is Better
Chickens like to roost as high up as possible. If your roost bars are near the ground, try moving them up. Avoid materials like plastic or metal, which can be too slippery or cold for your chickens to use. Remember that the roosts need to be located away from feeders, waterers, and nesting boxes, too – although this is really more for your convenience in clean-up than it is for your chickens.
Give it Time
Especially if you’re adding new chickens from another farm or another home to your coop, there’s a good chance that they just haven’t had enough time to learn the ropes. Give them some time, and they’ll likely figure out where they are supposed to sleep at night!
Unfortunately, none of these tips have been super helpful to us thus far in training our chickens to use the roost bars we have provided for them in the hoop house. It was likely our mistake in letting them get to be nearly six months old before introducing roosts that did us in!
Please – weigh in if you have any tips on getting your chickens to roost. Your feedback is much appreciated!
Want to learn more about farming? Be sure to check out these articles!
- 12 Reasons Why Sheep Are the Coolest Livestock You Can Raise
- Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Lambing (But Didn’t Want to Ask!)
- 12 Common Hoof Problems in Sheep
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