Beginners Guide To Raising backyard chickens – Putting them to Bed
It is really important to establish a daily routine when raising backyard chickens. Chickens love order and are very habitual. They like to know what happens when, and it is good also for you. A daily routine is made based on you and your hens’ needs. It should be reliable and realistic based on your life. I personally think they are very smart and will learn it quickly.
This will a be a multi part series, but for today I wanted to show you the girls and let you see me putting them to bed. During the day, I allow them to free range in the yard if I am home. If I am not I allow them to free range in a safer environment in my garden which is enclosed in a gated fence.
As you can see, chickens learn the routine and naturally go “home” at dusk. You shouldn’t have to herd them.
Need your chickens to hurry?
If you’re in a hurry for them to go inside early before dusk, good luck! They may want to stay outside and play. Tossing out treats is your best bet. They follow their own internal clocks, which have to do with the light. If you try to change the time for your convenience, it might be a challenge.
However, the problem is avoided if you train your chickens from the start to know where home is. If you have a coop and are bringing new (adult) chickens home for the first time, you’ll need to keep them in the coop or at least a fenced area around the coop (hen house) for at least 2-3 days, so they learn where home is.
It is their instinct to roost above the ground at night, so if you provide the right kind of safe, appealing environment that meets their needs, there’s no reason they won’t readily take to their new home.
If they are sleeping all night outside, ask yourself these questions:
1. Is it too dark in the coop for them to see the roosts? Chickens do not have night vision. They can’t see in the dark. If your coop doesn’t have windows, by the time they think about going inside, they can’t find their way. Some coops have ramps underneath the raised floors through which to enter the coop like mine. Hens will get stuck there, in the dark, unable to see where to go. Open the window and let a little light in for them to see.
2. Is the coop too hot? In extremely hot climates, it might have cooled off outside, but it hasn’t yet in the coop. A hen will not willingly walk into a stifling hot box.
3. Is there enough roost space so that the hens can choose their sleeping partners and fighting for roosting position?
4. Can your older or younger hens get up to the roost?
5. Is there good ventilation? Does the air smell fresh? Decomposing manure gives off ammonia. No one wants to sleep over the fumes.
6. If there’s a sudden change in your flock’s behavior and they refuse to go into the coop, perhaps there is a predator lurking.
7. Have your young chickens learned how to roost? Even if you didn’t teach them as chicks, they’ll naturally want to be up on a roost at night. Once in awhile, a young bird hasn’t figured that out. Three of my pullets stayed on the ground while the other one found their places on the bar. I gently picked them up and set them on a low roost. I did this for three days and by the fourth they were going up on their own.
8. If your hens are going inside, but sleeping in nesting boxes, look for my next blog on just that. Honestly when we first started raising chickens, we thought that was where they slept and laid eggs. That is wrong, and now we know better.
9. Do you have free-ranging hens that prefer to sleep in trees? They will be taken by predators. They’ll need to be retrained. Do not allow them to sleep in trees. They need protected.