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independently minded paddock chicken - can I 'retrain"?

 
Tys Sniffen
Posts: 52
Location: Northern California
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So, I'm 5 days into the chicken life. Got 5 mix breed chickens (not chicks) given to me (silkie, cornish, wyandotte).

doing paddocks with a half-assed 100ft chicken wire fence set up (giving them 600sf of forest floor with my mini-coop in there where I close the door at night and open it in the morning (will be creating an automated system for that soon!)

they came from neighbors with too many birds who had an enclosed static set up but a 7ft ceiling barn that they spent the night roosting.

the one pullet of the bunch seems to want to roost up high, and while they all seem content to stay inside the fencing all day (they can all easily fly over as well as find hole to slip under if they really want) this pullet, and sometimes another follower, will 'escape' at sunset to get up into a tree.

2 nights ago I went out in the dark, found 2 of them (that should be a metaphor for futility - searching for black chickens in the dark!), grabbed them and dropped them into the closed coop. last night, the pullet was smarter and was higher up in a tree than I could reach, and I wasn't going to get a ladder just to get a chicken out of a tree.

SO... the question: do I keep trying to get them into the box at night, so as to possibly 'train' them that the box is a good place to be (safer, warmer, etc) or should I just give up and let them roost in the trees, with the idea that they *probably* won't get found and eaten, or that it will be impossible to fix this behavior anyway?
 
drew grim
Posts: 49
Location: pleasant garden, nc (zone 7A)
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you are going to need to teach them where home is. if the coop is a decent size i would keep them all in there for a week or two. this seems kind of cruel i know but its the only way they are going to learn. chickens are creatures of habit if you let this go on they are never going to roost in the coop. the worst part is owls are creatures of habit too. it wont be long before they become food. i speak from experience. its only a matter of time. if you dont want to hassle with them then you can feed the owls and everything will balance back out..
 
Philip Green
Posts: 45
Location: Southern Ohio (zone 6a)
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drew grim wrote:you are going to need to teach them where home is. if the coop is a decent size i would keep them all in there for a week or two. this seems kind of cruel i know but its the only way they are going to learn. chickens are creatures of habit if you let this go on they are never going to roost in the coop. the worst part is owls are creatures of habit too. it wont be long before they become food. i speak from experience. its only a matter of time. if you dont want to hassle with them then you can feed the owls and everything will balance back out..


I am always soft-hearted with new chickens. I keep them in for like 2 days then let them out. Sometimes I have to track down a few who don't go back, but the longest it has ever taken was an additional two days of returning them to their cage (with the exception of one bantam rooster who I gave up on after like 4 days, he lived outside of the cage for close to a month before eventually moving in on his own). If you do search for a lost chicken don't wait until it is dark. Go out shortly before dusk. They will have begun to settle down for the night by then, but it will still be light out (so you can see them) and they will still be active enough to make noise or run when you get close to them (making the search much easier). If you can't catch them at that point at least you have located them and know where they are when you come out with a flashlight late at night. Also putting their feed and water in the coop will help as well.
 
Jay Green
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With a mini coop, it's going to be hard to confine them and retrain to roost in the coop~too small a space to confine them for long enough to retrain. Chickens naturally like to roost high..the higher the better. They know that high roosts equal safer roosts. Unless your setup is completely Ft. Knox when it comes to predators, I'd just leave them to their own devises.
 
Renate Howard
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I've had good luck flying a frisbee over a chicken in a tree to scare it down. A frisbee going overhead reminds them of winged predators and they will scoot. Of course it has to be light enough for them to see it. Tree-roosting chickens do seem to live short lives. OK if you have a source of more birds to replace them. My philosophy has always been that after a few years they'll lose a lot of production anyways and need to make room for younger ones, so if the predators want to thin out the stupid ones it's not too bad a problem. You end up with older, wiser birds who know how to survive and can teach the youngsters.
 
A Philipsen
Posts: 58
Location: OR - Willamette Valley
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SO... the question: do I keep trying to get them into the box at night, so as to possibly 'train' them that the box is a good place to be (safer, warmer, etc) or should I just give up and let them roost in the trees, with the idea that they *probably* won't get found and eaten, or that it will be impossible to fix this behavior anyway?
If you clip her wings, maybe by the time her flight feathers grow back in she will be used to the coop. I had to do that to my leghorns this year to keep them from going over the garden fence. They're even more nervous and twitchy now that they can't escape as easily, but it saved their lives
 
John Polk
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A good way to 'train' them is to put feed in their coop just before dusk.
Chickens are 'bird-brained': food is a cheap trick.
They will almost always 'go home' for a free supper if they have been foraging all day.

 
Tys Sniffen
Posts: 52
Location: Northern California
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Follow up report:

it's been 3 nights now that they've all been 'in the box'. I changed out the roost, after reading more, and made it much thicker (more like 3 inches in diameter) and 4 nights ago, set the young rebel hen on the roost (rather than just dropping her into the box after pulling her from the tree)

so, I guess that problem is solved. thanks everyone!
Tys
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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