The safety and shelter of the chicken coop can be appealing to our feathered friends, especially if there is something going on physically or psychologically with them. There can even be moments where backyard chicken raisers may be wondering how lazy their birds are. Well, the truth is, there can be several reasons why your chickens aren’t leaving the coop.
The most common reasons for a chicken that don’t want to leave the coop are fear, age, the weather, flock bullying and injury or illness.
In my years of raising chickens, I have found 6 common reasons why they won’t leave their coop. The reasons are actually pretty simple to figure out once you try to think, well… kind of like a chicken. What things scare them? Why would you stay in your room all day? Is it super cold outside?
6 Reasons Why Your Chickens Are Staying In The Coop
There should be a few considerations when trying to interpret chicken behavior. One is that they are smarter than many people believe and two is that everything they do is mostly based on survival instincts, which will explain the 6 reasons why chickens stay in their coop.
Fear is a huge motivator of most creatures big or small. If an animal is afraid of something, they will go out of their way to avoid it. Oftentimes when a chicken is afraid of a predator, sound or situation then they will stay in their coop where they feel safe and comfortable.
The first July 4th celebration that my young flock experienced was a traumatic one for them. My neighbors and my family got together and had a lot of fireworks and music. It was a great time for us, but not for the chickens. That next day, they stayed in their coop all day, too scared to come out. I had to shower them with yummy snacks and affection before they would brave the outdoors again.
Check this article to find the main reasons why chickens might be scared of something.
Young chickens who have just recently left the brooder box are very likely to stay in their coop for days if you let them. This is very common when they are inexperienced with the big, scary outdoors and are unsure what to do, so they just stay in the coop!
I had success with the next batch of young chicks that I raised when I started taking them outside for very short trips (in good weather of course, thankfully it was late spring). I had a large coop and run already so I would let the older chickens in the yard for free-range time and the little ones in the run so they experienced the outdoors in a safe environment.
I think that raising fearless chicks is the best way to avoid having the shock of the outdoors once they’re old enough to leave the brooder permanently.
#3 The Weather
Weather is a big reason why some chickens will stay in their coop all day. It only makes sense, especially when it is very cold outside. Most chickens really don’t enjoy the bitter, winter weather months and will huddle together for warmth inside the hen house.
My chickens don’t really enjoy the rain or any kind of stormy weather and I believe that’s pretty normal for most of them. Not only do rain and storms bring scary thunder and lightning, but it also brings darkness, which chickens really don’t like. Chickens are essentially blind once it is dark outside.
#4 Flock Bullying
Chickens are known for establishing a pecking order among flock members. The more dominant birds are always the first to eat and drink and will usually put others in their place when they have overstepped their bounds.
Sometimes though, chickens can take the pecking order too far and pick on some of the lesser hens, even creating wounds and bleeding sores on their combs. If you are having an issue with bullying among your flock, that could be a big reason why one or two of your chickens are staying in the coop.
#5 Injury Or Illness
Many animals, including chickens, will become withdrawn and lethargic when they are sick or injured. Chickens will often stay in their coop and not move around much when they are not feeling well or are in pain.
This is why it is important to do a quick examination of your chickens when you notice that one or more are staying in their coop longer than usual. If you suspect that there is a health problem, contact your veterinarian for an appointment.
#6 Big Coop
If you have a very large chicken coop where there is food, water and plenty of room for everyone to be comfortable and roam around, then it is likely your chickens will spend more time in the hen house. This is somewhat normal when they have a large indoor area like this.
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Is It Normal For Chickens To Stay In Their Coop All Day?
Even if you are concerned about it, it is ok for chickens to stay in their coop for 24 hours. This is especially true during those frigid winter months that chickens would prefer to avoid. Or if they’ve experienced some super loud, scary firework celebration that’s got them wanting to hide.
However, it is not ideal for chickens to be stuck in their hen house together for more than 24 hours because fighting and bullying can occur. Even if it is cold and snowing outside and you think it’s the safest place for them, while this may be true, you will need to let them out eventually to avoid excessive boredom and fighting.
Not only is bullying a large concern when being cooped up, but your hen house will build up ammonia levels quickly, potentially leading to upper respiratory illnesses in your chickens.
How Much Time Should A Chicken Spend Outside?
Chickens can spend time outside from sun up to sundown. As a matter of fact, it is completely normal for them to only be in the coop when it is time for rest and sleep.
It is recommended that chickens spend a majority of their day outside of the coop for exercise, enrichment and foraging. These behaviors are important for chickens and not having the ability to engage in these activities can be mentally stressful and eventually affect your flock adversely.
How Can I Get My Chickens To Come Out Of The Coop?
Your chickens have decided that they want to stay in their coop, so what can you do about it? The best thing to do in this situation is be calm and patient and reassure them that they are safe. Sometimes encouraging them to come outside with their favorite food or snacks can help!
Another important step in making your chickens confident enough to come out of the coop is finding out the reason WHY they don’t want to leave it, to begin with! Is there a predator? Was there some loud, scary noise or event yesterday? Is the weather bad? Do you have young pullets that are unsure of everything?
Finding the answers to these questions will help you narrow down the options of what could be spooking your poor chickens into staying cooped up all day.
The key step to making them comfortable is building up their confidence in the outdoors again. We want them to spend most of their time outside, foraging and roaming around, not just for their physical health but for their mental health as well. This may mean that you have to reinforce their coop to protect them from a predator or that you should keep an eye on any bullying in the pecking order.
After that dreadful 4th of July party, my poor chickens were terrified and my kids and I had to spend a lot of time and give them a lot of fruits, veggies and mealworms before they were brave enough to venture out into the yard again.
Conclusion: Why Are My Chickens Staying Cooped Up All Day?
While there can be several reasons why chickens may choose to stay inside the coop all day, the answer is most likely just fear or unfamiliarity. Providing a safe place for them to explore and encouraging activity and foraging is a great way to make them comfortable enough to venture outside.
Even if your flock was spooked by something, it is likely that their fear will only be temporary and they will be out and running around in no time. Maybe you’ll need to bring a few mealworms though!
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