16 August 2009
The chickens have been out in their coop for about 2 months now and over all of that time, they had never once gone into the coop at night to roost. Instead, they would all climb up on the log at the end of the run in a big chicken pile and sleep there for the night. For a while I was going out every night, picking them up one by one and putting them in the coop, but they never seemed to catch on. Then I decided it wasn't going to hurt them to sleep outside and it was a big pain, so I left them alone. At least until a couple of weeks ago, when the neighbors reported having a skunk move in under their shed. Skunks are bad news for chickens, so I was back to tossing them, one by one, into the coop each night. I knew there had to be a way to get them inside.
What's a newbie chicken farmer to do? Why "Google" it, of course. And google it I did. I found gobs of discussions and empathetic chicken owners, but it always came down to a few pieces of advice. First, bribe them with food. So, for about four nights I went out with some sort of yumminess in hand, but no dice. They all just stared at me through sleepy chicken eyes from their chicken pile. Next, I read that chickens can't see well in the dark and so you should put a light in the coop. Tried that for several nights, but just ended up burning through a half-dozen AAA batteries.
And then one night, in desperation, I went out early and made a trail of stale blueberry corn muffins from the log, up the ramp into the coop and left them to their own devices. 20 minutes later, they were all snug inside on the roosts and haven't missed a night since.
I have no idea what the final turning point was, but I am not longer stooping under the raised coop, chasing squawking hens every night to get them inside. Now if I could just get a couple of eggs, I would be a happy chicken farmer...