Chicken Moving Day
Chickens hate change. They like to lay their eggs in the same spot, get their feed in the same spot, and roost at night in the same spot. When I moved my chickens from the brooder to their first coop, they were very scared. They wouldn’t even go inside the coop for a couple of days. They ended up sleeping outside in the run the first few nights huddled up together on the ground in a chicken blanket. They eventually figured out where the food was, where to roost, and where to put the eggs. I had to add wooden eggs to the nesting boxes to get them to lay their eggs in the nesting boxes consistently. While the transition worked out, I think I stressed them out needlessly.
Now that they are moving to my new plastic snap lock chicken coop, I decided to make the transition a little less stressful than their first moving day.
1. First I brought the new coop into their pasture, and put it next to the old coop, so they could get familiar with it. They were not particularly interested in it at first.
2. After a day or so, I moved their feed into the new coop from the old coop. They were still scared to go in to the new coop, but after a couple of days, they were hungry enough to get inside the coop to eat. I did have to place a couple of the hens inside the coop, and not let them out, because when I placed them in the coop, they were so scared that they wanted to jump back out immediately. I blocked the door until they noticed the feed. At that point they ate happily. I just wanted to make sure they knew where it was.
3. After they started eating in the new coop, I put the same artificial turf mats that are in their old nesting boxes into the new nesting boxes. I also put a wooden egg in one of the new boxes. After a couple of days I got one egg in the new nesting box. The next day, I got three eggs in the new nesting box, and only one in the old. I did notice that they only laid eggs in the box that had the wooden egg, so I added a wooden egg to the other box in the new coop, so they don’t fight over the one box.
4. The next step was to remove the old coop from their pasture. This was a great reminder to me as to why I love my new chicken coop. It is so much lighter and easier to move around. It took me 45 minutes to move the old coop about 25 yards. I placed the old coop next to my garage, so it would be in a good spot to pressure wash. It will need to be cleaned thoroughly before it can be used for another flock. I also put it next to the garage, because I wanted to park my car in front of it, so the hens couldn’t see it from their pasture. Chickens are very linear thinkers. If they can see the old coop from their pasture, then they will want to walk directly to it, so they will pace back and forth at the corner of their pasture trying to get to the coop. It really stresses them out.
5. Finally, at dusk I went out to their pasture to ensure that they understand where they need to sleep. Denise was just home from work as I was about to go out and check on them. I asked her what they were doing. She said it looks like they‘re having a meeting in front of the new coop. I went outside, and they were standing around the new coop talking up a storm. It did look like they were having a meeting! As it got darker, one of the hens hopped up into the coop, ate a little feed and hopped up on the roosting bar. After a bit, two more went in. I still had two loiterers out in the pasture. One of my little loiterers tried to roost on top of the coop, but she couldn’t fly high enough. I picked her up and put her in the coop. The other one was constantly walking around the coop squawking. She eventually hopped up into the coop after all of her sisters were in.
I opened up the coop to see how they were doing, and I was disappointed that only one of them was on the roosting bar. One was in one of the nesting boxes, and the others were just standing in the middle of the floor. I pushed the one in the nesting box out, because I did not want her fouling the nest. She hopped up on the roost. I tried pushing another on the roost, but she was not having it. She pecked my hand pretty hard, luckily I had gloves on. I ended up picking her up and placing her feet on the roost. Once her feet felt the roost, she roosted happily. The other two were standing behind the roost, so it was too difficult for me to grab them without disturbing the others. They will be fine. They are close to the roosting birds, but thankfully they are not on the butt side of their sisters. Chickens have terrible night vision, so I think they are not even aware that the roosting bar is right in front of them. I usually leave the door slightly opened so I don’t have to open and close the coop every day, but I locked them in to make sure they understand that this is their new home. I will let them out at dawn tomorrow. All in all I think they did pretty well for their first night in their new home.