It’s completely normal to open the doors on your chicken coop during the day and let your chickens roam around freely. When you’re ready to call it a day, do you need to round them up and put them in the coop? How do chickens know when to go to bed?
How Do Chickens Know When to Go to Bed?
When you first get your chickens home for the first time, put them in the chicken kennel along with some food and water. Your chickens will learn this is their space where they eat, lay eggs, and roost.
At night, you can remove the food and water to help keep their bedding clean and dry. In the morning, open up the doors so they can come out. They will come out on their own and quickly learn how to go up and down the ladder.
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Don’t let them come out of the chicken run until you’re sure they know where to go in the evening.
If you’re new to owning chickens, there are several things you should know about their nighttime behaviors. We’ll discuss what you need or don’t need to do at bedtime to make it easier for them to go into the coop by themselves.
Plus, how to handle those stubborn chickens that don’t want to go to bed!
When Do Chickens Go to Bed?
Chickens will go to bed when it gets dark. As long as there’s sun outside, the chickens will keep on playing. Most will turn in at sunset, ranging anywhere from 4:30 PM – 6:00 PM, depending on the season and where you live in the United States.
You can check this website to see when sunset and sunrise fall in your state.
Do Chickens Go to bed On Their Own?
As long as they have access to the coop, they won’t need any assistance putting themselves to bed. The first two or three evenings, you may need to help them getting back into the coop.
However, once they learn where they sleep, they’ll eventually go to bed at night on their own.
In winter, you might want to help your chickens get into the coop because it gets dark too early. They need to be able to see in the chicken coop to put themselves to bed.
If the chicken coop is too dark and you notice they’re sleeping outside, consider getting a solar light for the chicken coop, like this one. You can also save money by setting up your own chicken light system.
It will allow you to program the timer to turn on before dusk, making it easier for your chicken to see.
What if the Chickens Don’t Want to Get into the coop?
In some cases, your chickens might not be interested in sleeping inside the coop. Here are some reasons why your chickens might be sleeping outside.
- If there’s no light inside the coop, chickens might not be able to find their way to their roosting spots. They might start going into the coop when it gets dark, but they might prefer to sleep outside because they don’t have night vision.
- Chickens won’t sleep in the coop if it’s too hot.
- If the coop is too crowded, there will not be enough roosting space for every bird.
- Older chickens might need a lower perch to roost because they can’t access a perch that is set high above ground level.
- Chickens might get too stressed if there’s a predator nearby. Not getting into the coop might be their way of warning you that something is off.
- A young chick might still be confused about roosting. You might have to manually put the chick on the perch for several days until it learns how to roost like older chickens.
Should You Let Chickens Sleep Outside?
It’s not the best idea for chickens to sleep outside because they will be vulnerable. Most chickens’ natural predators are nocturnal animals that can quickly attack them while they’re sleeping.
Investing in a predator-proof run is essential, but sneaky predators can still dig burrows, sneak in, or even fly and attack your helpless sleeping chickens.
Chickens need shelter to keep them protected from the harsh elements of the weather. While most will be fine getting a little wet from the rain, Silkies cannot get wet.
Always make sure your chickens have a safe place to roost every night!
How Do I Get My Chickens to Go to Bed?
If you plan on going out for the evening or can’t wait for dusk and need to put your chickens to bed earlier, you’ll need to bribe them with a food association method.
A food association is a noise, ringing of a bell; you do whenever you feed your chickens. Like dogs, chickens will learn when they hear the sound or bell ring. It’s time to eat.
When you need to get them into the coop, and it’s not bedtime, ring the bell or make the silly noise you always do when you feed them. They will think it’s time to eat and will come running into the coop.
Once they’re in the coop, lock the doors behind them. If you’re using a dog door, make sure nothing can come through the flap at night.
What Time Can You Put Your Chickens to Bed?
Maybe you have a chicken or two that want to pull an all-nighter and wonder what time you can put them to bed?
As mentioned above, the times will vary depending on the season; however, this table will show you the best times to put your chickens to bed.
Whatever you do, please don’t put them in the coop too early or leave them in it all day. Laying hens will stay in the coop for days on end, but healthy chickens should be allowed to go outside and get exercise and vitamin D.
Should Chickens Be Shut In At Night?
An adequately secured chicken coop will keep your flock safe at night. Close all doors, and ensure there are no holes where predators can enter the chicken coop.
Several nocturnal predators can harm or kill your flock. If a predator gets in the coop, they will happily eat your whole flock. Unlike other animals, chickens are defenseless and act like zombies. If a predator gets in the enclosure, you risk losing the entire flock.
As long as your coop is well ventilated, it won’t be a problem.
You may need to freeze some jugs of water in the summer to keep it cool at night.
Many chicken owners install an automatic door that closes tightly at night to keep their flock safe. Just make sure all your chickens are inside, and no one has to sleep outside.
Chickens go to sleep when it gets dark, but they might need a little help from you. Ensure that the coop is well-built, well-ventilated, and has enough space for every bird to sleep comfortably.
Chickens don’t need a fancy chicken coop, but it should make them feel safe from the weather and predators.