Chickens Come Home To Roost

The idiom “chickens come home to roost”  may be difficult to understand. It is used to relate the fact that actions will always have a consequence and normally applied in a negative way. https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/chickens+come+home+to+roost Making a connection between chickens roosting and consequences to your actions can be quite a stretch. In order to make this connection there is one thing that you need to realize – chickens always come home to roost.

I admit this was one of my fears when we first started raising chickens – how are we going to get all on those chickens in the coop every night? Well it really doesn’t take much training for the chickens to learn that the coop is their nighttime home.  If chicks are raised by a hen then the hens does all of the training. When we raise chicks this is what we do – we introduce the chicks to the coop at the farm once they have feathered out, usually around four to six weeks. We set up a small pen near the coop where the chicks can spend their days.   You can read about that here. At night we can then gather them up to put them in the coop. The young chicks huddle together at night usually in one of the nest boxes. We continue this routine for about 5-7 days or until the chicks learn to get into the coop on their own. After that when darkness falls the chicks will naturally go to the coop each night. It will become their safe space.

Eventually they will outgrow the nest box, and the need to huddle together at night, and will spend their nights sleeping perched on a roost within the coop. Our coop has roosts at various heights and the chickens tend to seek out the higher roosts. It is a chicken’s instinct to roost high up at night.

We have been raising chickens on the farm for five years and it has been our experience that with few exceptions the chickens always come home to roost. Exceptions – every rule seems to have them so let me share the exceptions that we have found for this rule.

Why The Chickens Don’t Come Home To Roost:

Each night we do a head (beak) count to assure that all of the chickens have returned and are safely inside the coop. If any are missing we do a search. Occasionally we have discovered that a hen has fallen prey to a wild predator and we have found either a headless body or a pile of feathers.

On other occasions we have found that one or more hen(s) have gotten into one of our fenced garden areas because someone, either intentionally or (oops) unintentionally, left the gate open. If given enough time they will usually find their way back to the gate and out of the garden, but when darkness is closing in their instinct is to head in the direction of their coop (the gate is in the opposite direction) and they keep running into the fence trying to get home. (You may have heard that chickens are stupid.)

One other thing that we have experienced, that is really only a partial exception, is when the a hen decides that rather go into the coop she would rather roost in one of the trees outside the coop for the night. The reason that this is only a partial exception is that we have never had a hen try to roost in a tree elsewhere on the farm. They first return to the coop area, then fly up onto what ever tree branch they can get to. Possibly because the branches are higher than the roosts inside the coop, they think this is a good option. It is not! Some nighttime predators can climb trees and we have lost a couple of hens when we have allowed them to roost in a tree at night.

There is one other scenario that, although we have not experienced it, I think is worth mentioning. It is a broody hen. A hen may lay several (or even a whole bunch of) eggs in a secluded area and when she thinks the time is right will begin to brood (sit on the eggs). She will not leave the nest at night to return to the coop. I have read stories of hens disappearing and then showing up three weeks later with a bunch of chicks. What a surprise that would be.

Now if you were thinking about raising free range chickens but worried about having to play chicken rodeo every night, do not fear – chickens come home to roost.

Thanks for reading. 🙂

 

 

 

 

27 thoughts on “Chickens Come Home To Roost

  1. I did always wonder how people got their chickens to come in at night, seeing as how they are so hard to catch in the day. A friend once showed me a first egg her chicken had laid, it was tiny! I had no idea that eggs gradually increased in size, of course it seems obvious now, and so do Chickens coming home to roost!

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    1. Our chickens would not be free range if we had to catch them every night. LOL! We have had a few that will let us pick them up but usually they are skittish and always go in the wrong direction.
      We always get a kick out of finding those small first eggs. Not all hens lay them and some lay several with them gradually getting bigger.

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    1. We had a beautiful pair of white turkeys visit from a neighbors a few years back. They made their way all the way to our chicken yard and seemed quite at home there. Our chickens were not impressed. The neighbors brought boxes over in the car to take them back home. It was quite entertaining.
      Raising turkeys may be in our future – who knows. 🙂

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  2. Gaby and I have been talking about getting chickens (sometime in the next couple of years) but one of our issues is that we are on a town property. I’m pretty sure the bylaws say we can have chickens, but because we’ll also want to free range them, we’ll need to make sure they stay on property, and not in our neighbors yards. It’ll be an interesting experiment. Gaby thinks that we’ll probably put up an electric fence of some sort. Have you had any experience with that?

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    1. Our chicken yard is fenced with a welded wire fence I think the dimensions are about 45 feet buy 90 feet so the chickens have plenty of room to spread out and scratch and peck. We have as many as 30 chickens at a time.
      We have never used electric fence. I am not sure why you would need electric for chickens. The problem with a permanent chicken yard is eventually (depending on how many chickens you have and how much space) they may scratch it to death so that nothing grows there any more. A few chickens in a large enough space might not have this problem.
      If you don’t have a large enough area to give them a permanent pasture you might want to look into chicken tractor designs. A chicken tractor is a movable enclosure to keep the chickens in, predators out and can be moved to fresh ground for the chickens to forage as needed. You can check out design ideas here http://www.thecitychicken.com/tractors.html . It might be a better option for you.

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      1. I don’t think that our property will be able to handle more than 6 chickens. We’re on just over a third of an acre, and we have a lot of space designated to garden. The chicken tractors are a good idea as well, I’ve seen them on a few YouTube channels that we follow.

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    1. I am glad you enjoyed it. Even though I have always lived in rural communities the farming part is pretty new to me (we bought our farm in 2011) so I enjoy sharing all the things I am learning. Thanks for reading. 🙂

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    1. What a nice compliment. I think it’s funny when people ask because I am sure that people picture us doing a big chicken round up every night and maybe even wanting to come out with a video camera to get some funny videos and make some money off of them. LOL 🙂

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    1. Hi Linda. Thanks for letting me know that you learned something from this. We are learning lots through our farming experience and I like to pass along what we learn through my blog.
      My husband and I have developed a sort of goofy language of chicken terms that we use. It makes life fun. 🙂

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      1. Hi Ruth – I think I passed along Kim of Red Dirt Farm’s blog along to you already because she often talks about her funny experiences with her chickens. If not, here is her blog: https://reddirtcottage.com/

        I like reading stories about rural life … it is like my daily trip to Council Point Park. The city girl gets away from it all and just enjoys nature for a while – a heavenly feeling, considering it is just a mile away.

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      2. Hi Linda,
        Thanks for the link. I will check out her blog. I am glad you can experience a little get-away through my blog as well.
        I have a daughter who enjoys city life but loves to visit the farm when her busy life allows.

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    1. and trying to get them out is a nightmare because they want to go in the direction of their coop so we get them going one way and they turn around and run back the wrong way and into the fence. The best way we have found is to lure them out with treats. 🙂

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