Teaching Old Chicks New Tricks

This spring we had planned on building our new chicken coop, but life often doesn’t go as planned. Lack of time and know-how led us to the decision to purchase a pre-made coop. It was advertised as being Amish built, though the person sold it to us and delivered it was not Amish.

It is made from rough cut pine with a metal roof.

We had an extra windows installed to provide more light inside and a cross breeze on those hot summer nights.

Before it could become a home for our flock it needed some finishing touches.

We started by priming and then painting the outside.

We would have liked to put a second coat of paint on it but the weather has been quite rainy so that will have to wait until next spring/summer.

Inside the coop we discovered that the untreated lumber was quite susceptible to mold growth. My husband did a little research and found that a product called concrobium is recommend for removing or arresting mold on porous surfaces such as wood. After treating the entire inside of the coop twice with this product he was satisfied that the mold was taken care of.

Then it was time to add more roosts to the coop. Chickens like to roost at night and since our chickens always spend the nights inside the coop we find it necessary to have enough roost space for all of them. The roosts (pictured above) that were installed by the builders were not adequate to meet the needs of our flock.

The roosts he added are pictured below.

It was then time to move the chickens to their new home. The biggest challenge in this was that the location of the new coop is not in the area where the old coop was. The chickens were in the habit of returning to their (old) coop each night so it was time to teach them “new tricks”.

While we didn’t think it would be quite so easy, we first attempted to just put the chickens in the new coop at night and let them out to free range as usual during the day. In order to get the chickens into the new coop at night we had to wait until they returned to the old coop, where they were corralled, then we could catch them and put them into a carrier (cage) and take them to the new coop. We have three carriers that will hold 3-4 chickens each so it took two trips to move the whole flock (24 chickens).

After repeating this process on two evenings, because the chickens naturally returned to the old coop, we decided that was enough of those shenanigans.

The next step was to (temporarily) fence them in so they were not able to get to the old coop. It’s a little difficult to see in the above photo but my husband put up plastic fencing around a large area which included the chicken door. There are lots of leaves on the ground in the area so the chickens had lots to scratch through and he left the trailer inside the fenced area so the chickens could use it for shelter from the rain. They also had access to the coop through the chicken door.

After being fenced in all day, all of the chickens returned to the new coop two evenings in a row. On the third day my husband decided to let the chickens out of the fence, hoping they would return to the new coop that evening. 21 out o 24 chickens independently returned to the new coop. The other 3 returned to the old coop where my husband caught them and took them back to their new home. The following night only two hens returned to the old coop and needed assistance to find their new home. These two are apparently set in their ways. Again the next night these two hens showed up at the old coop in the evening. In anticipation of this my husband had staged a carrier there. He put the two hens in the carrier and transported them back to their new home. Keeping the flock fenced in for another day or two would probably have been enough to break their habit but he didn’t want to punish the whole flock for the actions of just these two.

I’m glad I didn’t publish this post yesterday when two of the hens had still not accepted their new home because last night when my husband closed up the coop all 24 chickens had independently found their way to the new coop. Woo Hoo! Cue Happy dance!

The other thing the hens need to learn about their new accommodations is where to lay their eggs. My husband has put some of the hens in the nest boxes so they know where they should lay. It seems to have worked but is to early to say fore sure. Right now most of the chickens are going though a molt and have stopped laying. We are getting just one egg per day which likely means that two or three hens are laying on alternating days. Each day, however, he has found one egg in a nest box so at least those hens that are currently laying have caught on. Based on our past experience it will be some time in February before most of the hens begin laying again, so we will have to wait to see if the other hens have become familiar with their new nest boxes. At least we know that it is possible to teach an old hen new tricks. 🙂

23 thoughts on “Teaching Old Chicks New Tricks

    1. We now have one who tries to sneak into the barn at night but if the barn is closed she goes to the new coop. I made sure the barn was all closed up this evening well before dark. Who is training who???LOL!

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  1. What an ordeal it turned out to be and hopefully soon everyone is done molting and accustomed to their new digs. I like your coop’s bright red color which matches your barn you put up a few years ago. It looks cheery. The concrobium is a good product – I have some too as the humidity from the furnace humidifier causes moisture in the windows, so I had black mold a few years ago and it was recommended – got rid of it in a heartbeat and didn’t return.

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    1. They do seem to taking to the new coop well. Two nights ago one of the hens went missing. My husband searched for her but was unable to find her. We thought she might show up in the morning but she did not. so we assumed we lost her. Later in the day when he opened up the barn there she was.

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      1. I’m glad you found her – the transition must have really had an effect on all of them and this young lady in particular. Good thing she was not out all night last night in this cold.

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    1. Two nights ago when he went to the farm they were all hanging around the old coop. Apparently the neighbors dog being in the area of the new coop had frightened them and they retreated to their old safe haven. He was able to lure most of them back to the new coop with popcorn but had to chase down one or two. We were relieved last night when they ALL independently went in their new home.

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