Hens Staying Out In The Rain…

Free Ranging and Training Chickens...

“Hi Wendy, Thank you for your postings – I have learned a lot of things from them. My question, is it OK to have a hen house with no windows. I have 10 rescued factory chickens in a run with an “A-frame” hen house with a flap door about 12″ square. There are no other openings – I notice the hens come out at first light and don’t seem to go back in until night fall, except when they lay.

There food is in the house and when I open the house to get the eggs out (& in doing so introduce light) they all pile into the hen house and start pecking at their food. On saying that they manage to empty their feeder in 2 days so they are obviously eating what they need. My main concern is that with winter now rapidly approaching that they will get soaked and cold during wet windy days (of which we get a lot in Scotland) During recent rainy weather they were all standing out all day in the wet – soaked the skin – when they had an empty house right next to them! Many thanks in advance” ~ Alan Patterson

Alan, I’m glad you wrote.

As is evident in your story about your flock staying in the rain, chickens aren’t the most intelligent animals.

We’ve had very little rain this summer and apparently my chickens forgot what it was.

Recently, they were all out when it started to rain. We were laughing hysterically as we watched chicken after chicken take a few steps to the side in an attempt to get out of the rain. Apparently they thought that moving over would allow them to avoid this wet stuff falling from the sky.

My point is that sometimes instincts aren’t enough and we have to help our animals for the sake of their health.

So Alan, I appreciate your fortitude regarding the weather changes that are coming and have a few ideas to help your flock stay warm enough this winter.

It is likely that they are staying outside because there is not enough light in the A-frame just as you thought. Instinctively chickens want to be in the sunshine during the day.

I think it’s going to be important to add at least 1 window, if not two to you’re A-frame. This is the first step to encouraging your flock to come inside during the day.

Then, if they still aren’t using the shelter during the day, close them up inside for a few days. This will teach them that it’s a good place to be and they’ll be more likely to come inside in bad climate weather.

Give the coop a good cleaning first because you’ll have a greater buildup of manure over the confinement period. Remember, we’re just talking about a few days here for those of you who are cringing while picturing chickens wading through mounds of manure.

Also ensure that they always have food and water.

Depending on your set up and how easy it is to collect eggs without letting the chickens out, you may need to forego egg collecting for this time period as well.

Unless is it already cold outside, I’d discard any eggs you find when you do release the flock. At the least, float test the eggs to make sure they are still fresh. You can search our website for more information on doing this.

If it is warm and especially if it is humid, ventilation will be important during confinement. If it is cold, this will not be as important.

Two or three days should be enough to train your chickens that it can be nice inside and hopefully the will use that knowledge to come inside when the weather is bad.

I don’t think this is even a concern in your situation Alan but if any of you are experiencing problems with your flock not wanting to come inside when they previously had, start with a good cleaning out of their coop. Chicken manure is very high in ammonia content and if there is a build up, the chickens will avoid being around it.

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