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How to Train Chickens to Return to Their Coop

train chickens

Any chicken owner has at one time, or another, found themselves chasing their chickens around the yard at the end of the day because, well, we just want to go to bed already. How can you train chickens to return to their coop?

Train Chickens to Return to Their CoopTrain Chickens to Return to Their Coop

It’s incredible how pokey chickens are at the end of the day, and if you don’t have the luxury of an automatic coop door, you have to close it every night manually.

If this was you or is you, it won’t take long to realize you are no match for your chickens’ quick little feet and their dodging abilities.

So, first off, stop chasing your chickens! And do this instead:

Train Chickens to Return to Their Coop

There are really only three sure-fire ways to get your chickens back into the safety of their coop. And one of them is to let them think it was their idea in the first place. 

Chickens are creatures of habit, and once they know where their roost is, they will return to it every night–like clockwork. 

Now, I know this may not be the answer you are looking for because sometimes you are in a bit of a hurry, but I promise you it is the least frustrating way to get your chickens to return to their coop every day. 

Here’s what to do:

  1. Keep your chickens in their coop for 1-2 weeks. 
  2. Start letting them out at the same time every morning
  3. Watch to see when your chooks return to their roost
  4. Close the coop at the same time every night

Yes, it’s really that simple.

Once your chickens get their bearings, they will go back home on their own accord. It doesn’t hurt to feed them, in their coop, at the end of the day (treats or whatnot) to give them an extra incentive. 
How to Get Your Chickens Back in The Coop

Ring the Dinner Bell

This, of course, is a metaphor for calling your chickens home for treats and meals.

You can use bells, or your own voice to associate with goodies, so your chickens eventually come running 100-miles an hour to see what’s for supper. 

This works best if you ALWAYS give feed in the coop because if you just sprinkle it around and try to urge them into the coop, they will see what you are up to and outsmart you. 

It doesn’t take long for chickens to learn that the same sound (or command) every day means food.

They have much better hearing capabilities than humans. So, if not everyone is tucked in, and you want to get to bed, you can start treat-training your chickens paired with sounds.
So here’s how to do it:

  1. At the end of the day, when your chickens are heading to the roost, use your command and present feed (or treats) inside their coop.
  2. Do this every day until all you have to do is sound the alarm (your command) and your chickens run straight into the coop. 

If You Need to Catch Your Chicken

Unforeseen circumstances may require you to catch your chicken before the end of the day. Maybe there is a predator in the area, or your chicken needs medical care

If you’ve trained them to come on command with feed and treats, you can use this method to confine your chickens in the coop and catch whichever one you need to. Ideally, this will work at any time of the day. 

With that being said, you still have to catch your chicken, even if it is in the coop.

So how can you do this safely without injuring your chook–or yourself for that matter.
Here are a few ways:

Using a Poultry Pole

A poultry pole, or simply a pole with a crook on it, can be used to snatch your chickens around their feet. You can find these in most agriculture stores. 

A Landing Net

I cringe at the thought of using a landing net because claws, feet, beaks, and wings will all get tangled in a net. So, if you can help it, try not to use a net to catch your chickens. 

If you must, however, use a large net (like a fishing net) and be as gentle as possible. 

Most chickens “give up” once they are caught and stop struggling, however, this isn’t usually the case if they find themselves caught in a net. 

Cardboard Boxes

A safe way to catch chickens in a confined area is to grab a large cardboard box and corner your chicken.

Quickly, but gently, plop the box over the chook and let them sit inside for a second, so they calm down. 

Next, close the lids of the box (yes your chicken will have to sit on the lid) and slowly flip it over while holding the lid closed.

You can now move your chicken to where it needs to be and treat them if needed. 

Your Hands

Hands-only work if you are in a cage with your chicken trying to catch it.

Never pull at feathers, tail feathers, or wings if you are using your hands. 

Instead, act like a predator or rooster.

Here’s what I mean:

If you’ve ever seen a rooster mount a hen, she initially may fight it, but eventually, she squats down and stays put.

Some hens will do this if you approach from the top and push down on her back, gently.

Then, you can gather her up, taking care to keep her wings close to her body, and carry on with your task. 

Free-Range Becomes Too Much Freedom

There may come a time or two when you, gasp, forget to close your chickens up at night, or simply can’t due to unforeseen circumstances–hey, you’re human after all.

When this happens, however, your chickens may decide to find a place to roost that they feel more comfortable and safer than the one you have provided in your coop. 

This usually isn’t a big deal the first time this happens, but if it happens often, your chickens will ignore your bedtime efforts and opt to return to their new favorite roost. 
How to Train Chickens to Return to Their Coop
And if you have a large flock, that may mean you have chickens all over the place.

When this happens, you have to retrain your chickens to return to their coop every night. Unfortunately, this means you will have to start over with confinement for 1-2 weeks.

In time, your chickens will forget about their new favorite roost and remember that home is truly where they feel the most comfortable and safe. 


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Train Chickens to Return to Their Coop

20 thoughts on “How to Train Chickens to Return to Their Coop

  1. Why would my chicken stop going into her pen at night time? When she’s been doing all along just fine . And has stop laying eggs

    1. This is usually because of some terrorizing event that took place, you may have not seen it, but something spooked her bad enough that she sees it as a danger. The way I solve this is through carrying her back to the coop for a few days in a few and then she will re-home. Usually its a predator that has startled one of mine that they will stop going into the coop.

  2. I got a young buff orington.she just started to lay. her eggs are real small the size of golf balls are they ok to eat.

  3. My two 5 year old hens became egg eatters and I moved them to my goat barn where they seem happy, and I have 2 new 12 week old Wyandotte’s in the walk in coop. I did not want them to learn this habit. For a while I could get out early and get to the eggs before they were pecked and eaten even in the goat barn, but now they have completely stopped laying. How long do chickens usually lay? Are they finished at 5 years.?

      1. Mine usually stop laying when they molt, or when the amount of sunlight starts decreasing, like it does in winter.
        I had black sexlink layers eventually slow down, but lay less frequently,even 8 to 10 years!

    1. You need to kill egg eaters, they will teach all the others this bad habit, and once they do it there’s no stopping it.

    1. Are you Fr? I don’t think that’s possible. Studies have shown that animals could possibly care it on their fur (or in this case feathers) but can’t actually get it.

      1. H1N1! Chickens got the flu then it mutated into H1N1 which people then contracted. Mind you that was in a massive farming facility. Small backyard flocks are less likely to have this happen because their environment is more sanitary and their immune systems much healthier.

  4. i recently purchased 5 baby chicks and a starter kit water feeder food etc. is it normal for them to sleep as much as thy are ( quit a lot ). I at one time had 85 Parakeets ( i bread them for pet stores ) thy had to have grit ( sand to eat to help in digestion ). Is this necessary for the baby chicks to do the as well. If so why have i heard nobody talk about it. Patrick

    1. Everything they need is in the started feed . But if you give them treats like lettuce you should put a bowl of sand in there brooder with them . I put a big bowl of sand and they started taking dusk baths right away also .

  5. I have a very small ramp (it has 2 little steps)going into my coop which becomes the door when lifted.
    My problem is my Silkies can’t/wont use it to go to bed instead they become a fluffy pile at the bottom.
    I’ve tried putting more wood chip flooring underneath so it’s not so steep but it’s not working.
    Has anyone come across the same problem and managed to find a solution.?

  6. I have two ways that have really worked for me. I let them out everyday around the same time in the morning and “hook” them up about the same time each night. The first way is with the feed bucket. As I approach the chicken house I tap on the bottom of the bucket. They now come running to get what ever I have. I still have a few that like to wait until the very last minute to go to the house at night. My chicken yard is entirely enclosed so this isn’t hard to do. The water hose is near by and I just squirt it in the air a few times and the left over chickens make a bee line for the house. Works ever time.

  7. I have 4 chickens that are super young the still just have a handful of baby feathers around their necks. I built them a coop with a closed in run. They go back to the coop at night no problem. But I have to pick them up and put them in the “hen house” otherwise the just nestle up in a corner in the run? Should I just keep doing that. Or will the figure out the hen house on their own.

  8. In the coop, hang a light on a timer set for On at Dusk. Their night blindness encourages them to follow the light into the coop. Watch them at dusk and encourage the stragglers in with treats. Once you time their patterns, set the light timer to go Off after all are in the coop nightly.

  9. My hens put themselves up —at sundown every day. Then we go up and close the door to the pen. They have a house and a large run that they have access to all day as well as being free range, but they are locked up at night. Even the guineas roost with them. The only problem I had was 3 persistent black snakes that used the hen house as a “bed and breakfast” for about 3 weeks during the summer. That upset EVERYONE. We got them “re-homed” and it’s taken about 4 months to get them back to liking their home and to laying eggs again.

  10. I let my 60 chickens free-rang all day, every day. Every-single night, they return home to their coop, about when it gets dark, and their eggs are always in their nests. The only thing I have to do, is keep an eye out for predatory birds. I’d highly recommend letting your birds get better lives, than being stuck in a coop their whole lives.

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