If you’re new to the chicken farming community, one posing question that will come to mind is, “should I lock my chickens up at night?”
The answer is Yes! Locking your chickens up at night is essential to keeping your flock happy, healthy, and safe.
“Why”, might you ask. It provides safety to your flock by keeping out predators, protecting your chickens from the weather elements.
Locking your coop at night also helps your chickens get the rest their bodies require and provides the perfect opportunity to do a daily wellness check and headcount on your flock.
Four important reasons you should always lock your chickens up at night:
The critical thing to remember here is: you wouldn’t leave your front door unlocked and wide open at night, right? Of course not!
You know that is unsafe and is just asking for a predator or unwanted guest to enter the safety of your home.
Locking your chickens up at night provides safety for your flock from predators.
Being new to the chicken farming world comes with its learning curves. It is essential to realize just how vulnerable chickens are.
They have very poor vision, especially at night, making it very scary and hard to avoid predators when they can’t see them coming.
Like humans, chickens have low visibility at night, and their instinct is to return to a safe, warm, higher-up home for nightly rest.
Chickens, unfortunately, have many predators due to their small size and inability to protect themselves.
That is why it is up to us as their owners to build a safe living environment and take care to protect our flock the best we can.
Most predators do their hunting at night. Any nocturnal, meat-eating predator is a significant threat to your chickens.
Some of the more common predators are:
- Raccoons – the most common nighttime predator, can unlatch doors and remove unlocked locks. They can rip holes in chicken wire, sneak in underneath fences by digging a small hole under them.
- Domestic Dogs – the most common daytime predator, will easily dig under fences and coop walls. They can also jump over fences built around your chicken run if the fence is not tall enough.
- Coyotes – a predator that can come day or night to stalk your chickens.
- Minks and Opossums – can fit through tiny spaces and wipe out an entire flock overnight.
- Owls, Hawks, and Eagles – will swoop down from their perches or come down from flying through the sky to attack your flock. These can be prevented by putting netting over the top of your run.
- Mice and rats – These little critters are so dangerous because of their small size. They can easily sneak through holes in your chicken run fence or any small crevice in your coop. They can hide out under straw bedding or in coops, going completely unnoticed. That is why you must investigate if you notice your chickens hesitating to go into their coop in the evenings when you go to lock them up.
- Wolf, bear, and even mountain lions or cougars – Common predators to be aware of in some areas of the world.
It’s also important to remember that even if your chickens are surrounded by a chicken run, that doesn’t guarantee that you have fully predator-proofed every inch of your run.
Coops are much easier to secure than chicken runs because chickens can be attacked from the sky by birds if their run isn’t appropriately covered.
They can also be attacked by predators that can climb the fence or dig underneath it.
It provides shelter from the elements
Closing your coop door at night shelters your flock from the wind, rain, snow, and any other weather element that may come.
It is true that chickens can indeed withstand extremely cold temperatures if they have shelter, food, water and are kept dry.
It ensures that your chickens get much-needed rest.
Chickens require 6 to 8 hours of sleep a night to maintain a healthy immune system and regular egg-laying cycle.
By closing the door and locking your chickens in their coop at night, it ensures that they have a safe, dark environment to rest in. Most importantly, that leaves them with nothing much to do other than rest.
It gives you the daily opportunity to check on the health of your flock.
By taking the time to lock and unlock your coop every morning and night, you get the chance to do a headcount.
This is a vital part of being a chicken owner. Taking the time to check on your chickens and doing daily wellness checks allows you to make sure they are healthy and happy.
If you notice an illness or abnormal behavior, you can quarantine the chicken(s) that are ill and provide them the care they require to recover and protect others from being infected.
This is also a great time to check their food, water, and the cleanliness of their coop and run.
You must feed and water them anyways, so why not coordinate that chore with locking and unlocking their coop in the morning and evenings?
You can also check for any faults in your coop, and your chicken run. Any defects in your run or coop can be highly detrimental to the survival of your flock.
These factors, if overlooked, can risk their safety from predators that may be lurking in the distance, waiting for the right opportune time to attack.
Four tips to ensure the safety of your flock when locking your chicken coop at night!
Whether you’re raising your chickens for meat or eggs, their safety is essential to produce a strong, healthy flock and yield for you and your family.
Keep your chickens out of view from predators.
By putting your chickens to bed every night, you can keep them out of view from any predators that may be lurking during the night and around dawn or dusk.
By keeping them out of sight, out of mind of these potential predators, you eliminate the chances of a break-in.
This increases your flock’s safety, survival, and health factors immensely.
Morning and Evening Routine
All it takes is a couple of minutes of your time in the mornings and evenings to lock and unlock your coop.
If you make it a part of your everyday routine, you can combine the tasks of feeding and watering your chickens with the task of letting them out in the mornings and locking them back up at night.
Train your chickens
Training your chickens to return to their coop every night helps cut the time it requires to close and lock them up at night.
Chickens are routine-oriented, meaning if you can get them into the routine of returning to their coop about the same time every night, all you will need to do is close and lock their coop door.
It is also possible to train them to return on command. You can ring a bell or make a repetitive call followed by a little snack or treat to call them back to their coop.
Be sure to make the treat a special treat they only receive during your nightly roll call. This eliminates any confusion, whether it is time for bed or just a random treat.
After consistently doing this as part of your routine for a while, eventually, you will no longer have to offer them a snack. The roll call alone should bring them back to the coop.
Shelter, safety, food, and water
Shelter, safety, food, and water are four key elements that allow your chickens to sleep without the stress of not being able to see at night and the fear of a predator attack.
Ensuring your chicken coop is covered, and well-insulated helps to ensure your chickens are warm, dry, and have the required amounts of food and water.
Is it ever okay to leave my coop open at night?
Occasionally, in the extremely hot seasons, it is possible to put a screen over the coop windows and door openings to leave them open for a draft at night to help cool your chickens.
However, it is not 100% predator-proof. It can be very risky because some predators can chew through screens with no problem.
Make sure whatever you use to cover the doorway is durable. A fan in your coop could be an alternative.
What should I do if my schedule doesn’t allow me to be home to lock up my chickens?
Some alternatives are investing in an automatic closing/ locking coop door or asking a trusted neighbor or friend to check on your chickens.
The only issues with these are if, for some reason, your chickens do not make it back to the coop before the timer for the door closes it, or if you don’t have someone that can help lock them up at night.
Remember, it is an instinct for chickens to flock to a safe, familiar shelter at night.
Once they are trained or become used to sleeping and roosting in their coop, they will continue to return to the same place every night.
The only time they may hesitate is when they’ve been traumatized or if they sense harm. This is a good time to investigate the coop for any threats.
Chickens will typically find the highest, safest place to roost and sleep at night.
Depending on the size of your coop and how it is set up, if your nests are located higher than their roosts, they may choose to sleep in their nests rather than their roost.
You still want to check on your flock and do daily health and wellness checks on them, even if you have an automatic door.
It is crucial to lock your coop at night to ensure your flock’s safety and good night’s sleep.
Chickens will instinctively go to the same safe shelter every night, whether that’s roosting in trees or returning to their coop at night.
Why not make their ideal resting place your coop? By making it as safe, warm, and dry as possible, you are doing your part in providing them the best life possible.