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Should I Lock My Chickens In The Coop At Night?

If you’re new to the chicken farming community, one question you may have is “Should I lock my chickens up at night?” 

Yes! Locking your chickens up at night is essential to keeping your flock happy, healthy, and safe. 

Why, you might ask. It provides safety to your flock by keeping out predators and 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.

4 Reasons You Should Lock Your Chickens Up at Night

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. The same is true for your chickens.

#1 It provides safety for your flock

Being new to the chicken farming world comes with its learning curves. It is essential to realize just how vulnerable chickens are. 

Like humans, chickens have low visibility at night, and their instinct is to return to a safe, warm, higher-up home for nightly rest. Their poor vision makes it very scary and hard to avoid predators when they can’t see them coming. 

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 that protects 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, and 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 – These can fit through tiny spaces and wipe out an entire flock overnight.
  • Owls, Hawks, and Eagles – These birds of prey will swoop down from their perches or the sky to attack your flock. These attacks 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.
  • Wolves, Bears, and even Mountain Lions or Cougars – These are common predators to be aware of in some areas of the world.

Chicken coops are more secure than chicken runs for your flock at night.

#2 It provides shelter from the elements

Closing your coop door at night shelters your flock from the wind, rain, snow, and any other weather elements that may come. 

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Indeed, chickens can withstand extremely cold temperatures if they have shelter, food, and water. Some breeds are more susceptible to diseases if they get wet. A coop keeps them warm and dry.

You can even set up a heater system inside your coop if you live in a particularly frigid area of the world to provide your chickens with extra protection during cold, night temperatures.

#3 It ensures 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, they have a safe, dark environment to rest in. Most importantly, that leaves them with nothing much to do other than rest.

Before chickens were domesticated, they would have roosted in trees at night to get their rest. A secure coop mimics this natural process.

#4 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 anyway, 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.

4 Tips to Ensure the Safety of Your Flock

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. Here are some tips to further protect your chickens when they are locked in their coop at night.

#1 Keep your chickens out of view from predators

By putting your chickens to bed every night, you can keep them out of view of 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.

#2 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.

#3 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 at about the same time every night, all you will need to do is close and lock their coop door.

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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.

#4 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 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 to locking the chicken coop yourself are investing in an automatic closing/ locking coop door or asking a trusted neighbor or friend to check on your chickens. 

Although the automatic closing/locking coop door is convenient, if, for some reason, your chickens do not make it back to the coop before the timer for the door closes, some of them can be left out in the open.

Also, if you have a friend or neighbor complete the task, they may not realize one of the chickens is missing.

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.

Final thoughts:

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.