Chickens roosting in the run at night rather than in the henhouse?

Chickens roosting in The Garden Loft chicken coop at night

Three of our chicken coop designs (The Garden Loft, The Garden Coop, and The Garden Ark) have an integrated henhouse and run. So your chickens are free to move between the two areas as they wish. (You can add a door between them if you like.) In some cases, this means that your flock might choose to roost in the secure run at night, rather than inside the henhouse.

Is it okay for chickens to roost in the secure run at night instead of the hen house?

When I first noticed one of our flocks preferring to stay in the secure run at night, I thought something had to be wrong. After all, it’s a hen-house. That’s where hens are supposed to live!

And for some flocks, that’s true. But for those that prefer to be in the secure run section of the chicken coop at night, we haven’t noticed any problems with their health, egg laying, or daily routines. We do tend to choose cold-hardy breeds anyway, so in our relatively moderate climate of the Pacific Northwest they may not want or need the extra shelter. The good news is, in our chicken coop designs they’re safe no matter which part of the coop they’re in!

Of course, if you have a different kind of chicken coop where the enclosed run is not secure from predators — or if your flock has been free ranging and just hasn’t made it back to the safety of the coop for the night — then make sure to help them back to where they’ll safe.

Why might chickens choose not to roost in the henhouse?

It’s hard to explain why a particular flock will decide to roost where it does. They may prefer the relative openness of the run. They may like the temperature outside better. Or they may just be following the lead of the alpha or the group. While chickens do sometimes split up — some perching inside, some outside — in our experience, they generally stick together in their decision.

We’ve housed several flocks over the years in our chicken coop designs. Most of them have chosen to roost in the run except on the very coldest (sub-freezing) of nights. Even a flock we brooded in the henhouse moved to the run as soon as they were free to do so. When I’ve surveyed customers in the past, their responses were mixed — some flocks in, some out.

Should I move my hens into the henhouse at night?

Again, if your outer run is secure, as it is on our designs (assuming you predator-proof the open floor of The Garden Ark mobile chicken coop), there’s generally no need to move them to the henhouse at night. But if you’d rather they roost in the henhouse for any reason, you can try to modify their behavior.

Here are some things we’ve tried and tips we’ve heard as ways to get your chickens to roost inside the hen house at night: 

  • Lure the chickens in with treats. 
  • Manually move your chickens into the henhouse after dark and lock them in every night until they develop the habit of going in by themselves. Of course, let them out in the morning.
  • Keep your chickens’ food and water in the henhouse rather than the run. 
  • Give your flock light in the henhouse. Not a lot, but enough that they can find their way in. The idea is twofold — chickens need to see where they’re going, and they prefer the lighter space to the darker outside. Once they’re in, you can try turning off the light. 

Where does your flock prefer to roost at night? How do they do? Have other tips for coaxing stubborn chickens into the henhouse? Let us know in the comments below.

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