If you have looked into getting it chickens of your own, your research has probably shown you time and time again how important it is to keep them in a coop.
Aside from being a comfortable place for them to rest at night, it is really their only line of defense against predators.
If your coop is located inside a chicken run or tractor, you might not think it is necessary to close up the coupe door at night. But is it? Should you close your chicken coop door at night?
You should always close your chicken coop’s door at night, no exceptions. And open coop is an invitation for predators, and even a coup that is securely situated inside a good chicken run can still be vulnerable.
It seems like common sense, and it is, but the fact of the matter is that people simply don’t like getting up at the crack of dawn to go open up the coop door for their chickens before crawling back into bed.
The reasoning goes that if you leave the door open, you don’t have to get up to open it. Trust me, that’s a great way to wind up with a bunch of dead chickens.
You can learn more about the importance of closing up your coop at night in the rest of this article.
Do You Really Need to Close the Coop Door at Night?
Yes, you do. It doesn’t matter how good your chicken run is, or how predator-proof you think your property is.
If you want your chickens to be safe at night, you need to close the door to their coop.
There are a number of reasons for this, but the most important one is that it keeps predators out.
Even if you don’t live in an area with many predators, there is always the possibility that one could wander onto your property looking for an easy meal.
And if your chickens are free-ranging during the day, they are even more vulnerable.
Another reason to close the door to the chicken coop at night is that it helps keep the warmth in.
Chickens are much more susceptible to cold than heat, and if the temperature inside the coop drops too low, they can get sick or even die.
So, if you want to make sure your chickens are safe and warm at night, close the door to their coop.
Why Should You Close Up the Coop at Sundown?
You should close up the coop right after sundown, or at sundown once all of your chickens are inside. Believe me, they know when it is time to tuck tail.
As soon as the sun starts getting low in the sky they will want to head for a known safe place to roost and bed down. For domesticated chickens this is their coop, of course.
Once they are all inside, go ahead and close it up. They won’t be coming back out voluntarily until daybreak.
If you want to make sure they are all in for the night, do a quick headcount. Chickens have a tendency to roost in the same spot every night, so it should be easy to see if one is missing.
What about Ventilation? Won’t Closing the Door Make it Too Stuffy?
You might be thinking that closing the door to the chicken coop at night will make it too stuffy for the chickens, but that is not the case so long as your coop is properly designed, vented, and reasonably clean.
A properly vented coop will have plenty of airflow, even with the door closed. If you are worried about your chickens getting too hot at night, open up the vents to let some extra air in.
Also, make sure to keep the ground cover and bedding (if using) clean and changed.
Chicken droppings can emit ammonia and ruin air quality, so don’t let them or soiled ground cover accumulate.
Even in an Enclosed Run, Predators Might Gain Access
One of the worst mistakes you can make if you have your coop situated inside a fully enclosed run is to believe that your chickens will be safe even with the coop door open. That is simply not the case.
While an enclosed run will help keep predators out, it won’t keep them out with total certainty.
Many chicken predators are easily attracted by the scent of chickens and will look for any opening, opportunity, or breach to infiltrate the run and then the coop.
They will dig, climb, pull, pry, bite, and squeeze through if they can. Persistent predators will make repeated visits until they succeed.
For all but the most fanatically defended enclosures, they will likely get through.
So, even if you have your coop inside a run, make sure to close the door at night.
What Kinds of Predators Go After Chickens?
All sorts of other animals love chickens. But they love them the way you and I do when we are sitting down to a big dinner, if you know what I mean.
Chickens are high on the list for most predators as they are certainly easy prey.
Predators come in all shapes and sizes, but are broadly classed into mammalian, reptilian, and avian varieties.
Mammals include weasels, raccoons, opossums, cats, dogs, foxes, coyotes, ferrets, badgers, and minks.
These predators will typically go after the chickens themselves, especially chicks, as well as any eggs they can find.
Mammals can be hard to deal with since they are intelligent, persistent, and in many cases strong enough or small enough to break through a run and then attack the coop directly. A tight-fitting door is essential to stop small, nimble critters.
Reptilian predators include snakes, lizards, and even turtles. These are mostly a problem for young chicks and eggs, as most adult chickens can easily defend themselves or get away.
That being said, larger snakes could easily kill a smaller adult.
Fellow avian predators include hawks, owls, crows, and ravens. These typically go after chicks and eggs or smaller birds, but have definitely been known to kill larger chickens too.
Hawks are the biggest problem since they can swoop down quickly and snatch a chicken right off the ground before it knows what hit it.
If your chickens are actually inside their coop they have less to fear from other birds, but some bold individuals might enter the coop to make a kill.
Chickens Don’t Stand a Chance at Night
Here’s something else to consider. Chickens have horrible night vision, and are severely disadvantaged when it comes to predators that primarily operate at night.
This is one of the main reasons that you need to close the door to their coop at sundown.
Chickens just can’t see well enough in the dark to defend themselves or even get away most times, so they are sitting ducks for anything that comes along looking for a meal.
Even a valiant rooster, ever keen to defend his flock, will struggle to come to grips with a predator at night.
Closing the door at night is the best way to make sure your chickens are safe and sound until morning. It really is the last line of defense assuming that are not summoned by the commotion.
Consider an Automated Coop Door to Make Your Life Easy
One of the best things you can do for yourself, and your flock, if door duty has you down is to get an automated coop door.
These are doors that open and close on a schedule, typically using a light sensor, electrical timer or even a mechanical timer to determine when to do so.
That way your chickens can come and go as they please during the day, but will be safely locked up at night without you having to lift a finger once they retire.
There are all sorts of different models on the market, and you can even build your own if you are feeling handy.
Just make sure that whatever model you choose is reliable and easy to use. The last thing you want is a door that doesn’t close properly or one that stays open all night long.
No matter which kind you get, you should expect a small DIY project to retrofit it to your coop assuming you aren’t installing it on a brand-new coop build.
But once it is in place you can rest easy knowing that your chickens will be well taken care of without you having to do a thing.
Your birds will be let out and put up at appointed times, and you can get some much-needed shuteye!
Tom has built and remodeled homes, generated his own electricity, grown his own food and more, all in quest of remaining as independent of society as possible. Now he shares his experiences and hard-earned lessons with readers around the country.