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breed recommendation

 
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I am looking for a egg lay breed recommendation

I had 9 white leghorns recently, then it went down to 8. now I am suddenly at 4. these chickens that I have are white leghorns. I not sure if there is a breed characteristics but the seem to like to roost in places outside of the coop. This makes them accessible to animals that find them tasty. we have a number of barns at the ranch and with no doors and plenty of stuff in there for them to roost on. some infor on their coop.
there is organic scratch, water, nesting boxes and a roost for themselves

any input is appreciated.
 
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I've known two families who's chickens started refusing to "go to bed" in their coop and in both cases there was a bad mite/lice infestation.

So step one I'd look at the coop:
a) I paint the inside a light colour to both plug little gaps that mites can hide in, and to make the mites homes easier to find. A natural "paint" that can be made a light colour might do the job, but I used old-fashioned "barn paint" which is linseed oil based.
b) Perches - chickens like perches that aren't sharp and are wood. I oil mine with crappy canola oil with a couple of drops of Tea Tree Oil added. Tea Tree Oil isn't necessarily good for the lungs, so I *only* use 3 drops in about 400 ml and I try to let the oil soak in for 24 hours at least before putting the birds in.
Chicken like high perches and multiple heights support their pecking order if this is practical. They need to be able to hop lower in steps if the floor is concrete and not sufficiently padded with bedding.
c) Nest boxes - this is the one spot I use Diatomaceous earth prophylactically. I use old coffee sack material on the bottom with DE both on top and underneath, and then put the hay/grass/straw on top. DE is not particularly good for lungs either, but mites tend to hide and then jump out when they sense heat or extra CO2, so having cracks filled with DE and the lower bedding layers also, seems to do the job. The first coop I used was built by former owners and the nest boxes were permanently attached. *All* nest boxes I've made or bought are easy to detach for cleaning. The backs are easy to unscrew so I can get in and scrub. I can lift them up to a convenient height to work on.
d) Lice are different (and there are different types of both lice and mites and the treatments also differ) and tend to reproduce on the bird and are killed fairly easily with watered down liquid hand washing soap. I put it in a pump spray bottle and give the girls a bath with it if they manage to pick up lice (from wild birds). You can usually see them running on the chicken's skin if you look. It may take 3 treatments 7-10 days apart. I try to do that when it's sunny and warm as a wet chicken can get ill if they can't get dried in the sun.

If you're coop is fine, then I'd look at pecking order and see if the birds who aren't returning home are being picked on? You don't mention a rooster. One of a rooster's jobs is to keep order in the ranks, but if the girls aren't used to one, there will likely be a "Top Girl" who won't take nicely to a rooster if he isn't mature and preferably experienced. Do they have access to commercial feed during the day? If you remove it during the day and hang it an hour before dark - call them and close them in with it - would that work? Is there a treat they particularly like that you could save for bedtime? Our ducks need soaked wheat for the extra B Vitamins, but the chickens adore it. Rattling the jar it's in brings them running, so something like that may also work.

Do you have a "secure run" attached to your coop? Locking them in for a week so they get the message that this is where they belong may help so long as issues above have already been addressed. It will cost you more food, but it's worth a try. A secure run is useful to have for many reasons, even if your goal is to have them mostly free-ranged.

Good luck - I don't have experience with a lot of different breeds regarding this situation, but I will ask a friend later who might have suggestions.

 
Martin Bernal
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they ahve an aomatic door. I can set the time as to when the door opens and closes. I do not live on site but go out there once or twice a day. there is no rooster.

the beding that I use is shredded paper, no one will read your documents when it is covered in chicken poop. we also have a lot of loose hay straw around. I can get loose hay from the feed store for free. we also have some burlap coffee sacks that I can line the bottom of the nest boxes with. nest boxes are white plastic fruit crates, plenty of room for them.

they have plenty of opportunists to take dust baths a a well.

the cut off date for placing an order with a local hatchery is 10/28 this year. I will be placing an order with them. when I place an order I will make sure to order some roosters.
 
Jay Angler
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Martin Bernal wrote:they ahve an aomatic door. I can set the time as to when the door opens and closes. I do not live on site but go out there once or twice a day.

Do you have a light on in the coop? Light inside while it's dark outside might attract the girls to come in (it works with chicks when they're still in our brooder, but have access to an outdoor run). Have the light come on at least 20 min. before the pop door closes.
Martin also wrote:

the cut off date for placing an order with a local hatchery is 10/28 this year. I will be placing an order with them. when I place an order I will make sure to order some roosters.

I highly recommend you try contacting local organizations and put the word out that you'd like to buy a rooster that was raised by a chicken mom and preferably with a rooster around. My experience with incubator hatched and "mob raised" roosters is that they don't learn manners. They haven't had "adult role models", just like we talk about with humans. Animals need that too! Roosters are not that hard to find and around here are often free or less than $5 unless they're some sort of fancy breed, but I realize that may not be true where you are. Roosters with manners will exhibit mating behaviors rather than just jumping the girls. Roosters raised by real moms usually also have a better idea what predators are.
 
pollinator
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It’s hard to add anything to what Jay has advised!  It’s hard to raise your chickens from afar. There are several ways to get them all in before closing the door at night, but not if you are off site.

Having a light inside the coop that goes off after the door closes, as Jay advises, is a good method. They’re attracted to the light, can see their way in, and as long as it goes off before they go to sleep, it shouldn’t disrupt them.

Can you shut the barn doors and make it harder for them to go elsewhere?
 
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I have Plymouth Rocks. They are great layers and return to the coop at sundown. They do not seem to get broody.

 
pollinator
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In my experience in north Florida, any solid color white, black or golden chickens dont last long. Americaunas do great (one lived for ~8 years and her sister is even older now and still laying) and their offspring mixed with multicolored one are awesome.
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