My father has about 10 free range Bantam chickens who, this winter, decided the barn was their new home. They have a lovely coop with an outdoor area and the indoor part is kept heated above freezing in the winter, but apparently the barn is more fun. I love the benefits of them being free range, but I HATE the dust and poop from them roosting in the barn! We have metal-capped half-wall stalls that get disgusting within a day of cleaning them off, and they roost in the rafters and poop down into the stalls and feed bins.
I know next to nothing about chickens and my father isn't very involved with them. Is there anything I can do to get them to stop roosting in the barn? Closing up the barn is not an option (two of the horses are out with 24/7 access to their stalls and the third is on stall rest).
Physically remove them from the barn and put them in their coop at night. Keep them cooped for a week or so and they will get back in the habit of roosting in their coop. Chickens usually go to roost about dusk....how about closing up the barn for about an hour before to an hour after (and after they've roosted in their coop) and then opening for the horses that have inside/outside access?
I agree with coloredcowhorse on locking them in the coop for a week or sunridge1 about clipping their wings. My chickens put themselves in their coop at dusk. If you don't want to lock them up for a week, you can chase them in at night and just lock them up at night. This can be time consuming and frustrating (hint they don't tend to cooperate at first). They do catch on over time.
I totally sympathize with the poop situation. I boarded at a stall with free range chickens and my tack box was always covered in poop. There was nothing more disgusting than reaching for your brush and touching poop.
I don't know your setup, but I would try to think of creative solutions. Maybe if you post some pics, others can try to help you with ideas.
I don't care if my chickens go in the horse stalls, but they are not allowed in the barn aisle. The chickens were sneaking into the the aisle through the horse stalls by going under the gate. In order to prevent this, I cut a strip of rubber and attached it to the bottom of the gate. My dog also knows the "get the chickens" is the command to chase them out of the barn.
Lock them in the coop for a couple of weeks 24/7 to get them back into the pattern of going there to roost at night. You will probably have to physically catch them in the barn at night and carry them to the coop. Then start letting them out about 2 hours before sunset, making sure they go back in the coop for the night. As time goes by, let them out earlier and earlier until they are firmly in their routine of going back to the coop. Feed them only in the coop. My free-range chickens will roost in my barn if given the chance. They are on lockup right now because of this. Periodically I have to do the "tough love" thing and remind them the coop is their home. I tried clipping wings and they were still able to fly up 8 feet to the tops of the stall walls.
I saw a fake hawk in a catalog and am going to order it and mount it inside my barn, hopefully that will discourage them from going to roost there.
Love my chickens, but they are sometimes way more of a pain in the ass than is worth it.
Thanks for the suggestions! On Sunday, I started closing up the barn at sunset, per cch's suggestion. The first day I had to chase/carry them out but they seem to be catching on quickly! They're already back to hanging out in their coop (with the exception of one dumb hen who still wanders around like she's lost and then roosts some place stupid like on a tractor). They come in the barn a little during the day, but are not in there at night anymore. The place is already staying SO MUCH cleaner! Woohoo!