Many new chicken raisers are afraid their chickens will run away or that they won’t come back to the coop at night. Luckily, chickens are like little feathered robots. You can program them to pretty much do what you want.
It’s all about habits. Once a chicken establishes a behavior pattern, she almost never breaks it. That includes her sleeping and laying spots.
How to Program a Chicken
When you introduce new birds to your space, leave them locked in the run for several days, a week if possible. This will make them sleep in the coop and lay in the nest boxes. Don’t worry if they don’t lay right away.
After a few days and nights in your run, their habit will be locked in and they will return to that spot every night, no matter how far they roam during the day.
Feel free to let your flock loose in the yard at this point. Then watch as the sun starts to set. They will slowly scratch and peck their way back to the coop and put themselves to bed. Just shut and lock the door behind them!
What if One Won’t Behave?
Every once in a while you’ll get a rogue hen who wants to sleep in the yard. Wait till night fall, gather her up, and put her in the broody breaker for a few days. It should reset her habit.
P.S. – Bantams are a little wilder than large breeds. They can be less likely to follow the patterns you set for them. Sometimes they are just going to sleep in the trees. It’s one of the reasons I quit raising them.