Keeping chickens out of trees

Chickens that test their wings might discover something new – that trees are a fun place to roost whether you like it or not.

Jesse Lyons is an extension poultry specialist at the University of Missouri and says once a chicken discovers it can fly and finds a tree branch to its liking, you're in for a battle.

"I think it's kind of a response to looking for a location to roost that's maybe a little bit farther from ground predators," says Lyons. "Many of the flying birds will roost in trees, so I think it's part of their DNA, their mental survival instincts."

Not all breeds perch on tree branches. Smaller, lighter chickens with longer wings can fly better than meatier breeds. This habit may not be such a big deal during the day, but it's risky at night. Nocturnal predators such as owls and raccoons relish the opportunity for a chicken dinner.

You can't reason with a chicken to come down, so Lyons says you may end up climbing the tree yourself.

"If you use a light to get to them, they can see then well enough to probably hop over to another branch or hop out of the tree and leave you in the tree and then they go and hide somewhere in the dark.  A bird can't see too well after dark, but they can run somewhere and they tend to crouch down and hide. They can do that pretty well," he says. "I have, if they're on lower limbs carefully on a ladder reached up and got them without turning the light on them. You can kindly pick them off."

You can also use a pole with a hook on the end. Grab the bird's leg and pull it off the branch. Try enticing your hens to come down at night by only providing food and water in their coop.

It's possible to discourage chickens from the tree by placing a fake owl in the branches, but the trickery won't work for long.