I have kept 6 hybrid chickens for 12 months. Despite them ruining my back garden, they are delightful pets. I soon noticed that, when it gets dusk, they put themselves to bed in the coop and all I had to do was to shut their door.
That is - until last night! When I looked out at dusk, all 6 were gathered at my back door. I went out and persuaded 3 of them to go into the coop but the other 3 huddled together in a corner of the garden and, despite offering them their favourite treat, they wouldn't move. By this time it was very dark and I had to carry each of them individually into the coop. This morning, all 6 were running around as usual.
Can anyone explain this strange behaviour and suggest if it may be repeated?
Outside United States poultry
In my experience, this is usually a sign that something has changed inside the coop, and is scaring the hens, or making them uncomfortable there. I would first check to see if some animal has gone inside the coop. Often some animal (snake, small mammal, etc.) might be eating eggs, so the hens don't want to go in.
If it's not an animal, check if something has changed in the environment. Is there a wind blowing in? Is there a light shining in? Is it wet, so there is ammonia from the litter?
Other than those things, I don't know what else might cause this. Hens are usually pretty consistent in returning to their coop at night, as you've seen.
Good luck with them!
Thanks for your comments, Ron.
Normal service has now been resumed. I could not find any evidence of " foreign bodies" in the coup and everything appeared normal.
However, I did change the bedding so perhaps that was the culprit.
Anyway - problem solved!