Chickens are creatures of habit, and like many humans thrive on routine. A regular routine will make them feel safe and confident, so you should start how you mean to carry on.
Many people ask me when to â€˜put the chickens to bedâ€™? I would advise that your hens need to be safely tucked away by dusk. Once the chickens have settled in, they will get into their own routine of putting themselves to bed, once nightfall arrives. This will change seasonally, so in the Spring and Summer, they will go to bed (or need putting to bed) between seven andnine oâ€™clock. In the winter and autumn months, when the days are shorter, you will lucky if you see them when you get home from work, as many put themselves to bed around five or six oâ€™clock.
They will need letting out in the morning at a reasonable time, between seven andten oâ€™clock, depending on your own morning routine. They do not need to be let out of their coop as dawn breaks (this is also a dangerous time for foxes to be about), but they are not like teenagers either, so will want to be out of their coop well beforemidday!
Once they are out of their coop, they will head straight towards the food and water, so make sure this is fresh and topped up first thing in the morning. They will spend the rest of their morning time scratching around for food, taking a mid morning stretch and nap, and hopefully laying some eggs. If you are able, try and collect the eggs as soon after they have been laid. Leaving eggs in the nest box for too long will encourage broodiness, egg pecking and breakages.
Mid afternoon, if you are out in the garden, let the chickens out with you for a couple of hours so they can have a good leg stretch and scratch around. This is also a good time to practise taming them. Shaking a tub of treats such as corn and mealworms generally encourages them to run towards you, and you can gently encourage them to eat from your hand. This is also an excellent trick for getting them back into their run during the later afternoon. In time they will follow the sound of rattling corn back into their run. A handful of corn as an early evening treat is a great idea, as it will warm them up before the night ahead and help to keep them warm overnight.
As night comes, remove the feed from the run to discourage rodents and make sure your hens are safely locked up for the night, ready to start everything again in the morning!