Chickens do not like sleeping on the ground. Just like human beings who use raised beds, chickens need to sleep on raised bars. These elevated bars are known as roosts and come in all manner of shapes, sizes, and designs.
Chickens prefer to relax and sleep on a roost at night because they feel safer when above the reach of predators and pests. Chicken roosts are pretty easy to build, and they are affordable too.
Table of Contents
- 1 What does it Mean When a Chicken Roosts?
- 2 Chicken Roosts Size and Design
- 3 How Wide Should the Roosting Bar be?
- 4 How Long Should the Roosting Bars be?
- 5 Should Roosting Bars be Round or Square?
- 6 How High Should be the Roosting Bars be?
- 7 How to Get Your Chickens to Sleep on a Roost
- 8 Do Chicken Roost During the Day?
- 9 Should Baby Chicks be Allowed to Perch
- 10 How to Clean Chicken Roosts
- 11 Conclusion
What does it Mean When a Chicken Roosts?
Chickens are animals of prey, meaning that they are hunted and killed by other animals for food.
Roosting helps protect them from predators and pests.
Chickens are constantly worried about threats such as foxes, wild dogs, coyotes, and more predators. This is because they are sound sleepers and are not fast runners. Additionally, unlike nighttime predators, chickens cannot see at night.
Back when chickens were wild and free, they used to sleep high up on trees and other high spots away from reach.
Even when your chicken coop is secure and safe from predators, there is another reason to build a roosting bar for your chicken. This reason is that sleeping on the ground makes chickens susceptible to pests and pathogens on the coop floor.
Chickens will try to find the highest stable sites to perch on at night. If the space is limited, the pecking order takes the course, and the alpha chicken will sleep at the top. Without proper roosting, chickens will sleep in nesting boxes.
Sleeping in nests should be discouraged. This is because the eggs get dirty and the chickens may start eating the eggs.
Chicken Roosts Size and Design
Chicken roosts can take on various sizes and styles made from different materials.
You can choose your preference to suit your budget, coop design, and chicken type. I use branches, and planks of wood as my chicken roosts.
The best material for chicken roosting bars is wood. The wood needs to be sturdy and should not have sharp edges or splinters. Plastic pipes should not be used as roosts as they are too slippery. Your chicken will have difficulty getting a firm grip. Avoid metal pipes because they get too cold in the winter and may lead to frostbitten feet.
How Wide Should the Roosting Bar be?
Chicken roosts need to be 4 inches wide but not less than 4 inches wide, though a 2-inch by 4-inch roosting bar will suffice.
Unlike wild birds, chickens do not wrap their feet around the perch.
Instead, they like to sleep with the feet primarily flat but will sometimes curl their toes on the front edge of the perch. The 4×4 roosting bar and the chicken’s body cover the feet and legs when the chicken is roosting. This helps protect the feet from frostbite, especially during the colder months.
How Long Should the Roosting Bars be?
The roosting bar should be at least 8 inches per hen.
However, it’s normal to find chickens snuggled together for warmth, especially in winter. Chickens will also like to use others for balance, so you will likely find them roosting side by side.
In summer, they will need more room to spread out if they need to escape the heat.
Should Roosting Bars be Round or Square?
When chickens are asleep, they close their eyes, their heads forward. On a cold day when they need to conserve warmth, they will tuck their beaks under their wings. Chickens have a unique “locking mechanism” that prevents them from falling when they are sleeping on roosting bars. They cling on the roost using the toes; therefore, the roost should be flat, but the front and back corners should be round—generally a flat roost with round or square corners for easy grip.
How High Should be the Roosting Bars be?
Roosting bars can be as high as a foot away from the ceiling or the ground. This gives the chickens enough space away from the ground and away from the ceiling.
However, if your roost goes higher than two feet, you will need to place several staggering roosts at varying heights to make it easy for the chicken to go up and down the roost without getting injured.
Roosts for heavy chicken breeds should be lower to make it easier for the chickens to jump up and off the roosts. If the roosts are high up, the chickens might hurt their legs because their bodies are heavy.
How to Get Your Chickens to Sleep on a Roost
You may sometimes get chicken raised in a coop or hatchery where there are no perches for roosting during the night. Such chickens may have difficulty perching on the roost because they don’t have the know-how.
Teaching them to perch is relatively easy. You need to get into their pen as they are getting ready for the night, pick each one and place them on the roosting bar. Your chicken will start getting the idea after three or four nights and naturally perch.
Heavy chicken breeds such as the Brahma or Jersy Giants prefer to sleep on the ground. A few may sleep on roosts.
Do Chicken Roost During the Day?
It’s normal for the chickens to want to rest a bit during the day, and roosting on elevated sites makes them feel safer.
Roosting during the day is not an indication of a problem, especially for chickens that are molting because they are extra tired and vulnerable.
However, you need to keep an eye on chickens that seem to be roosting permanently during the day. They may be going through bullying from others and may need your intervention.
Because chickens might need to roost during the day, it is advisable to have some roosts on the chicken run, not just in the coop.
Should Baby Chicks be Allowed to Perch
You will find chicks as young as three to four days trying to jump to higher surfaces. At night, young chicks like to perch under the heat lamp, but you should try getting them used to various types of perches. It helps them develop stronger bones and improves their clinging ability when perching.
How to Clean Chicken Roosts
Cleanliness is a crucial factor in a roost.
You should ensure that the roost bars are elevated and allow the droppings from the chicken to fall on the floor of the hen house for easy cleaning.
If you have multiple layers of chicken roosts, make sure they are tilted like in the photo below. This ensures that the chickens on higher bars do not drop their droppings on the chickens below. With a tilted and staggered roosting bar setup, the chicken droppings will go directly to the coop floor.
Chickens poop more while they sleep. This makes the roosts get dirty quickly. You can scrape the poop using a metal scraper each morning. Periodically scrub the root with a stiff brush and water mixed with white vinegar and let it dry.
You can also use vinyl shelf liner on the coop walls near the roosting bar making it easy to clean the walls near the roosts. You only need to wipe using a damp cloth.
Happy chickens will produce more eggs and meat. Providing roosting bars is one of the ways of making sure your chickens have a piece of mind. The roosting bars should be of the required size, shape, material and should be well placed in the coop and run.