After a long day of scratching the ground in search of bugs and running aimlessly like a torpedo (often at each other), a chicken needs to get some sleep. However, a chicken’s view of a comfortable place to sleep is a little bit different than ours. Chickens don’t sleep in a bed, on the ground or even in their nesting boxes. Where do chickens sleep? They prefer to perform a balancing act all night long on a stick elevated above the ground. This stick is otherwise known as a roost.
If you are like me, you may wonder, “Why the stick?” Chickens are birds from nature. In nature, they are birds of prey. Predators range from coyotes to hawks, many of which hunt at night. If we stand outside right after dusk at our house, we almost always hear the brief burst of coyote howls off in the distance (and sometime not so distant). Instinctively, birds fly up to sleep on tree branches to protect themselves from these predators. These “elevated sticks” actually simulate tree branches from nature. When we built our henhouse, I decided to cut actual tree limbs to use as the roosting bars. I built a frame to hold these branches such that I can lift the branches out and replace them when necessary. Also, this will make for cleaning the coop much easier without having to duck and dodge the limbs. This option was free and it worked, so seemed like the best option for me.
Again, unlike us humans, chickens like to all sleep right next to each other. There should be about 6″-10″ of space per chicken. In our case we have 7 chickens which means we need roughly 42-70 inches of branches. We have plenty with the two roosting branches that we are using.
How high should the chicken roost be? This depends on your henhouse. Chickens prefer to sleep in the highest place in your hen
ninghouse. Therefore, the roost should be located higher than other places such as the nesting box. Since you want the nesting box to stay clean and poop free for your eggs, the chickens shouldn’t be sleeping there. Initially, I thought our 5 ft high roost was too high, but even at 2 months old the chickens were flying up there to sleep at night. Every now and then, I will find a chicken trying to sleep up at the very top of the walls. They usually won’t last long up there before they fall or fly down.
The final roosting word: if you give the chickens enough roosting space that is elevated off of the ground, they will gladly put themselves to bed every night. Our chickens make their way back into the henhouse on their own every night at the first hint of dusk. Then they fly up to the roost where they will stay until the next morning. Much easier than kids (At least easier than I was as a kid. But mom…I’m not tired!)