The Roost: A Chicken’s Sleeping Headquarters

| Posted By: Brian | 10 Comments

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.

The branches used for the roost in the henhouse

The branches that are used in the henhouse for the roost.

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 henninghouse. 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.

Chickens sleeping on their roost in the henhouse.

Here are the chickens caught by surprise at night as they were sleeping on their roost.

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!)

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10 Responses to “The Roost: A Chicken’s Sleeping Headquarters”

  1. Theron Jones says:

    Life teaches us many vaulable lessons! But it seems the best lessons or the most rewarding ones are those that come from personal experiences or mishaps. I have often dreamed of moving out into the hills of Adams County Ohio where I can truly grow and be one with the earth as God intended! Haha.. But, as for now the Lord is treating me very good and I will not complain. Brian, I can’t tell you how great it is to read your blogs and see your posted pictures. I am happy to hear that you and Laura married and are still living in Ohio! I ALWAYS ENJOYED the two of you at Burg. I am very proud to have had you in my class. I run a silk-screening business in Mt. Orab, Ohio now. My website is just getting off the ground so don’t laugh! Please keep in touch and continue blogging… I really enjoy reading them!
    PS: Your mom told me how I could get in touch with you..she is gonna give me a trim on Friday.

    Theron

    • Brian says:

      It’s good to hear that you are doing well Theron (or uh, Mr. Jones haha). Yes, I think many of us would love to be able to move to the country where life is so much simpler, slower. But like you said, life is treating us well so there is no room for complaints. Lara and I both always enjoyed you as a teacher in class. You inspired us to do many things that we otherwise wouldn’t have. We actually have some art that Lara did in your class hanging on our dining room wall! Congratulations on your business. I’m sure you are putting a lot of work into getting it off of the ground (I know from experience how much it takes). Looking forward to seeing the progress!

      Don’t worry, we’ll keep posting. When you write about what you love doing, you have an endless supply of topics.

      Brian

  2. [...]  We have now added our roost, Lara put in her cosmetic improvements, and we also built the chicken run.  Check them out! [...]

  3. Marichu Garrison says:

    Thanks for the information, I like the idea of yours simple but very effective and it WORKS..

  4. Tracey says:

    Is there any chance that a sleeping chicken would fall off the roost at night and break her neck. We fear that is what happened to our sweet “Peep”. We found her on the ground this morning. I am so devastated that there is a chance she fell off. She’s been laying eggs everyday and seemed very healthy otherwise.

    • Brian says:

      That’s so sad to hear about “Peep”. In our 1.5 years of having our 5 chickens, none of them have ever fallen from their roost while sleeping (as far as I know). I have watched them while they sleep (sounds creepy…) and they will bob back and forth. But never fall off. Sometimes, before they fully fall asleep, they’ll get spooked or nudged by the chicken next to them and “fall off”. But they instinctively flap their wings and come to an upright landing.

      So, I certainly wouldn’t rule the idea out. But I haven’t seen or experienced that.

  5. great, just wanted to say, I loved this post. It was inspiring. Keep on posting!

  6. Douglass Viren says:

    I am so happy I stumbled upon your blog. I really found you by accident, while I was browsing on Yahoo for something else. I agree with what you spoke about in your post. I haven’t looked at it that way. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Jon McLeod says:

    With our roosts we just put more sawdust down on the ground so my 10yr old felt ok with them “falling” on the ground. No injury to anyone yet!

    Nice little trick too from Homedepot. I mounted water drains to the back side of the roost to keep the coup clean!

  8. Amber Lawrence says:

    tonight was a success with the chickens (3 months old) to get them to roost on the bar. I went out to the chicken house and found them sleeping on top of the nesting box. slowly I pick them up one by one and place them on the roosting bar. I know that I will have to do it again every night until they get use to it. But the process tonight was at most good.

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