Why Your Hens Need Chicken Roosts and Why You Should Provide Them
Keeping chickens in one’s backyard has developed into a lucrative business. Recent statistics suggest that about 1% of American homes may now have one or more chicken coops in their backyards.
Having access to fresh, organic eggs and meat is a big reason why backyard chickens are becoming more popular. However, chickens are also increasingly being kept as pets in homes across the country.
Children can learn a lot about the natural order of things and how to show compassion for animals by participating in family projects like keeping chickens in the backyard.
Children who have helped raise chickens may feel close to them in a special way.
This is just one of the many reasons why you should make sure your flock’s chicken roosts are as safe and secure as possible.
What Is A Chicken Roost?
A chicken roost is a place where birds gather on a regular basis to rest or sleep.
If you observe wild birds, you will notice that they have regular places (usually in a tree) where they congregate at night. While you may not see or hear them, you can find them by walking through the woods and following the poop trail.
The same is true for our chicken flock.
To feel safe at night, they require roosting perches.
Even if there are no predators in the coop, the behavior is ingrained in chickens, and they will naturally seek out a high spot to sleep.
When chickens sleep, they form a line on these roosts.
The guys at the bottom of the pecking order will be at each end of the line. These “end-stop chickens” will sleep with one eye open (literally) to keep predators at bay.
They will turn around every now and then to rest the other side of their brain. The chickens in the center can close both eyes.
A chicken’s brain is capable of shutting down one side at a time, allowing them to be both asleep and awake.
So, when we build a coop for our feathered friends, we must include a sufficient number of roosting bars for them to rest and sleep on at night.
The size of your chickens will determine the height of the roosts.
Heavy breeds, such as the Brahma, should have slightly lower perches to avoid injuring their feet or legs when jumping down. Bantams prefer high perches because they can fly very well.
If you have a mixed flock, you will need to provide different heights of perches to keep everyone happy.
An Overview of Chicken Roosts
A perch is a chicken roost. To sit, settle, or gather is what the word “roost” means.
Choosing the right chicken roosts is the most important thing you can do for the health of your flock as a whole.
Chickens are social animals, which means that they have an innate genetic need to be together at all times, even while they are sleeping. This is true even though chickens sleep alone.
As a prey species, chickens have learned to sleep high in trees so they can watch out for predators. To avoid potential predators, this is a safer place to sleep.
In order for them to have a restful night’s sleep, chickens require a specific kind of roosting perch. For the sake of their feet, their roost must be cozy and healthy.
To sum up, the best place for your chickens to sleep should have all of the following features:
- Long enough to allow for the roosting of multiple chickens.
- To support the weight of several chickens, it must be strong and secure.
- The appropriate width, so as not to put undue strain on the feet of your chickens.
- In the morning, it makes it easy to access nesting boxes.
- To prevent injury or infection to your chickens’ feet, use a non-slip material.
- Installed at a height that gives a sense of safety to those who are inside your chicken coop.
- Easily accessible and easy to maintain a clean roosting area.
Why Do Chickens Roost?
In order to protect themselves from predators, chickens will roost at night.
The highest-ranking chickens will take the highest chicken perches, while the lower-ranking chickens will take the leftover areas. This makes them more vulnerable to attack in the wild, as the higher up you go, the safer you are.
Some small predators are also more likely to attack sleeping chickens when they nest on the floor.
When rats are hungry, they will nibble and bite their toes, legs, and backs. Ticks, mites, and lice can also be found on the ground, which does not make for a restful night’s sleep.
These tiny parasites will hide in the straw or litter and emerge at night to feed on the chickens.
If your hens are reluctant to go to roost at night, you almost certainly have mites.
Another factor to consider when sleeping chickens on the ground is that they will most likely be lying on poop or some other type of mess. The most sanitary place to sleep is in poop and muck.
Finally, roosting makes chickens feel safe, which is important so they can get a good night’s sleep and wake up refreshed for the day ahead.
When a chicken is sick or molting, it will sometimes take itself to a perch and sit quietly until they feel better.
Let’s take a closer look at each component of the ideal chicken roost now that you have a foundational understanding of what a roost is and the essential design elements. You should have no trouble following along.
Bar Length: Chicken Roosts
The length of your chicken roosts will depend in part on the size of your flock as well as the breed of chickens that you keep.
Plan for about 10 inches of bar space per bird for the majority of adult chickens of average size.
Therefore, if you want every bird in your flock to have a place to roost, you will need a minimum of 60 inches, which is equivalent to five feet, of space on the roosting bar.
Bar Material: Chicken Roosts
It is important to learn about how chickens perch before you can choose the best bar material for your chicken roosts.
Songbirds and garden birds will often wrap their toes around their perch in order to sit, which is something that backyard birders will notice.
Like this, chickens never sit. On a roosting perch, a chicken will sit with its feet almost completely flat, with only the tips of the toes curled around the edge of the perch.
Also, chickens mostly rest on their keel bones, which are the bones in the middle of their bodies that are connected to their flight bones. Keel bones are located on the back of the chicken.
Chickens that don’t have a proper perch are more likely to develop pressure point sores or lesions on their feet as well as stress fractures in their keel bones, according to the findings of a research study that was published in Poultry Science.
Natural wood is always going to be the best material for barstools because this is what chickens would roost on in the wild if they had the choice. If you can find thicker natural branches, it is always a good idea to use them for this reason.
When using prepared wood, on the other hand, you will need to sand it down in order to get rid of any splinters or rough areas that could cause injury to your chickens.
You might want to wrap a softer material, like some thick rubber, around older or arthritic chickens for comfort.
What is the Proper Size for Chicken Roosts?
Your perch should be wide enough to allow a chicken to sit on their feet safely and comfortably without requiring a balancing act.
In general, a 24-inch-wide, side-up piece of wood works well.
Even large birds, such as the Jersey Giant, can sit without swaying.
When chickens go to bed at night, only their feet and legs are exposed. They can perch happily on a stable base and sit down with their feathers covering their toes when sitting on a 24.
Your chickens will struggle to balance on thinner roosts and will often sleep poorly.
Thinner perches (such as stout tree limbs) should only be used for small breeds like bantams. To avoid Bumblefoot, these limbs should be thoroughly cleaned to remove any splinters or rough spots.
The choice is pretty much limitless when it comes to the length of a perch.
Chickens like to roost together, so it’s best if they’re all on the same roost. This will not be possible with larger flocks (more than 6 hens), necessitating the use of multiple roosts.
If the length of your coop limits what you can do, you can build a ladder-style perch by putting perches of different lengths in order of height.
For any disabled birds, the bottom rung of a ladder can be used as a perch.
Width of a Chicken Roost
When it comes to the width of a roosting perch, a thinner design is not preferable for chickens because they roost with their feet in a flat position. On the other hand, having a scope that is too broad can also result in complications.
The ideal perching height for adult chickens of a typical size should be between two and two and a half inches, and the surface area should be flat.
The British Poultry Society did some clever research, and the results showed that this size of perch was the one that laying hens liked best.
You can prevent abrasions and injuries to your chickens by rounding the edges of the roosting perch just a little bit, but there’s no need to make the perch round because your chickens won’t be able to wrap their toes around it anyway.
Actually, the keel bone can be protected from abrasions by having a little bit more width on the perch of the saddle.
If you want to use natural branches from nearby trees or bushes, choose ones that are stronger and have enough space for the birds to stand on.
Slip-Proof Chicken Roosts
Natural material is always the best choice for roosting perches because it offers a more stable grip surface, which is another reason why natural material is always the better choice.
Plastic perches made today might be easier to change out and lighter in weight, but they also have a tendency to be more slippery.
Similarly, steel is very easy to clean and very sanitary, but it can be very slippery and uncomfortable regardless of the temperature.
However, if you cover your natural wood perches with a layer of soft rubber, it will help pullets (young chickens) and older hens keep a firm grip on the perches throughout the night without sliding off.
Ideal Mounting Height for Chicken Roosts
How high above the ground should you mount your chicken roosts? This will partly depend on the height of your chicken coop as well as the number of chickens that you intend to house inside of it.
To avoid having to bend down when entering, the ideal height of your coop should be at least equal to your own height.
If you want to ensure the health and well-being of your chickens, you shouldn’t mount the lowest roost any lower than 12 inches off the ground.
Chicks and pullets, which aren’t as important in the flock, will usually live on the lowest roost in the roosting structure.
Lower roosts are also better for the safety of pullets and chicks because they won’t have much experience roosting yet.
However, your adult laying hens will be happier on higher roosts whenever it is possible to provide them with one. However, you need to select a height that is suitable for the breed of chicken you intend to raise.
Heavier, bigger chickens will have a hard time flying to any roost that is more than 18 inches off the ground.
Place your chicken roosts higher up; two feet (24 inches) above the ground is ideal for smaller, lighter-weight birds.
Where Should Chicken Roosts Be Located
According to the findings of a research study that was presented in the journal British Poultry Science, hens preferred to have their roosting perch located closer to the laying boxes.
The majority of hens lay eggs on a daily or near-daily basis, and they do so first thing in the morning.
If you provide a roost that is located very close to the laying boxes, the hens won’t have to travel very far before they begin laying their eggs in the morning.
Your chickens’ roosts need to be inside the coop, but they can’t be near the nesting boxes or feeding stations.
They should be placed about a foot to eighteen inches away from the wall.
If you have a ladder perch, the top rungs will almost touch the wall. This way, you can place your poop boards beneath the perch to catch the manure droppings overnight.
Make sure you have easy access to the poop boards so you can clean them on a regular basis. They will become a chore that you despise if they are not easy to access.
Common Chicken Roosts Issues
There are a few issues that can arise when using chicken perches.
1. Your roosts must be strong and stable.
They can actually snap if they are weak (or overloaded). This can cause all of your chickens to pile up on the floor, resulting in injuries. If your perch is not securely fastened in place, the same thing can happen.
2. Another common issue with chicken roosts is that they are unfinished and rough.
This can result in Bumblefoot and keel sores.
Bumblefoot develops when a cut in their skin becomes infected with bacteria. Splinters and rough areas on the perches can cause this, and the foot becomes infected as a result.
Treatment can be time-consuming and tedious and may necessitate the use of antibiotics for an extended period of time, so it is best avoided if at all possible.
Rough areas or an uneven or bumpy perch can also cause keel sores. When she roosts, the bird will hunker down onto her keel, and an abrasive surface can cause skin irritation, so make sure your perches are smooth and even.
3. Do your chickens have easy access to the perches?
Consider whether your chickens will be able to access the roosts.
Can they fly directly up to them?
If there are any obstacles in their path, they may land awkwardly.
4. Some chickens won’t use the roosts.
This is a common occurrence with young pullets. They will need to be shown where to sleep by being placed on the perches. This may need to be repeated several times.
Having more than one roosting bar is very useful in this situation because the younger hens may not want to be next to the older hens.
5. There isn’t enough room on the chicken roost.
If there is insufficient space on the chicken roost, some chickens may refuse to use the perch and instead sleep on the floor.
To accommodate your flock, you will need to build more roosts.
6. Unclean chicken roosts.
Your perches should be easy to take apart so you can clean them often.
Nasty little critters (such as mites) love to hide in the nooks and crannies of the perches, so remove them once a month to thoroughly clean them.
Sanitation and Chicken Roosts
Chickens maintain an internal pecking order because they are a flocking species.
The chickens that are currently holding the “alpha” positions within the flock will always have the first choice of roosting positions, regardless of the size of your flock.
Most of the time, the best places for chickens to sleep are the ones that are safe and high up.
It is possible for a healthy adult chicken to defecate up to 15 times every single day, at any time of the day or night.
If you have a larger flock and need to install multiple roosting bars, you will need to find a way to stagger them so that birds that are perched higher up won’t be able to poop on birds that are perched lower down.
Staggering the bars can be accomplished by installing them at different heights.
It is also important to plan for how you will easily be able to access and clean the ground below the roosts. So that infections and diseases don’t spread, it is important to keep these places very clean.
The most recent recommendations for best practices say that the perches should be set up in a stair-step pattern and that there should be some kind of container or material underneath that can be taken out and cleaned.
It is much more likely for chickens to live longer and produce more eggs for you and your family to enjoy if they have access to appropriate roosting perches for both sleep and daytime use.
Additionally, clean roosting perches will reduce the spread of infection or mites, both of which could be harmful to your chickens.
You should now know everything you need to know to build safe and healthy chicken roosts for your flock.