Chicken Roosts: What Are Perches and Why Your Hens Need Them - (2022)

Chicken Roosts, you would think that there isn’t much to write about regarding roosting perches, right?

As ‘seasoned’ poultry keepers, we sometimes are surprised by seemingly simple questions that new folks ask – but keep on asking!

We take for granted things that we have found or worked out, maybe second nature to us, but it is important to share this knowledge because it is not found quickly or easily in books.

So in this article, we have put together some guidelines for you about roosting perches, including:

  • Why does a chicken need to roost?
  • How much space does a chicken need to roost?
  • Common problems with roosting perches
  • And how to build your own chicken roost.

Chicken Roosts: Why Your Chickens Need Them, Problems, and How to Build Your Own

What is a Roosting Perch?

Chicken Roosts: What Are Perches and Why Your Hens Need Them - (1)

A roosting perch is somewhere the bird will be all night with their flock mates up close and personal, especially in the winter months!

The subtle difference between perches and roosting perches is the amount of time a bird will spend on the perch.

A general perch is somewhere to sit, have a quick nap, watch what’s going on, keep out of the way, etc. Examples would be the top of a gate, fence, barn rail, or similar.

How High Does a Chicken Roosts Need To Be?

Roosting perches should be around 1.5 – 3 feet high, depending on your flock.

I like to put a small lower perch in also for the ‘old ladies, so they don’t have to jump down too far, an important consideration arthritic hens.

Bantams and smaller birds enjoy high roosts, so you can put roosts further up for them as long as they have enough room to fly up to them.

Some folks will put the roosts up really high, like 4 -5 feet in their coops – as long as you can clean them and the birds use them, it’s ok.

Chicken Roosts: What Are Perches and Why Your Hens Need Them - (2)

Leg and foot injuries can be common if your perches are too high for your birds.

(Video) Perches - What your chickens want and wish you knew

Example

A heavy large fowl such as an Orpington is more likely to get leg injuries from jumping down because of her weight, so think about lower roosting bars for heavier or larger fowl like Jersey Giants or Orpingtons.

Unlike most wild birds and smaller cage birds, hens sleep with their feet flat. They do not grip the perch but rest their feet solidly on the perch, so 2-4 inches is generally a good size for most chickens.

This also helps to prevent frostbitten toes in the coldest days of winter.

If you keep only bantams, a roosting perch can be reduced to around 1 inch wide if you wanted to, and a mixture of perch sizes, if you have a mixed flock, is not a bad idea.

Each hen will require between 8-10 inches of space on the porch. In winter, you will find them all jam-packed together for warmth, but in summer, they like to spread out a bit to get some cooler air on their bodies.

It is recommended to place your roosts higher than the nest boxes. Otherwise, you may have hens seeking out the nest box instead.

While sleeping in the nest box is not a huge problem as far as the birds go, it is more work for you – you will have to ‘muck out’ the box every morning.

Believe me when I say this will get old fast!

Chicken Roosts: What Are Perches and Why Your Hens Need Them - (3)

Common Problems with Chicken Roosts Perches

When a chicken roosts at night, it will settle down with its’ keel-bone resting on the perch between its feet. So, pressure from the bird’s weight is concentrated in three small areas – both feet and the keel.

As you can see, a sharp, bumpy perch can cause problems in those areas.

Foot problems are generally labeled pododermatitis – meaning irritation or infection of the foot, specifically the sole.

Bumblefoot is a form of this where there is a break in the skin or a foreign body in the foot, setting up an infection.

This will cause the patient to be less mobile, resulting in pain and possibly being life-threatening if left without treatment.

(Video) The Comprehensive Roost Video - What you Need to Know About Chicken Perches

The keel or breast-bone can suffer from a pressure sore or a break in the skin from rubbing against the uneven porch leading to infection.

Chickens can also break it from awkward landings on the perch – keel fractures usually result in decreased egg laying since the calcium is being diverted to bone repair.

Chicken Roosts Perches and Pecking Order

Roosting perches are an important part of the ‘pecking order’ too. Hens higher up in the pecking order will get the higher spots in the roosting perches.

The top hens will be in the middle of the line with subordinates on the outside.

The two end hens will sleep with one eye open – literally! They are the look-outs for danger.

They will turn around periodically to rest on the other side of their brain.

Subordinate hens will also get the lower (less desirable) perches for the night.

Hens should roost rather than pile on the floor. The henhouse floor is not a particularly sanitary place, and any little critters such as mice can nibble at chickens’ toes!

Lice, mites, and other ectoparasites also live on the floor litter by day and come out to seek food at night.

If your chickens sleep on the floor, it makes for an easy target.

However, some breeds that will not perch, such as Silkies, and occasionally an individual hen will decide that no way is she going to use the roost and will camp out on the floor.

You can encourage roosting by gently putting them on the roost before closing the coop door. Sometimes this will become a test of willpower between the hen and you – oftentimes, the hen wins!

How to Build a Chicken Roost

Chicken Roosts: What Are Perches and Why Your Hens Need Them - (4)

Chicken Roost Ideas and Plans

Your imagination only limits the variety, shape, and type of wooden perches!

Most folks who build their own coops tend to use a non-treated 2×4 inch piece of wood placed with the ‘wide side’ on top.

(Video) Top 5 Chicken Roost Mistakes To Avoid! (#5 May Surprise You!)

Using it in this manner gives the bird a larger area to perch on, and in colder weather, they can sit down over their feet, thus avoiding frostbite.

Another type of perch is the ‘ladder.’ You can literally use an old wooden ladder or make your own.

If you are using an old ladder, make sure the rungs are smooth. If there are any rough areas, smooth them off with some sandpaper until they feel smooth.

Why? A splinter can cause ‘Bumblefoot,’ which takes time to treat and heal.

You will need two ‘uprights’ and several rungs depending on the size you wish to make to make your ladder.

The rungs will be leveled to horizontal while the uprights are leaning in place. You can use the rungs either on the wide side for large fowl or the narrow side for bantams.

If you decide to use a ladder or staircase design, make sure the ‘steps’ are far enough apart (about 12-18 inches) that the birds below don’t get pooped on!

If you wish to be more naturalistic, you can use tree branches. You will need to ensure the wood is sturdy, without sharp points, and strong enough to hold several hens.

For example, a perch that holds 6 standard birds carries around 36lb of weight – as you can see already, the roosting perch needs to be sturdy!

Unsuitable Materials

Metal has been used but is limited by a couple of things:

  1. The first being temperature. In winter, it gets so cold that birds’ feet can literally ‘stick’ to it, and in summer can get hot enough to cause discomfort.
  2. The second thing is that it is smooth and can be difficult for a bird to hang onto, especially if it is round.

Plastic is quite frequently used in some of the cheaper store-bought coops. Do yourself and your birds a favor and rip it out if you can. Replace it with wooden bars.

Plastic can warp if it gets too hot or and can actually shatter if it gets too cold. Chickens can eat plastic shards, or they can walk on them – neither is desirable. Also, the birds cannot grip the smooth plastic very well.

Most Suitable Material: Wood

Wood is probably the best material to make perches from. It is durable, you can make them to your own specifications, and you can use what might be lying around the house or yard.

What type of wood should you use? If you buy your timber, it will need to be untreated wood. In this day and age, it is hard to know what chemicals are used on treated wood.

(Video) How To Build A Chicken Roost That Won’t Harm Your Chickens

The edges of the wood should be smooth and free from splinters. Many sources recommend you sand off the edges, but I find that 2x4s’ are rarely ‘straight-edged,’ so I leave them intact.

While chickens are domesticated birds, they still have many of their instincts instilled in them. Roosting is an important part of what a chicken would do in the wild to remain safe while sleeping.

A sleeping chicken is a vulnerable chicken. And since our chooks are at the bottom of the food chain, sleeping on the ground could be fatal for them.

If you’ve ever picked up a sleeping chicken, you probably noticed how lethargic and sleepy they are. If a predator came upon them in that state, they would have an easy meal.

Aside from the fact that chickens don’t want to sleep in their own droppings, they also sleep on roosts to protect themselves from predators on the ground.

A chicken might roost amongst the trees in the wild as high as they could get to conceal themselves from any impending doom.

A wild dog would snatch up a sleeping chicken on the ground with ease, but it may not be able to reach it among the branches.

So while your chickens may not be in any immediate danger, they instinctually prefer to sleep off the ground.

Summary

As you can see, the roosting perch or bar is a straightforward thing. You can make one in a couple of hours – an easy DIY project for you!

If you have bought a ready-made coop, check on the roost bar. If it is not your liking, you can usually replace the original fairly easily with basic tools.

You should be aware that mites love nooks and crannies, so either makes your perches tight-fitting or removable.

Removable is ideal since you can take them out regularly and dust the crevices well before replacing them.

Some folks take the perches outside and spray with Neem oil, set them to dry on a good, sunny day before replacing them.

However, if your perches are fixed, you can be diligent about dusting the small spaces between the perch and wall.

(Video) Chicken Roosts: Everything You Never Knew You Needed to Know

Well, there you have it, the ‘skinny’ on perches. As always, no one idea or model fits all – you can modify to your own specifications and the comfort of your flock.

Have you used anything unusual for perches before? Would you please share your ideas with everyone in the comments section below?

Read Next: The Simple Way to Tell How Old Your Chickens Are

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Chicken Roosts: What Are Perches and Why Your Hens Need Them - (5)

FAQs

Chicken Roosts: What Are Perches and Why Your Hens Need Them -? ›

Roosting perches are an important part of the 'pecking order' too. Hens higher up in the pecking order will get the higher spots in the roosting perches. The top hens will be in the middle of the line with subordinates on the outside. The two end hens will sleep with one eye open – literally!

Why do chickens need a perch? ›

Chickens need perches in their coop to allow them to sleep without standing in their feces. Chickens roost on perches in the wild to avoid predators at night and during the day. Perches in a chicken coop help fulfill this natural tendency.

Why do chickens need a roosting perch? ›

Why do I need a roost? It is natural instinct for your chickens to want to roost up high (because they are descendants of wild birds which sleep in trees), so providing them with a suitably positioned roost will allow them to feel safe and protected while they sleep-a critical part of their daily activities!

What can I use for chicken perches? ›

Material – You can use sturdy branches, ladders or boards for your chicken roosting bars. If you use boards, check for splinters and sand if necessary. A 2×4 with the 4″ side facing up makes a wonderful roost. You can round the edges a bit if you wish for greater comfort.

Do chickens need round or flat perches? ›

Roosts can be round or square

Although hens roost relatively flat footed, they do like to be able to curl their toes around the edge of the perch at the front and back. This means that chickens prefer round or square/rectangular perches when compared to a flat perch such as a board.

How far from the ceiling should a roost be? ›

Set the bar high.

Inside a coop, place roosts eighteen inches or higher from the ground. Some breeds are better able to reach higher roosts and mounts may be placed as close as eighteen inches from the ceiling of the coop for larger or more agile breeds.

What do chickens like to sleep on? ›

Chickens like sleeping on roost perches instead of sleeping in nesting boxes or on the floor. These birds like sleeping on roosting perches since they feel safe from threats, including predators. Even when they aren't predators in the coop, chickens won't risk sleeping on the floor but rather on roosting perches.

What should I put on the floor of my chicken coop? ›

What Do You Use on the Floor of the Coop? For the deep litter method, use pine shavings or hemp bedding as your bottom layer since they are small pieces and compost fairly quickly. Pine shavings are inexpensive and available online or at your local feed store in bales.

Do chickens need to be locked up at night? ›

It is crucial that your hens stay in their coop at night. Despite what you might think, there are almost always predators around, even in urban areas. So keep your flock safe and secure.

Why do chickens roost at night? ›

Aside from the fact that chickens don't want to sleep in their own droppings, they also sleep on roosts to protect themselves from predators on the ground. A chicken might roost amongst the trees in the wild as high as they could get to conceal themselves from any impending doom.

How high should roosting perch be? ›

Your perches should be at least eighteen inches off the floor while leaving enough headroom for birds jumping or flying up. Heavier chickens should have perches at a slightly lower level (twelve inches) to try and prevent leg and feet injuries.

Do chickens need food and water in their coop at night? ›

Chickens do not typically need food and water at night, as they are diurnal creatures, meaning they are awake during the day and sleep through the night. However, there are some instances like having chicks or brooding hens where you should make food and water available to your chickens overnight.

What kind of perch do chickens like? ›

Oval-shaped perches performed best when chicken's were standing. However, when a chickens is seated, the square perch performs better because it exerts less pressure on the chicken's keel bone.

How high do chickens like to roost? ›

However, a chicken will be perfectly healthy roosting on a roost that is anywhere from 6 inches to 10 feet or more off of the ground. To mimic the behavior of a chicken in the wild, the roost should be about 4 feet above the floor with roosts below it graduating to the floor.

Is a 2x4 a good chicken roost? ›

The most common perches I see are either 2x2's or 2x4's sanded to remove sharp corners on the top and unpainted. And yes chicken can and do grasp a roost, they are not naturally flat footed. They actually prefer roosting in trees!

How far from the wall should a chicken roost be? ›

Spacing and Position

Set the roost at least 15 inches off the front and back walls to provide space. Plan for at least 10 inches of roosting space for each bird. Add several inches of additional space for extra large breeds and mature birds to reduce conflict and pecking.

How high is too high for roosting bars? ›

Roosts can be as low as a foot off the ground or as high as a foot or so from the ceiling. However, if you are going to make the roost much higher than two feet, staggering several roosts like stairs at varying heights will make it easier for the chickens to get up and down from the roost without injuring themselves.

How high should a hen perch be? ›

Inside the hen house, the general rule is to place the roosting bars between 30 and 60 cm above the floor. Many, if not most, hens could reach bars placed higher but there is a risk, especially with larger birds, of them hurting themselves when jumping down.

Do chickens need a ladder to roost? ›

A ledge, a ladder, or even large sticks will do the trick. Chickens have a natural instinct to be safe after dark and will look for a place to sleep that is up off of the ground at night. And if you don't have one, they will find one because that instinct for safety is so strong.

What time do chickens go to sleep? ›

Chickens will usually roost around dusk and will be asleep by sundown. The exact time will vary through the year. If your chickens won't go to bed there is a variety of reasons and solutions. Except when it's seriously overcast and rainy bedtime for chickens begins 30 minutes before sundown.

What time do chickens wake up? ›

Sometime between 2:30am and 5:30am: The chickens wake up.

Chickens wake up really early. Like way earlier than we want to get up early. Chicken brains are super light sensitive, which is both cool and creepy—they're so sensitive to light they absorb it through their skull even with their eyes closed!

How many hours a day do chickens sleep? ›

It really depends on the chicken's individual behavior but the fact of the matter is that most chickens tend to sleep somewhere between 8 to 12 hours a day. Some may sleep earlier and wake up earlier while others might sleep later and wake up late.

How often do you change the bedding in a chicken coop? ›

We recommend changing your chicken's coop bedding every 2-3 weeks and nesting box as needed for all feathered friends. However, keep in mind that chicken blogs and friends will give their personal favorite changing times.

How often should a chicken coop be cleaned? ›

How often you should be cleaning a chicken coop? You should provide fresh food and fresh water every day, and you should clean the bedding out once a week or once a month(the deeper the bedding layer the less often you have to clean it out). It's best practice to do a total clean-out at least twice a year.

Does a chicken coop need to be off the ground? ›

Not all chicken coops need to be off the ground, but there are many benefits to having an elevated coop, including the prevention of high moisture in the coop (particularly in areas with run-off or flooding), protection from burrowing predators and rodents, extension of the size of the run, and shelter in the run from ...

Can you leave chickens out in the rain? ›

Chickens are fine being in the rain as long as they have a waterproof shelter they can retreat to on-demand. Rainy days often mean fewer predators, more bugs, and little to no effect on the chickens as long as they can dry off and stay warm.

Can you leave chickens alone for a week? ›

You can leave your backyard chickens alone for a few days so long as you see to a few basic needs. 1. They need enough food and water for the duration of your trip. That should be a no-brainer.

Do chickens need a light in their coop at night? ›

Chickens do not need light at night. They require at least 6 to 8 hours of darkness to get a good night's sleep. This downtime is imperative to the chicken's health and well-being, just as much as daylight or artificial light for 12 to 14 hours per day is critical for laying eggs.

Do chickens poop in their sleep? ›

Chickens generally will only poop in the nesting boxes if they are sleeping in them at night.

What do you put under a chicken roost? ›

You can install a dropping board underneath the roosting bars; it does exactly what you think it does – it catches chicken droppings. Instead of chicken poop caked underneath the roosting bars and you needing to clean or change out the bedding regularly, you just clean the dropping board regularly.

Do chickens pee? ›

These lobes are located under their lungs. As birds do not have a urinary bladder, their pee is non-water soluble uric acid. If you have observed your chicken's poop, their “pee” is the white paste and some liquid that's excreted out as they release their waste.

Why don't my chickens roost at night? ›

Not returning to the roost to sleep is more common among younger chicks, or newly introduced flock members. This is because they may not yet be aware of where they are suppose to sleep, are struggling to get back into the coop, or they wish to sleep away from the older birds.

How do chickens sleep at night? ›

During roosting, the chicken at the top of the pecking order sleeps in the middle, closing both eyes, while the chickens on the edges keep one eye open, watching for trouble. The chickens on either side of the top hen will rotate during the night so everyone gets some sleep.

Why do my chickens sleep on top of each other? ›

Fear, cold temperatures or a change in surroundings can all cause piling,” says Tom Watkins, general manager at Murray McMurray Hatchery in Webster City, Iowa. “When any of those things happen, a chicken's normal reflex is to congregate in one spot with others of its flock.

How often should I change my chickens water? ›

Chickens love their fresh water, and drink more than you'd think - especially if the weather is warm. You have to replace your chickens' water once or twice a day, so you can be sure the water they have is guaranteed to be fresh.

How many times a day should I feed my chickens? ›

How Often to Feed Chickens. Ideally, you should split your chicken's feed into two servings daily. If you're home during the day, you can even make this 3-4 small feedings. Chickens enjoy small, frequent meals as opposed to large meals once a day.

What time of day do you feed chickens? ›

If you are retired or spend most of your time at home, you can feed them pellets several times throughout the day. However, if you work or are away from your home throughout the day, then you are best feeding them once in the morning and then again during the evening when you're back home.

What is the best roosting bar for chickens? ›

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Do chickens need a ramp to their nesting boxes? ›

For a few of our models, ramps are sometimes necessary to access roost space or bars. This is particularly true for bantam-sized birds as well as larger/heavier breeds. More often than not, regular-sized birds do just fine jumping on and off roost bars without a ramp.

How much roosting space does a chicken need? ›

Provide roosting poles that are at least 2 to 3 feet off the ground (they don't like to be too low). Plan for at least 6 to 10 inches of roosting space per chicken. If the roosting poles are more than 4 feet high, they will need a way to get up to them, such as by a plank with wooden strips for makeshift steps.

Do chickens need a ramp to their nesting boxes? ›

For a few of our models, ramps are sometimes necessary to access roost space or bars. This is particularly true for bantam-sized birds as well as larger/heavier breeds. More often than not, regular-sized birds do just fine jumping on and off roost bars without a ramp.

Do hens need to roost? ›

They need roosting perches to feel safe at night. While there may not be predators in the coop, the behavior is ingrained in chickens and they will naturally seek out a high spot where they can sleep. When chickens sleep they line up together on these roosts.

Are chickens perching birds? ›

Unlike most wild birds and smaller cage birds, hens sleep with their feet flat. They do not grip the perch but rest their feet solidly on the perch, so 2-4 inches is generally a good size for most chickens.

What kind of perch do chickens like? ›

Oval-shaped perches performed best when chicken's were standing. However, when a chickens is seated, the square perch performs better because it exerts less pressure on the chicken's keel bone.

How high off the ground should chickens roost? ›

However, a chicken will be perfectly healthy roosting on a roost that is anywhere from 6 inches to 10 feet or more off of the ground. To mimic the behavior of a chicken in the wild, the roost should be about 4 feet above the floor with roosts below it graduating to the floor.

Can chickens stay in the coop all day? ›

So yes, chickens can stay inside their coop all day as long as they have everything they need for the entire day, including light. If your coop does not have windows you can put in lights and a timer, but that often requires running electric and many people don't want to do that outside.

How often should you muck out chickens? ›

Once a week you should remove all the droppings and replace their bedding. Some houses will need some scrubbing to get rid of all the muck. Our Eglus are all easy cleaning chicken coops, and can be hosed down. Make sure your coop is dry before putting fresh bedding in.

How many nesting boxes do I need for 6 chickens? ›

However, there are plenty of poultry supply companies that sell nest boxes and the answer they should give you is approximately one nest box for every 5 – 6 hens.

How do you catch chicken poop? ›

Most chicken-keepers scrape off the droppings boards (DBs) each morning. I use a 12″ taping knife and a big bucket, which makes quick work of the task. Then it goes directly to the compost pile.

How do I make chicken perches? ›

How To Build A Chicken Roost That Won't Harm Your Chickens - YouTube

How far from Wall should chicken Roost be? ›

Spacing and Position

Set the roost at least 15 inches off the front and back walls to provide space. Plan for at least 10 inches of roosting space for each bird. Add several inches of additional space for extra large breeds and mature birds to reduce conflict and pecking.

Do hens sleep at night? ›

During roosting, the chicken at the top of the pecking order sleeps in the middle, closing both eyes, while the chickens on the edges keep one eye open, watching for trouble. The chickens on either side of the top hen will rotate during the night so everyone gets some sleep.

What should I put on the floor of my chicken coop? ›

What Do You Use on the Floor of the Coop? For the deep litter method, use pine shavings or hemp bedding as your bottom layer since they are small pieces and compost fairly quickly. Pine shavings are inexpensive and available online or at your local feed store in bales.

Why don't my chickens roost at night? ›

Not returning to the roost to sleep is more common among younger chicks, or newly introduced flock members. This is because they may not yet be aware of where they are suppose to sleep, are struggling to get back into the coop, or they wish to sleep away from the older birds.

Do chickens need food and water in their coop at night? ›

Chickens do not typically need food and water at night, as they are diurnal creatures, meaning they are awake during the day and sleep through the night. However, there are some instances like having chicks or brooding hens where you should make food and water available to your chickens overnight.

Videos

1. Backyard Chickens: Getting New Hens and Introducing Them to Older Hens
(Cortney Grows Food)
2. Chicken Coop Guide - What You Need To Know Before Building Or Buying Your Coop
(Tom)
3. 9 Must-Have Chicken Coop Features!
(Audrey's Little Farm)
4. My chicken coop air conditioner
(The Featherbrain)
5. Chicken Roosting Bars Ideas To Help Your Flock Roost | Special Trick That SAVED Us!
(Country Living Experience: A Homesteading Journey)
6. Chicken Roosts: What Are Perches and Why Your Hens Need Them
(The Happy Chicken Coop)

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