By now you will have heard that chickens prefer to sleep on roosts. But, there’s a lot of debate in the chicken community about what exactly makes for the perfect roost for your flock.
Some say use ladders, as they are the easiest to source and appear to fit all the natural roost-like qualities. But, it’s a little more complex than throwing any old ladder in the coop.
Besides, do chickens really need roosts in their coop, anyway? What’s the alternative if your coop simply isn’t big enough?!
To answer any questions, plus the ones you never thought of, here’s why chickens sleep on roosts, whether you NEED a roost in your chicken coop, and what the best household and DIY roosts are!
Why Do Chickens Like To Sleep On Roosts?
Before we look at what makes for the best roost for chickens, it’s crucial to understand why chickens like to sleep on roosts in the first place.
Even the wild chickens of Hawaii like to sleep on roosts, perching and sleeping on the trees or somewhere above ground level.
So, chickens innately prefer to sleep on roosts. But why?
Well, it comes down to a few key factors. Chickens like to sleep on roosts as it gives them a sense of safety, helps them regulate their temperature, and for maximum comfort.
Sense Of Safety
As we know, chickens don’t have the greatest means to protect themselves from predators. So, being high off the ground and somewhat hidden gives your chickens the sense of safety they need for a good night’s sleep.
Chickens that don’t feel safe at night will inevitably get less sleep, which can impact their egg-laying, wellbeing, and health.
Roosts help chickens feel that much safer in their coop and provide them a more comfortable night’s sleep
To Regulate Temperature
As we know, chickens are warm-blooded. This means they have the ability to regulate their own body temperatures to their optimal levels, without relying solely on the external environment.
When the earth is warm your chicken will often sit down in holes or spend more time in contact with the ground.
However, when the temperatures are cold, your chickens will spend more time on roosts, not coming in contact with the ground.
This is because one of the ways chickens regulate their body temperature is through their legs, by the exposure to the earth and outside environment.
Providing your chickens a place above the ground will mean they are able to regulate their temperatures more easily, without the influence of the earth’s temperature.
If you’ve taken a look at a chicken’s foot, you’ll notice their toes and claws naturally curl inward. When they walk, this curvature helps them grip the ground, and launch themselves in whichever direction they need to go.
If your chickens sleep on the ground, these toes remain tensed the entire time, which can lead to physiological problems or abnormalities in your chicken.
When chickens choose a perch or roost to sleep on, they relax their feet as they wrap them around the bars. This is also why it’s crucial to ensure your roost has bars that aren’t too big for your chicken’s feet!
Do Chickens Coops Need A Roost?
There are a few fundamentals to get right when raising chickens. Nesting boxes, a secure coop, adequate space, and a proper roost for your chickens are all among the most important factors when it comes to housing any sized flock.
Sleep is absolutely crucial for a chicken’s health and wellbeing. Just like with most animals, even a slight loss of sleep every night can lead to some pretty detrimental effects.
Although chickens can and will sleep in other locations like in their nesting boxes, on the floor, or when taking naps outside during the day, a roost is the most suitable and safe bed for your chickens.
Plus, if you set it up right then it’s also much cleaner for you and your chickens!
When it comes to setting up your coop, ensure you offer a roost, or roost-like alternative for your chickens to sleep comfortably and safely.
DIY Chicken Roost Guidelines
When it comes to preparing a roost, it’s not as simple as throwing any old ladder or branch into your chicken coop and hoping for the best.
Remember, chickens roost for a sense of safety, the ability to regulate temperature, and of course, for comfort. Keeping these key reasons front of mind will help you in providing the best DIY roost for your chicken coop.
To satisfy all of these needs, a chickens roost should provide adequate height, enough space and levels, and comfortable bars for your chickens to perch on.
Use these guidelines when looking at making or improving your own DIY chicken roost.
The height of your roost will depend on the overall size of your coop, I get that. But, in general, you should place the roost with bars extending at least 12 inches off the floor and up to 6 feet high if your coop allows it.
This will give your chickens a sense of safety. Plus having the option of being off the ground will help them stay warm in winter.
Enough Space & Levels
When constructing a roost make sure you offer 2 separate levels at the least, and up to as many as you need to roost all your chickens.
You’ll find that your chickens will sort themselves into their pecking order, with the chickens at the top of the hierarchy in the “best” and highest spots on the roost.
So you’ll need to offer enough space so all your chickens feel comfortable and have their own space, otherwise, your chickens may become stressed or aggressive.
The thickness of the bars should match the size of your chicken’s feet. In general, they should be between 2-4 inches wide. Any thinner or thicker and the roost may be uncomfortable for your chooks.
Each bar should also have some grip. Materials like wood tend to work best, or even rubber. Avoid plastics and metals as they simply don’t offer any grip for your chickens.
The levels of the bars should also be placed diagonally, not straight up in a line. This is so that chickens on the lower layer of the roost don’t get hit by falling droppings of those above them!
If your chicken’s droppings can fall all the way to the floor it makes for an easy clean-up, especially if you have something to collect it at the bottom.
What Can You Use As A Chicken Roost?
So, with all these roost guidelines to satisfy, what should you even use?
Well, the truth is you can use anything so long it covers the main requirements being:
- Something big enough to hold all your chickens.
- Something with multiple levels.
- Something with adequately sized bars for your chickens.
- Something made from a material that chickens can easily grip, like wood or rubber
In saying this, the most common household objects and DYI chicken roosts are made from dried wood or logs, or even a suitable ladder.
Can You Use A Ladder As A Roost For Chickens
Ladders are used in chicken coops as a very rustic and traditional way to offer a roost to your chickens. But, they are not always the most practical or comfortable for your chickens.
If you want to use a ladder as a roost for your chickens, just make sure there’s enough space for your entire flock and the bars are a suitable size and material for your chickens to perch on.
If you lean it at around a 45°F angle your chickens will easily be able to jump between levels, and their droppings should drop right to the bottom of the coop for easy cleaning!
Even if you’re not using a ladder as your actual roost it can be a good idea to keep one in your coop. As we know, most chickens can’t fly or jump very high. If your roost is too tall for your chickens to jump up to you can provide a ladder up to the roost to help them.
Can You Use Branches As A Roost For Chickens
Probably the most common roost to offer your chickens is also the most natural: branches from a tree.
It doesn’t have to be any special type of wood either, you could even just use a branch that’s fallen off a tree. Ideally, you should use a dry branch or dry wood, as it will help absorb moisture in your chicken coop and won’t rot.
Wood branches also provide an excellent surface for chickens to grab onto, after all, it has many natural nooks and crannies for the chicken’s claws to grip.
It’s also the most appealing to chickens as it resembles their outside environment from its look to its smell.
So, you absolutely can use branches as a roost for your chickens. Just remember to find one that’s large enough to hold your flock, isn’t too thin, and is nice and dry.
So it’s pretty clear that you should offer your chickens a suitable roost. A well-rested chicken is a happy chicken, right?
Roosts give your chickens a sense of safety and a comfortable perch to rest and sleep on!
A good solid roost should provide adequate height, have enough space and levels, and have strong and comfortable bars for your chickens.
Ladders can be the perfect roost so long as their large enough, are made of wood, and the bars are of a suitable thickness. Otherwise, finding some suitable dry branches can work perfectly too!