Did you know that some countries have made it illegal to keep chickens without a roost? No matter if you have a backyard flock or a commercial chicken farm, they require it by law. Why do chickens need a roost? Today we are going to talk about everything you need to know about chicken roosts.
Why Do Chickens Need A Roost?
A simple explanation for this is that chickens need a roost to sleep at night. Chickens instinctually seek out high spaces to perch in as the sun begins to set. These instincts have many practical purposes, though.
The most apparent reason chickens seek out these high perches is to protect themselves from predators. If the chickens are up high, the predators will have to work harder to find the flock. And by the time they figure it out, the chickens will have a head start to get away.
Another reason chickens like to sleep up high is to keep sanitary. Chicken coops have a dirty floor, and since chickens like to poop while they sleep, you can imagine the mess. If you leave your chickens to sleep on the ground, it puts them at higher risks of bacterial infections.
A chicken perch also protects the chicken’s feet. In the winter, chickens will sit on their feet for warmth. It also helps keep your chicken’s feet away from mice and rats. These vermin like to take nibbles into sleeping chickens if you aren’t careful. So keeping them off the floor reduces this risk.
If chickens don’t feel safe, it could lead to anxiety issues. It goes against all of their survival instincts and could lead to decreased egg production. That’s why many countries have added roosts to their animal rights laws.
How To Make A Chicken Roost
Now that you know why roosts are necessary, let’s talk about how to make one. You can’t just use any old material and call it a chicken roost. And you will be surprised to find out that most pre-fabricated coops have inadequate roosts. So what do chickens like?
The most important part of a chicken perch is the material. Some pre-fabricated coops come with plastic or PVC roosts. But these aren’t the best option because they are cold and too slippery for the chickens to sleep on.
The most natural material to use is wood. Wood doesn’t wear down quickly, it’s easy to grip, and it stays warm in winter. As long as you sand down the wood with no splinters or sharp edges, your chickens will love it. But this is only half the battle in finding the perfect place for chicken sleep.
The size of your chicken perch is also essential. You will need a roost with enough space for your flock. And wide enough for your chickens to sleep with their feet flat. How big should a chicken roosting bar be? This will depend on your chickens and flock size. The average chicken needs about 10 inches of perch per bird, and smaller breeds need 8 inches per hen. That is large enough for a bit of room in the summer heat. And they can all huddle together in winter to keep themselves warm.
You will also need to ensure that your chicken roost is wide enough for your chickens to sit comfortably. Unlike most bird breeds, chickens don’t sleep with their feet wrapped around branches. Instead, they sit with their feet flat for balance and warmth. Most people agree that a roost needs to be 4 inches wide for larger chickens and 2 inches for smaller ones.
Do chickens prefer round or square roosts? The answer to this is somewhere in between. Chickens need flatter roosts to keep their feet balanced. But they also like to curl their feet around the edges of the perch for added stability. So larger branches give them a natural feel. However, a 2×4 with the edges sanded round is also a good choice.
Something that most people don’t think about is the shape of the chicken perch. This is where you can take a little bit of creative liberty to fit your flock’s needs. Most coops for small flocks have one simple roost, but you can make a ladder style as well.
Ladder roost shapes allow for larger flocks to roost peacefully. They are also a way to make roosts for a mixed flock. You could put smaller perch rungs higher up for bantam chickens and wider rungs for older birds at the bottom. The possibilities are endless when creating your own chicken roost.
One thing that you should consider with a leaning ladder-shaped perch is how far apart the rungs are. Remember how we told you that chickens poop while they sleep? Well, you don’t want the chickens on top making a mess of the hens at the bottom. To prevent this, you will want to space the perches 12-18 inches apart to create a staggered effect.
Another possibility is to create stairs for the hens to sleep on. The concept is the same as a ladder. It makes more space by staggering larger flocks. And they are a little sturdier than ladder styles, so you won’t have to worry about accidents.
And finally, where you put your chicken roost is just as important as anything else. How high should chicken roosts be? To answer this question, we have to think about why do chickens need a roost? The point of a perch is to keep your chickens elevated off the ground-your chicken sleep at least 1.5 feet off the ground. Some chickens prefer perches as tall as 3 feet. But there are a few things to take into account with how tall to make your chicken roost.
Heavy chickens can’t fly up high to roost at night, so they need something lower to the ground. And even if they could get up high, coming down poses a massive risk to their feet. Large chicken breeds are prone to getting bumblefoot and joint problems if they are allowed to jump from high places.
Another thing to consider is how easy cleaning will be. If you put your roosts too high, it makes cleaning impossible. And you will need to clean the perches more often than you think. Because you have to remember, chickens poop a lot, so easy access is crucial.
Finally, you should also consider your nesting boxes when it comes to perch placement. If the roosts are lower than your nesting boxes, most chickens will prefer to sleep in those. And while sleeping in the nesting boxes isn’t harmful, it isn’t sanitary. Your chickens will soil the boxes quickly and then lay their eggs in a mess.
In addition to height, you don’t want your roosts over the nesting boxes. The reason for this is the same. Chickens will roost over the boxes and fill them with feces in as little as one night. What do you put under a chicken roost? The best thing to have is wood shavings bedding to create beautiful compost.
So What Should You Use As A Chicken Roost?
Is a 2×4 a good chicken roost? Or would a natural tree branch better? Either one is perfect for any flock, but a 2×4 is easier to access. Some people claim that their chickens prefer a branch, but it really comes down to accessibility. When you use a 2×4, the only modification you will need to make is sanding the edges to be round.
If you use a natural branch, it could be more difficult. The wood will need to be clear of woodlice and mites. It will also need to hold the weight of your chickens without bowing. You will also have to sand down any splinters and large knots. Finding a branch large enough and strong enough is no easy task, though. If you live on a farm with lots of trees, you will have better luck. But urban areas aren’t as lucky, so a 2×4 is a suitable replacement.
Why Won’t My Chickens Sleep On Their Roost?
Nothing is more frustrating than a flock that won’t roost. If you have this issue with your entire flock, first, you should double-check all the specs. Ensure that the roosts are long enough, staggered, at the ideal height, and wide enough for your chickens.
If you have only one chicken that isn’t roosting, the pecking order may be to blame. Chickens sleep according to their pecking order ranking. Hens at the top of the hierarchy sleep higher in the roosts. And lower hens sleep toward the bottom. If all of your hens are bullying one, then they could kick her out of the roost. To solve this problem, you might need to add more chicken perches. Even if your roosts are technically long enough, more space between your chickens will alleviate any tensions.
Another reason your chickens might not roost at night is their age. Young chickens who have never had a roost might take a while to adjust. You could give your chicks a small perch in the brooder to prevent this in the future. But to solve the issue now, you will have to do a little training. Every night bring your pullets in and place them on the roost. After a few weeks, they will get the idea that the perch is ideal for sleep.
And Now You Are An Expert
So why do chickens need a roost? There are lots of reasons that chickens need a roost. But the most important reason is that it’s natural for them. We can think of several other reasons why a chicken perch will make our jobs easier. However, none of that matters as much as catering to the instinct of self-preservation of our hens.
Below is a Pinterest friendly photo…. so you can pin it to your Backyard Chicken Board!!