Everything You Need to Know About Chicken Roosting Bars

What Does a Chicken Coop Need? A Good Roosting Bar, of Course!

chicken-roosting-bars

One of the most common questions I get asked on my Facebook page (Fresh Eggs Daily) is how wide chicken roosting bars should be and how high off the ground they should be positioned. So here’s everything you need to know about chicken roosting bars.

Why Do They Need Them – Chickens prefer to be up high off the ground when they sleep. They are sound sleepers and this keeps them safer from the clutches of predators at night. Chickens take their pecking order very seriously and those highest in the pecking order will grab the highest perches, leaving the lower (and therefore more vulnerable) spots to those lower in the flock order. Sleeping on the ground or floor of the coop also leaves them more susceptible to pathogens, bacteria and external parasites such as mites and lice, so you want your hens to perch on roosts at night. Dust baths for chickens are also a way that hens ward off chicken mites and other pests.

Chicken Roosting Bars

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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. Plastic or metal pipes should be avoided since they are too slippery for the chickens to get a good grip. Metal also will get cold in the winter and could cause frostbitten feet.

Location in the Coop – Here’s an interesting fact about chickens: Chickens poop while they sleep, so you will want to place your roosts somewhere that it will be easy to scoop, shovel or rake the droppings and soiled litter out of the coop. Also, feeders and waterers (if you leave them in the coop overnight) should not be placed under the roosts, nor should the nesting boxes. Learn more about composting chicken manure.

Width – Chicken roosting bars should be at least 2 inches wide and preferably 4 inches wide. Chickens don’t wrap their feet around a perch like wild birds do. They actually prefer to sleep flat-footed. This has an added benefit of keeping their feet protected from frostbite in the winter from below using the roost as protection and using their body as protection from above. Also, this protects their feet from mice or rats who will often nibble on chicken toes while they are sleeping.

Height – Chicken roosting bars 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. Bumblefoot (a staph infection of the foot and leg) is often caused by hard landings off a roost. Leave about 15″ headroom between the roosts to prevent those on the higher roosts from pooping on those roosting below them.

Tip: When raising chickens for eggs, your roosts need to be higher than your chicken nesting boxes or your hens will be tempted to roost in or on the nesting boxes, looking for the highest perch available.

Length – Allow for at least 8 inches of roosting bar per hen. Of course, more is better, but you will find that especially in the winter, all your chickens will snuggle together for warmth. They also use each other for balance, so you will rarely see them roosting anyway but side by side in a row, although in the heat of the summer they will appreciate having room to spread out.

Using these guidelines for chicken roosting bars, you should be able to create a nice roosting area for your hens to sleep peaceably at night…and that means you’ll sleep better as well.

chicken-roosting-bars

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Join me on my blog Fresh Eggs Daily for more tips, tricks, and advice on raising backyard chickens as naturally as possible.

Originally published in 2014 and regularly vetted for accuracy.

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Comments
  • does the roost have to closed in ? or can it be just out in the open ?

    Reply
  • I have a chicken house I made from a 10’x10′ metal storage building. I put a 3’x3′ window in each end for ventilation. I have a street light about 60′ from the building. Cant get my chickens to roost on the roost I made. I stepped up with 1 1/2 ” wood dowels 4′ long. They get on it during the day but not at night. Do They require dark to roost. Is the light to much coming in the window? They roost on the floor in the corner. Help me!!!!

    Reply
    • I’m no expert but most recommend a 2×4 with the 4 inch side flat for roosting. I’m wondering if your roost is too skinny for them?

      Reply
    • Perhaps they are cold at night on the roost so they huddle in the corner away from the draft to keep warm.

      Reply
  • Roger M.

    How far away should the roosting bar be from the coop wall?

    Reply
  • I have 8 hens and two roosting bars but our head girl Berta takes one roost (the lower one) all to herself and the other 7 squish onto the higher roost – they are ridiculous

    Reply
  • Do chickens needs roosts in the run? Mine chickens will not roost in the coop because the outside roost is higher. Debating taking the outside roost down to get the girls back in the coop.

    Reply
  • What does it matter if chickens sleep in nesting boxes? I am genuinely curious. I have chickens that like roosting on perches and others like staying in the nesting boxes, but it doesn’t bother me either way. I am wondering why this article frowns upon chickens sleeping in nesting boxes?

    Reply
    • Hi Jillian – One of the reasons I don’t like my hens to sleep in the nesting boxes or perch on them is that they then poop in the boxes. This becomes an issue because then the hens are more likely to being laying in soiled nesting boxes. Thanks for the note! ~Steph (Online Editor)

      Reply
    • I purchased some hens from a company that raised them in cages, awful!, these chickens did not know how to roost, they would always go into the nesting box’s. It took 2 weeks of taking them out at night and putting them on the roost before they got the hang of it. Well worth the effort, no dirty eggs and don’t need to clean the box’s so often.

      Reply
  • Thank you for this article! It is simple and to the point and taught me that I’ve been doing it wrong! No wonder my chickens keep wanting to roost in the nesting boxes. My perches were too small. Thanks again!

    Reply

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