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.
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.
Originally published in 2014 and regularly vetted for accuracy.