Chicken roosts are an essential part of the chicken coop. The same way you need your comfortable mattress to get a good night’s rest, your chickens need a secure perch. In this article, you are going to learn why your flock needs roosts, what materials are used to construct them, and some common problems you may have with perches. Let’s get started.
What is a Roosting Perch?
A roost is generally where birds perch to rest or sleep. Throughout the day, you will notice birds sitting on a number of things — branches, fence posts, and electrical wires. This roosting behavior helps keep them safe throughout the night while they sleep.
It is much the same for chickens. Even if there is a low risk of predators attacking your chickens at night inside the coop, they don’t know that. Chickens, after all, evolved from jungle fowl. So that roosting behavior is instinct. In the coop, the chickens that are low in the pecking order will literally sleep with an eye open to alert the others in case of danger. Those in the middle or higher up can sleep more soundly.
This is the same for all breeds of chicken.
However, where a chicken roosts is going to depend on the breed. For example, a Brahma chicken will prefer a slightly lower roost, while a smaller, more agile bird may go higher. Bantams, for instance, take high perches since they can fly.
Therefore, if you have a mixed flock, it is highly recommended that you install perches of multiple heights and widths.
Why Do Chickens Need to Roost?
As mentioned earlier, the roost is a safe place for your chickens to sleep. But there is more to it than that. If your chickens were to nest on the floor, they would be dozing in their own excrement. Furthermore, there is a chance that they would catch illnesses, mites, or have their toes nibbled on by the wayward rat or mouse.
Parasites, such as lice and mites, tend to come out at night. Without a safe place to sleep, your chickens will be up all night long trying to defend themselves. That also means that your hens are going to be too stressed to lay eggs.
Lastly, chickens who are feeling unwell or molting will often stick to a perch for the time being. It is a place for them to convalesce until they are healed.
The Essentials of Roosting Perches
Before getting to our list of roosting ideas, it is important to learn some essentials first. Here are some things to keep in mind when you start DIYing a chicken perch:
- The perches need to be at least 18 inches off the ground for lighter birds.
- For heavy breeds, lower some perches to 12 inches off the ground.
- If you have old or injured birds, put their perches around 2-3 inches off the ground.
- Plastic is a good option for roosts, since it is lightweight, durable, and easy to clean. However, plastic can also warp and disintegrate, which puts your chickens at risk.
- The best material option is wood, because it is sturdy and durable. Use a 2×4 inch piece of wood.
- Provide about 8 inches of space for each chicken on a roost. Bigger breeds need more space around them, while bantam chickens require far less.
Chicken Roost Ideas
Making a roost for your chicken coop may seem like a daunting task, but there are many ways to go about it. Sometimes, you do not even need a lot of skills with carpentry and power tools to get the job done. Here are several ideas to inspire you:
The Ladder or Shelf Roost
As the name suggests, the ladder or shelf-style roost is designed to look like a ladder or shelving. In other words, you get two sides of support with horizontal struts crossing the distance between. Most ladder or shelf roosts are done with tiers, so some of the struts are closer to the ground than others. There is enough space between each strut so that the chickens on lower levels are out of the way of droppings.
Now, you may be wondering, “Can I use an old wooden ladder for the same purpose?” Well, yes. However, you are going to have to, one, secure the ladder to the coop’s wall to prevent it from tipping over. Secondly, you will need to angle the steps somehow. Otherwise, the chickens at the very top may dirty those sleeping below.
Watch the video how it looks:
A Roosting Tree
Want to bring an all-natural feel to the coop? You could chop down a section of tree, remove the leaves, and then install it upright for your chickens to roost. Some people will use a growing tree and build the coop around it, so their chickens have a gorgeous interior and plenty of fresh air. The downside to this, though, is that the coop and run is exposed to predators, including owls.
Decorative trees made of plastic can also work. Again, plastic is not as strong as wood and may break apart with time.
Don’t have a whole tree? You can also cut thicker branches and install them horizontally in the coop, kind of like a window sill or ladder perch. Logs, either horizontally or vertically oriented, are also a good choice for simple perches.
Bamboo is another material that does the same thing and holds up well.
Repurpose An Old Bench
Do you like sitting with your ladies in the evening and reading them stories before going to bed? Why not use an old bench for a roost? Both the backrest and the seat provide them with plenty of room to relax throughout the night. This is best for smaller flocks.
The downside to an old bench is that your chickens may dirty the seat below. You will have to clean the bench consistently in order to keep the bottom portion sanitary enough for the ones resting on it.
Use Wooden Pallets
Pallets are an excellent source of strong lumber that you can easily repurpose to suit your chickens. Since pallets are inexpensive and come with a frame already built-in, you only have to remove a couple of boards to give your chickens space to rest. Otherwise, all it takes is some mounting materials. You can attach the pallets to the walls of the coop, for instance, or you can use the pallets as supports for a ladder or shelf portion.
Did you come across an old desk or wardrobe at a yard sale? You can use the drawers to make a unique roost. Pull the drawers out at varying distances or remove a few and install some wooden boards. Your chickens will enjoy resting on the edges of the drawers or chilling on the table or desktop.
Some people remove the drawers entirely then insert planks or tension rods across the panels inside.
A Clothes Horse
Also known as a portable drying rack, a large clothes horse is a wonderful choice for smaller coops and flocks. Plus, you get the added convenience of being able to move the horse around, making the coop easier to clean. You will need to stabilize the clothes horse when it is in use. For example, you can insert the legs into cinder blocks.
Another option is a shoe rack. Many are made of wood and have slightly broader shelves for bigger breeds of chickens to feel safe.
Troubleshooting Roost Problems
During your roost construction, you may run into a couple of issues. Here are some tips to keep you on track and make your perches a success within the flock:
- Do not leave your perches unfinished. Any splinters or rough patches can give your chickens a condition known as bumblefoot. Treating bumblefoot is an arduous process, so it is recommended that you smooth and treat the wood before installing it as a roost for your birds.
- Remove any obstacles that could prevent your birds from using the perches. Any beams or objects near the perches may make it difficult for the chickens to fly up to the roosts and settle. If they land awkwardly, they could get hurt.
- If you did not provide your chickens with enough space and levels, they may refuse to perch on the roost. You will notice them bedding down on the floor. If this happens, consider installing another level of perches for them.
- Your chickens may be unsure of the roosts at first, especially pullets. You will need to physically place the chickens on the roost to show them that it is safe and secure. If necessary, place younger chickens next to the more mature hens.
Final Thoughts on Chicken Roosts
Chicken roosts are essential, and so you need to think about how to make them more accessible to your flock. The good news is that you can use a variety of materials for your chickens. Though the most common variety is the ladder-style perch, you can grab old branches, mattress frames, and even bamboo stalks to fabricate into a decent roost. So long as you keep the crucial roosting elements in mind, your flock will love whatever you make. After all, happy chickens make for loads of eggs!
Valerie has been content writing since 2016 for websites and companies all around the world. A traveler, dancer, martial artist, Valerie loves gathering experiences and wisdom. Her travels have taken her to over 20 countries, and she hopes to see more of the world soon.