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Sleeping Chickens: How and When Chickens Sleep

Nothing beats a good night of shut-eye. But have you ever wondered what your chickens are doing overnight while you rest? Just like you, your flock is catching some serious Z’s. Chickens have fascinating sleep habits, both in when and how they sleep. If you ever wondered what chicken sleep is like, those questions and more are going to be answered today. Why not get cozy in bed while you read?

beautiful little sleeping chickens

Do Chickens Sleep?

Yes, chickens sleep. All living things on this planet need to sleep, be it during the day or throughout the night. Chickens are no different. In fact, they are similar to humans in that they need around 8 hours of sleep each night in order to properly function.

Do Chickens Sleep Through The Night?

It might be time to be a little jealous of your chickens, especially when they tend to get more sleep than you. Chickens will sleep through the entire night when there are no distractions. That means that when the sun goes down, your flock is ready to hit the hay, so to speak. Depending on where you live in the world, that might mean your chickens are ready for bed around 6PM. Elsewhere, it may be 9PM.

Of course, chickens will wake up quickly if there are any disturbances. Some chickens, like people, will be lighter sleepers. Some won’t wake even during a thunderstorm. However, most of the time, your chickens will be somewhere in the middle: quick to wake when there is danger but otherwise sleeping peacefully all night long.

Do Chickens Sleep During The Day?

Chickens are more likely to fall asleep overnight, but if they experience poor sleep in the evening hours, they may take a nap during the day. Older chickens are also prone to taking little naps throughout the day in order to replenish some energy. You might see your chickens digging holes in the dirt, only to curl up and close their eyes for a time.

So don’t worry if you see your chickens nodding off throughout the day. It’s perfectly normal. However, if you notice a number of chickens falling asleep for longer periods during daylight hours, you may want to investigate. Ideally, your chickens should be sleeping at night. If they are electing daylight hours, there may be a predator prowling around and keeping them awake.

Where Do Chickens Sleep?

farm chickens sitting on a log

When the sun begins to set, your chickens will make their way to where they feel the safest — the coop. Chickens like to sleep somewhere high up off the ground. Usually that would be their perch or in a nesting box. Sleeping on the floor is rare and mainly happens when they take naps throughout the day. Roosting on a perch overnight is instinctive, so they will always prefer higher positions, regardless of where they are.

What Positions Do Chickens Sleep In?

Chickens will choose a number of comfortable positions when sleeping. The way your chickens choose to doze tends to depict how they are feeling. You may spot your flock in one of the following common sleeping positions:

  • Roosting on a perch — the preferred sleeping position among chickens.
  • Curled into a ball — the usual outdoor position when a chicken is napping in the dirt.
  • In a nesting box — a sign that your chickens either feel unsafe, unwell, or there is not enough room on the perches.
  • Huddling on the floor of the chicken coop — your chickens are cold or there are no perches available.
  • Standing up — an unusual sleeping position that happens when chickens are unwell, old, or haven’t gotten enough rest throughout the night.

Will Chickens Sleep in Nesting Boxes?

As a chicken owner, one of the things you do not want to discover is that your chickens have been sleeping in the nesting boxes for 8-10 hours. Why? Because they may break or even eat the eggs or end up laying in their own waste. Throughout the night, chickens poo a lot. You will have a huge mess to clean up. Therefore, you do not want to encourage your chickens to sleep in the nesting boxes. The perches in the coop are meant for rest, not the place where they lay their eggs.

If your chickens do start piling up in the nesting boxes, they could overheat. Such places also run the risk of exposing your chickens to fumes and parasites. 

But what would cause a chicken to choose a nesting box over a perch? Here are the reasons why:

sleeping one chicken

The Coop is Unclean

A dirty coop with foul air is the last place your chickens want to be. If the perches are covered in poo, for example, your chickens are going to look for a cleaner place to rest. Make sure the coop has been thoroughly cleaned and has enough ventilation. Your chickens will thank you for it.

Their Perches Are Too Low

Chickens want to perch on the highest, most cozy spot to fall asleep. In other words, if the perches are too low to the ground and the nesting boxes are higher, they are going to choose the boxes. If you think this is the problem, try raising the perches or adding another tier of bars for them to sit on.

The Roosting Bar is Wrong

Although chickens are not particularly fussy when it comes to what kind of roosting bar they have, you should not rule out that something could be wrong with it. Perhaps the perch is coming loose from the coop’s wall and feels unsafe. Maybe the material gets slippery overnight. Consider swapping out the perch for something new or with a different texture.

The Coop is Congested

Are you providing your chickens with enough sleeping space? Depending on the breeds in your flock, as well as the number, you may need a larger coop. While some chickens are going to want to sleep close together, other breeds prefer to have a little space between them and everyone else. If your chickens are fighting for roosting space, it makes sense that others will go to the less uncontested areas, such as the nesting boxes.

How Many Hours Do Chickens Sleep?

sleeping chickens

On average, chickens sleep for about 8 hours a night. If they end up falling asleep around 8PM, they may wake the next day around 5 or 6AM, particularly if the sun has already risen. Evolution has given chickens the uncanny ability to go promptly to sleep when darkness sets in. In other words, they sleep longer during the winter months, because there is less light.

Older chickens and baby chicks need more sleep than adults. You may see elderly chickens and baby chickens dozing more often throughout the day.

Pecking order also plays a role in how long a chicken sleeps. Those on the lower end of the pecking order tend to spend more of their time awake. Within the social hierarchy, these chickens are sleeping on the lower perches, closer to predators. Thus, they keep watch throughout the night. Those chickens higher in the pecking order get to sleep longer.

Why Do Chickens Sleep Together?

If you happen to see your flock dozing, you will notice that they cluster together. Chickens sleep together for a number of reasons. The main purpose is to share body heat. Comfort and protection are also reasons. Due to their poor nighttime eyesight and vulnerability, chickens stick together overnight to keep one another safe. Sleeping alone would be dangerous for them.

Chickens, like people, start to develop bonds with one another. That is why they may extend their wings to one another or pile up. Huddling is one way your chickens show affection for one another.

Are there chickens sleeping alone throughout the day or night? Something might be wrong. Observe their position within the pecking order. These chickens who are not with the group could be old and ill. Bullying may also be a reason. If you suspect the latter, consider how much food and space your chickens have. The bigger the coop and the more food they get throughout the day, the less of a need for aggression between hens.

Final Thoughts on Sleeping Chickens

Now you know more about how and when chickens sleep. For most living creatures, sleep is important. Chickens know this and will naturally put themselves to bed when the sun goes down. Most of the time, your chickens are going to find a comfortable perch to sleep on and will cycle their positions throughout the night. In order to make sure your flock is getting enough rest, so they are perky and happy during the day, keep the coop clean, give them plenty of perches, and make sure the yard is secure!