A roosting perch is where our chooks tuck up with their flock mates on these long nights so it needs to be well suited and provide a safe, comfortable and cosy sleep.
Well that’s the plan….
- Renegade chooks can determinedly opt to roost in a tree, on top of the coop, in a nesting box or on the floor or the coop.
- Roosting in trees or outside the coop may pose a threat from overnight predators.
- Snuggled into the nesting box is not ideal either because you will need to ‘muck out’ of the box every day. A ‘burlap’ will help deter nesting overnight.
- The floor of the coop may not be the most sanitary place to snooze and there’s a good chance they’ll get pooped on by the roosting mates! You can encourage roosting by gently moving them onto a roost at night but be prepared to stick at it as it may take quite some time.
What makes a good roost?
Firstly we need to consider that, unlike wild birds, chickens cling to roosts just with their toes. They don’t actually grip with their feet but rest their feet solidly on the perch. Square perches with rounded edges are best for the welfare of your hens because they allow them to sleep flat-footed thus distributing their weight across the whole foot area.
- Roosts should be made with sturdy squared timber, well rounded on the edges, somewhere between 5 to 10 centimeters (2 – 4 inches) wide depending on the size of your chooks feet. (4×2 untreated pine would be ideal)
- Roosts should offer chooks a variety of heights from about 50 – 100 centimeters (1.5 – 3ft) off the ground and be about 45 cm (1.5ft) apart. Consider the weight of your chooks. Leg and foot injuries can occur if heavy birds are jumping down from great heights so lower roosting bars are more suited to big birds like Sussex or Orpingtons. Bantams and smaller birds like high roosts if they have enough room to fly up to them.
- A ladder system will help them move between roosts at various heights. You can then put roosts up near the ceiling as long as you can clean them!
- We have a low to the ground granny roost for old chookies who may struggle to jump up and down from higher roosts. It is a good idea to check for health problems of any birds not roosting.
- Don’t put your roost over anything that you don’t want poop on like nesting boxes and other chooks!
- Some people use dropping boards to catch and clear out poop. We use a Natural Chicken Health ‘deep litter’ method in our coop under the roosts.
- Allow about 25cm (10inches) of space per bird on the perch. In Winter they like to squash up to keep warm and in Summer they like to spread out a bit to get airflow between their bodies.
Finally roosting perches reflect the whole social structure of your flock. Hens higher in the pecking order generally get the higher spots and the top hens will be in the middle alongside the rooster if you have one.
But get this!!!
Chickens have a sleep phase called unihemispheric slow-wave sleep (USWS) where one half of their brain is awake and the other half resting.
Chooks can sleep with one eye open and one eye closed, an evolutionary adaptation which lets them watch for predators while they ‘doze’.
The two end hens on the roost will sleep like this, one eye open, to watch out for danger. They will turn around periodically to rest the other side of their brain!
Lots to know about roosting and what’s going on in our coops at night.
It’s a great time to pop on your woollies, grab a torch and check them out. See who’s where and next to whom and gently check them for parasites, dust them and oil their feet as needed.
Oh and Keep Super Mash up to your chooks!
Super Mash is a monthly treatment to help keep chickens healthy. It’s a natural antiparasitic that contains ACV, nutrients and probiotics to boost and re-vitalise your chickens in a natural way.
👉👉👉👉Find out more and order online at https://naturalchickenhealth.com.au/