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Where do your chickens roost?

Published May 17th 2024

Chicken roosts are an important part of your flock's housing. Although they are simple in concept, constructing and placing them can be challenging. Omlet has designed chicken coops with perfectly constructed roosts to take the guesswork out of the process. Keep reading to learn how providing your hens with the perfect roost can benefit their well-being.

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1) What is a chicken roost?

You can think of your chickens’ roost as their bed — and like a mattress, a roost can make or break a good night’s rest. Chickens will spend anywhere from 8-12 hours roosting, depending on the amount of daylight. When the sun starts to set, your hens will instinctively head to their chicken coop.

2) Why do they roost?

A roost is a place where birds gather to sleep at night. The term "roost" can also be used as a verb, meaning to settle or rest in a roost. Birds have a biological clock that tells them when to roost. Although some birds roost on the ground, many species, both wild and domestic, prefer elevated roosting places. Chickens, for instance, belong to the group of birds that roost above the ground.

3) Safety from predators

Being elevated while sleeping makes hens feel safer from chicken predators and the weather. In the wild, many birds roost in trees that offer a canopy of shelter from the elements. Similarly, your chickens will seek a place that is both elevated and shielded from the wind, rain, and snow. (a hen house!)

4) Pecking order at night

When night begins to fall, your hens will head in to roost in their coop. If you observe the order in which they turn in, it’s common for hens at the top of the chicken pecking order to claim their spot in the roost first, and the rest will follow suit down to the lowest-ranking hen. In an established flock, the top-ranking hens will make sure every flock member has a place in the roost.

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Do NOT encourage your chickens to roost in the trees.
TIP: When you first take your new chickens home we highly recommend enclosing them in their coop for a week so they learn where home is and they can establish a roosting pattern.

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Chickens instinctively take themselves to roost at dusk.
TIP: Invest in an automatic chicken coop door for your chicken coop. Once everyone is inside after dark it will close and ensure all birds are safe on their roosts for the night.

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Omlet has designed the perfect roosting rack system.
TIP:  These are super easy to keep clean - can all be pressure washed or wiped down. Keeping on top of red mites is now a breeze with Omlet's ingenious plastic roosting bars.

5) Keeping your hens safe whilst roosting

By the time the last hen has turned in for the night, it will be past sunset. This is when predators are most active, which is why hens instinctively roost before nightfall. To add an additional layer of protection, an automatic chicken coop door can be installed on your hens’ house to make sure everyone is tucked in safely after dark.

6) How much roosting space per chicken?

Another potential problem with homemade roosts is inadequate spacing. Sometimes there’s just not enough room for the last hen or two to find a comfortable spot in the roost at night. On the flip side, if there’s too much space, hens may feel vulnerable. This could be a problem particularly in the winter months, as hens will huddle together for warmth overnight. Different chicken breeds have varying space requirements, but as a general rule, you should aim to provide approximately 20cm of space on the roost per hen. Omlet’s extra large chicken coop has a roosting area that can accommodate up to 10 hens comfortably.

7) What is the best material for my chicken roost?

There are different types of roosting bars and racks. For all roosts, we recommend having them easily removable, this makes it much easier for mite inspection and coop maintenance.

  • Wood is the most traditional material for constructing chicken roosts. It’s affordable, easy for chickens to grab onto, readily available and is not affected by temperature. However timber can splinter, has natural cracks and crevices that can harbour mites; and over time can warp,  deteriorate and rot away. Regular maintenance is essential.
  • Metal should be avoided since it's too slippery for the chickens to get a good grip. It also gets too cold in the winter and could cause frostbitten feet.
  • Plastic roosts may be hard to make yourself, but Omlet has perfected the plastic roosting rack that is included in all of their chicken coops. The ergonomic design fits perfectly in the coop with a slightly textured surface to give your hens feet a grip on the smooth material. And, being made of heavy-duty plastic, your Omlet setup will be the only one you’ll ever need to buy.

Is there a difference between perches and roosts?

Not to be confused with a roosting area, chicken perches are bars set up inside of your flock’s run to give them space to climb and exercise. Many hens enjoy being above ground level at various times throughout the day to observe their surroundings. Hens will flap, fly, or hop their way up to their perches, which help to strengthen and stretch their wings. Chicken perches like the Omlet Chicken PerchPoleTree Customisable Chicken Perch or the Freestanding Chicken Perch are designed for play and enrichment, or maybe the occasional afternoon nap in the sun – but not for overnight sleep. Roosting overnight on a chicken perch in the run leaves your hens exposed to the elements and at higher risk of encountering predators. Chicken perches placed in the run will also give less dominant hens a safe place to jump up to to get away from bossy or more dominant hens.

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Setting up the ultimate chicken roost

The perfect place for chickens to go to roost is:

  • Set up above ground level
  • Separate from egg-laying areas
  • Shielded from the elements
  • Safe from chicken predators

Chicken roosts should be constructed of easy-to-clean materials, and should be comfortable for your hens’ feet. A 35mm deep by 70mm wide length of dressed timber with the 70mm side facing up makes a wonderful roost. You can round the edges a bit if you wish for greater comfort.
Here at Appletons we recommend using fence capping. Avoid broomstick handles they are too narrow have your hens performing a balancing act all night long. Hens prefer to  squat down at night and keep their feet warm. Creating an ideal roosting area is a vital part of how to take care of your chickens. This secluded, comfortable area should make your hens feel safe and protected all night long. Quality sleep contributes to your flock’s overall health and well-being, making their roosting area a fundamental element of their setup.

Common Chicken Roost Problems

Many chicken keepers mean well when they set up their flock’s roosting area, but most homemade constructions fall flat when it comes to creating restful roosts.
Often homemade roosting bars or racks:

  • Are hard to clean - All roosts should be removable for easy cleaning.
  • Invite red mites - Cracks, knots and splits in the timber harbour insects and are the perfect hiding place for the dread red mite.
  • Weaken over time - Check the durability of roosts on a regular basis.
  • Are poorly placed, wobble, or unlevel - Chicken roosts will be deemed unfit for sleep by your flock.
  • Are too high - You may notice older hens avoiding roosts that are too high, as their joints can’t support them when they dismount each morning. Chickens can be inclined to develop bumblefoot if roosts are too high and they have a hard landing on dismounting. Heavier hens may also have trouble flying up to roosts that are too high. We recommend placing all roost between knee and hip height above the ground.
  • Not enough or too many roosts - Avoid stress within the flock especially issues like feather pecking due to overcrowding.

Uncomfortable, unsafe, or cramped roosts can lead to a chicken not going to their coop at night. Instead, your hens may find they roost in nesting boxes or on perches out in their run. This behaviour can quickly become frustrating and dangerous and should be addressed as soon as possible.

Creating the ideal chicken roost with Omlet 😊

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The Eglu Cube and Eglu Pro chicken coops have a divider that can be closed to prevent hens from roosting in the nesting area, and have designated doors for both the roosting area and nest box. Additionally, their roosting area have:

  • A roosting rack constructed of heavy-duty plastic with a textured overlay to help your hens grip the surface
  • Small openings for droppings to pass through to the tray below, which also offers small footholds for your chickens
  • A large, flat area perfect for your hens to hunker down for the night

The fully enclosed Eglu Cube and Eglu Pro makes it a formidable fortress for your flock during their most vulnerable times. With the dual-insulated walls and ample ventilation, your chickens will never be more comfortable.
The other two chicken coops from Omlet are the Eglu Go Chicken Coop and the Eglu Go UP Raised Chicken Coop. Both of these coops are for smaller flocks of 3-4 hens, and include the same style of roosting rack as the Eglu Cube. All of the Omlet chicken coops help foster your flock’s natural behaviours and habits, including a comfortable and secure roosting routine.

From roostime to playtime, give your chickens the best when you choose Omlet for all of your flock-raising needs. All Omlet products have been rigorously tested by Omlet's team of experts and through daily experience from us and our customers. Omlet's dynamic chicken tractors and unique toys like the Chicken Swing are sure to be a delight to both flocks and their raisers.

Chickens Rule the Roost! 😉

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