Let’s Talk Chicken Roosts – The Best Size, Shape Height, And More

Chicken roosts or roosting bars are a great way to provide your chickens with both much-needed sleeping space and a sense of security.

then hens nesting on a log

Adding one (or more)to your chicken coop will provide your girls with a place to rest and feel safe.

In this article, we’ll cover all the design elements to create a chicken roost that is safe, comfortable, and secure for your chickens.

Learn what material to use for the bar, how long, how high, what shape, how to attach it, and lots more. 

What is a Roosting Perch? Is It Necessary For Your Chickens?

A roost is a place for your chickens to rest either during the day or at night when they sleep. Think of it like having a nice couch or bed in your home for the family to gather and rest.

A comfortable perch is even more important in the winter months when your hens may spend more time in the chicken coop. 

The Benefits of Providing a Roosting Area for Your Birds 

Providing adequate roosting space makes for a happy, safe, and strong flock. 

two plymouth rock and a gold hen on a tree branch

Safety. 

The best thing about providing a roost for your chickens is it gives them a safe place to rest. 

Chickens spend most of their time on the ground – foraging for food. Here they are an easy target for predators. And they don’t have many defenses to protect themselves. 

Most ground-dwelling animals find safety in an elevated position, and chickens are no different. 

Happy.

Your chickens will be happiest if you give them a place off the ground to perch out of harm’s way. Here they have a better vantage point to keep an eye on their surroundings and can relax and get some rest.

If your chickens are constantly worried about predators, it can lead to anxious behavior like feather pulling, causing fights and general unrest.

And bonus – happy hens lay more eggs! 

Strong.

Roosting can strengthen a chicken’s legs making them healthier. 

While they can survive without a roost, they will likely be much more comfortable and calmer if you provide one. 

Chicken Roost Placement Inside the Coop

  •  Keep the perch away from the door or drafts. A darker or quiet section of the coop is better for sleeping.
  • Position the roosts on the far end of the chicken coop where it will be easier to keep clean. It gets dirty very quickly underneath the roosting area. You don’t want to walk through the mess to get eggs or check on your chickens.
  • On the opposite end from the nesting box is also better when you have enough room inside the coop. This discourages roosting near the nesting boxes – again, we all prefer clean eggs.
three white chickens on a tree limb roost inside the coop

How High Should It Be?

Most chickens prefer a higher perch. This gives them the best vantage point to stay safe from predators. However, based on the size and design of your chicken coop, you can mount them as low as one foot off the ground. 

Here are some additional guidelines when selecting the height of roosting bars in the chicken coop.

  • Perches should always be higher than the nest box. Chickens will roost at the highest point. When your nesting boxes at higher, they may sleep in the nesting boxes. 

Since chickens continue to poop at night, it makes a mess in the box which means the eggs will be dirty. We like to keep nesting boxes clean for the eggs. 

  • Allow at least 1-1/2 feet clearance from the ceiling, so they can fly up without hitting their head. They should be able to stand up, flap their wings, stretch and hop on the bar. 

Other Height Considerations

Take into consideration the weight of your birds, how well they fly, and the size of your coop.

In a very large chicken coop – your chickens may be able to fly down without any problem. However, in a smaller coop, they are forced to jump since there is not much room for flight. 

Chicken Perch Style and Design

OK, now let’s move on to what you want your roosts to look like – or better yet, what will feel the best for your hens.

chickens roosting on a ladder style perch

Bar and Ladder Style Chicken Roosts

Two general styles of chicken roosts are used: Independent bar and ladder style roosts. Both work very well.

If you use the ladder-style chicken roosts, angle the bars, so they have adequate clearance between each level. About 8 to 12 inches apart is recommended.

What shape is best?

A broad flat surface is best with rounded edges. The shape needs to be comfortable for both the chicken’s feet and their breast (or keel).

While chickens may stand up for a little while, once they find a good spot, they will huddle down resting their breasts on the perch. If the diameter is too small, this can cause damage to their breast bone. The shape should not have any sharp or 90 angles.

Square ends are also easier, so they sit flush against your structure.

How long should the chicken perch be?

The length of your perch will depend on the size of your chicken coop and the number of chickens. Allow at least eight inches and up to a foot of bar space per bird. 

If you have hens of different ages and breeds, you may want to add extra perches in the hen house.

Chickens have a definite pecking order, and the hens at the top of the pack may not let chickens lower down in the hierarchy on their favorite roosting bar. Adding an additional bar or two should give everyone the roosting space they need.

What diameter should a chicken roost be?

The diameter of the roost should give your chickens enough room to grab it with their feet (and toes). According to scientific studies, between 1.5 and 4 inches are preferred by laying hens.

General consensus in the community seems to land around 2 – 2.5 inches as an average perch size for a roost. But the best diameter for your particular hens is dependant on their size.

And this makes logical sense – larger hens have larger feet. You wouldn’t use the same size perch for a bantam chicken as a New Jersey Giant.

closeup of hens feet on skinny roosting bar

When in doubt go bigger.

The chickens will need to strain to keep a good grip if it’s too narrow. Notice in the above photo and how the hen’s feet are gripping his perch.

This is too narrow and doesn’t allow enough surface area for sleeping comfortably. Will it work? Yes. But is it the best for the size of this chicken? No.

You may find your chickens roosting on narrower tree branches during the day. But at night, they should have an appropriately sized roosting bar. 

Can a chicken roost be too wide?

Yes, you want their little chicken butts to hang over the end so they don’t end up soiling the roosting bar.

But, if nothing else is available, chickens will roost on wider objects like furniture, their boxes, or shelves.

Most chicken owners report their chickens are happiest with a 2.5 to 4-inch wide roost. But you can go up to about 6 inches for a standard or larger size hen; just check their butts!

What Materials Should Be Used For Roosting Bars?

This is one area where the community is in agreement.

The best bar material for your chicken roost is wood.

In nature, chickens roost in the trees, so wood is a natural material to use for your roost. It is also one of the most common. 

hens nesting in the trrees

Wood is easy to find in suitable length and is very affordable. Wood is also easy to shape and cut to size. The wood’s texture also makes it easy for the chickens to get a comfortable grip. Just make sure it is free of splinters or sharp edges. 

Lumber makes a great perching material. Sand it to remove the rougher spots and ensure there are no splinters. 2 x 2, 2 x 3, or 2 x 4s all work very well. Round the edges, so it is easier for your chickens to grip.

Other Materials

Metal. On the plus side, metal is easy to keep clean. However, metal conducts heat and cold too well to be an ideal choice. 

Metal perches can become very cold in the wintertime. They can also develop frost in wetter climates and may even freeze. Remember those movies where a kid gets his tongue on a metal pole? You get my point. 

Plastic. Plastic roosts are a little too smooth to make a comfortable resting perch. There is no natural grain to get a good grip, and your chickens will constantly need to adjust their position. 

Do You Want to Build or Buy Your Chicken Roost?

It is relatively easy to build your own chicken roosts with a wooden board. All you need is the lumber and a few essential tools to cut and sand the wood.

Check out this list of chicken roosting bar plans for you to build your own if you’d like a little guidance.

If you want a more elaborate setup or a tiered chicken ladder style roosting bar, you can find pre-assembled chicken roosts on Tractor Supply, Etsy, or a farm supply store.

Common Problems with Roosting Perches To Watch Out For

Insects.

You’ll need to be on the lookout for insects whenever wood is involved, especially in our chicken coops. Here are a few ways to prevent problems.

  •  Rub wooden perches with a bit of Neem Tree Oil. This will help prevent insects from damaging the pole and prevent red mites in the chicken coop. 
  •  Check the underside of the pole for mites. Red mites like to live underneath the pole and travel to your chickens when they come home to roost at night. 
  •  Diatomous earth can also be used in chicken coops to keep the insects and mites under control. Sprinkle it in and around the corners of the coop, paying special attention to cracks and crevices. 

I read an interesting article in the Prairie Farmer (available in the University of Illinois archives) that talked about how our ancestors managed lice problems in the chicken coop.

In the early 1900s, farmers built hanging roosting bars grids with wooden poles. The bars were suspended from the roof of the hen house with wire. To keep lice under control, they spread coal tar on the wires. Pretty interesting!

Cleaning.

Your perch will get dirty, so think about how you are going to clean it. You may want to leave the perch unattached so you can turn it or remove it entirely for cleaning.

If your chickens are prone to pooping on the perch, scrape it off in the mornings (when it’s still a little moist). You can apply a light dusting of PDZ stall refresher to the bar to absorb any excess moisture and keep it fresh. 

Installing a scrape board underneath the roosting perch will also make cleaning the floor easier.

FAQs

Do Chickens Prefer Round Or Square Roosts?

There is an ongoing debate to decide the best shape for a chicken roost. And testing shows the answer may depend on the breed of a chicken doing the roosting.

A study in the Applied Animal Behavior Science journal tested this theory with the following results.

  • In their experiment, the square-shaped roost was preferred by a group of New Hampshire hens.
  • The Columbian Plymouth Rock chickens, however, preferred the round-shaped roost.

So both can work equally well. The study went on to test the diameter of the roosting bars. In the abstract of the study, they summarized the findings.

It is concluded that hens prefer roosts that are large rather than small, and square or round rather than triangular in shape.

Preferences of hens for shape and size of roosts – Applied Animal Behavior Science journal

Here are some additional notes on the shape.

  • If a square perch is used, you should round the corners with no sharp edges.
  • A flatter surface provides more overall comfort for the feet and does a better job at supporting the breast bone.
  • When round perches are used, select wider diameter poles or branches. The minimum thickness for a round branch is about 1-1/2 inches for small hens. 2-1/2 inches is preferred for average-sized hens, wider would probably be better. 

We would suggest installing one of each in your coop, then see which they like the best. 

Do All Chickens Roost?

Egg-laying birds enjoy roosting during rest periods. However, some larger birds or meat breeds will sleep on the ground.

Meat birds typically don’t roost in which case you may not need as much space for them.

Should I Add A Roost In The Chicken Run?

As long as the run is secure from predators, you can install a roost inside the chicken run.

Some folks like to keep their chickens in the coop during the winter months but let them sleep in the run in summer. You may want to give the birds the option as long as you monitor them closely for any signs of trouble.

Final Thoughts

Many different sizes, styles, and lengths can work for your chicken roost. 

Evaluate the size of both the chicken coop and your chickens to find the best design for your setup. 

However, there are a few general rules to keep in mind.

  • Choose a sturdy, smooth length of wood between 2.5 to 4 inches wide.
  • Look for a quiet location higher than the nesting boxes with adequate headroom for flying.
  • Allow at least 8 inches per bird and ideally more than one bar.

Then monitor your birds to ensure they are sleeping on their roosts and everyone has enough space. 

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