Chickens need roosts. The birds want to roost on an elevated platform throughout the day, and they need a secure space during the night. Roosting is an instinctive adaptation chickens developed to provide protection from ground-dwelling predators. A roost done right provides comfort and reduces stress in a flock.
Material sizing is flexible but must not exceed the chickens' ability to grab the roost while they perch for comfort or sleep. Natural tree branches provide variable diameters and bark for grip, and 2-by-4 lumber is a common choice. The lumber provides a nice roosting platform for any size bird. Round all of the corners with a sander to add grip for the birds. Wooden dowels of 2 inches to 3 inches in diameter also serve well for roosting.
Height of the Roost
Height is an important aspect of the roost. In large coops, multiple roosts set at varying heights provide comfort options and increased roosting space for the chickens. The minimum height for a roost is 2 feet above the ground or coop floor. Add a second roost at 3 or 4 feet for additional space. As long as the roosts are 2 feet high, there is no specific optimal height. Some chickens will roost as high as the roof rafters, other on the lowest tier. Individual preference appears to play a role, comfort also factors in. Temperatures, for instance, can influence roosting height.
Spacing and Position
The roost is commonly set in the center of the coop with the board running lengthwise. Set the roost at least 15 inches off the front and back walls to provide space. Plan for at least 10 inches of roosting space for each bird. Add several inches of additional space for extra large breeds and mature birds to reduce conflict and pecking.
Inside and Outside Roosting
Interior and exterior roosts serve different purposes. Interior roosts provide a sleeping platform for the chickens. Exterior roosts provide escape from pecking and elevated viewing for predator surveillance. Roosters use elevated positions to watch over their flocks. Install roosts level inside, and install roosts on the exterior either level or sloped. A slope allows for climbing and different perspectives. The interior is designed for pure comfort. The outside roost is purely optional, but the chickens will utilize it on a regular basis.
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Zach Lazzari is a Montana based freelance outdoor writer and photographer. You can follow his work at bustedoarlock.com.