Whether they are kept as pets or as livestock, chickens need some basic accommodations to protect them from the weather and predators, and to give them a place to lay eggs and sleep at night. Most people find that the best way to do this it to build a chicken coop and a key element of the coop is the chicken roost.
The purpose of the chicken roost is to provide the chicken with a place to sleep. Essentially, the roost is the chicken’s bed, and so it is important to make sure it is just as comfortable for the chicken as a human bed should be for a human. In the wild, chickens find trees to roost in at night. Most domestic chickens are too large to fly into a tree, but they haven’t lost the urge to sleep somewhere perched off of the ground.
The ideal height for a chicken coop roost is basically as high as you can make it inside of the coop. As long as the chicken can access it, it will always make its way to the highest spot that it feels comfortable with. Ideally, this spot will be at least 2 feet off of the ground. However, a chicken will be perfectly healthy roosting on a roost that is anywhere from 6 inches to 10 feet or more off of the ground. To mimic the behavior of a chicken in the wild, the roost should be about 4 feet above the floor with roosts below it graduating to the floor. Regardless of how high you put your roost, make sure that the chicken has an easy way to access it.
Chickens will establish an order of dominance within the group, also known as a pecking order. The dominant chicken will always take the highest spot available and the submissive chickens will line up beside the dominant chicken if there is room. If not, the submissive chickens will take the roosts below the dominant chicken. The chickens that are the lowest in the pecking order will be given the lowest spot. This means that it is best to provide your chickens with ample roosting room on the top roost, at least 9 inches for each bird. If space is a problem, provide enough roosts below the top roost so every chicken has a place to sleep off of the floor.
Chickens are comfortable roosting on anything that provides them with a secure place to grip. This means you should find something that is wide enough to provide a tight grip; usually about 2 inches of width is plenty. You can use any material, including tree branches, broom handles or whatever is handy, as long as it doesn’t have splinters. Metal is not a good choice. Chickens will even be happy with a platform to roost on, rather than a perch, as long as it is the highest spot available.
Kristine Lofgren specializes in interior design, Web design, photography and gardening. She owns an interior design business in Salt Lake City. A graduate of Salt Lake Community College's interior design program, Lofgren is pursuing a Master of Arts in journalism from the University of Utah.