Inside your chicken coop, you need to install a roost: this is a place for your chickens to sleep. Once it starts to get dark, one by one your chickens will go into the coop itself and settle down for the night. There are just a couple of things you need to keep in mind to give your chickens a safe, comfortable place to bed down. Here is a photo of chickens on their roost, used with permission from http://www.gardenplotter.com.
Why Provide a Roost for your Chickens?
By instinct, chickens want to roost (“go to bed”) in the highest point available, and be gathered together in a group for protection and warmth while they sleep. Your chickens will be happier animals if you play to their instincts when you are designing their living space. If you were to place multiple roosts inside your coop with some higher than others, they may fight to get the highest (“best”) spots: to avoid this, you keep the roost at all the same level
What Does a Chicken Roost Look Like?
A chicken roost is a very simple board–a 2″ X 4″ or a 2″ X 2″–or a wooden clothes rod like you would put in a closet, or even a thick tree branch that is about 2″-3″ across. Most research I have done recommend that if you are going to use a board, you round off the corners to make them easier to grip and smooth the edgees so the chickens will not get splinters. It can be one simple piece, or, to fit more chickens in a small coop, placed in a “+” of two intersecting pieces, crossed in the middle, but all at the same height.
Where is a Roost Placed?
The board/bod/branch for your roost is hung all at the same level, so that no bird is higher than another. The most important part of placing your roost, though, is to know an important part of chicken life: they poop (a lot!) during sleep. If you know this before you install your roost, then you can select the areas of the coop that will get the most poop. You can plan to have the poop fall on areas where you are not walking to gather eggs, and you can make sure the poop does not collect in the nesting boxes. Just a little planning can go a long way toward making your chickens much easier to manage–who wants to clean off their shoes every day when they gather eggs? Some people go so far as to place plastic trays or cat litter boxes filled with straw beneath the roost to collect the poop, which makes clean up even easier. And straw and chicken manure, together, make a good garden supplement.
So there are two rules:
1. Do not place the roost over the nesting boxes where the chickens will sit to lay their eggs, and
2. Do not place the roost over your walking path to the nesting boxes to pick up the eggs.
How Long Does the Roost Need to Be?
Allow 9″-10″ of board length for each chicken. If you have 3 chickens, then 27″ – 30″ of roost length will give them enough room to not have to fight for roost space.
What is the Little Ladder I Sometimes See Leading to the Roost?
Some people clip the ends of the chicken’s wings to keep them from flying away (and into the mouths of predators). These chickens may need a little ladder to get up to their roost–a simple plank with some sticks screwed onto it for steps or a ledge helps the chickens to “get a grip”, so to speak, as they walk up to their roost. If your chickens do not have clipped wings, you do not need to provide this.