Naturally, chickens are rather bulky and ground-dwelling birds so, perching takes a bit more than mere instincts.
Still, most chicken species roost in trees to avoid predation at night.
But, if your chickens are avoiding roosting on perches, then:
Odds are that either the perches are too uncomfortable or the coop itself is not suitable enough for the chickens.
However, there is also a chance that chickens are clueless as to where they are supposed to sleep.
This is especially true if these chickens are newly introduced young adults.
That said, chickens have limited flight ability, imagining them perched on high tree branches may feel unrealistic.
In that case, you may be wondering:
Do Chickens Need To Sleep On a Perch?
They most certainly do.
Because sleeping perched on high branches has several benefits over roosting on the ground.
The reasons and benefits include the following:
1. Avoiding Predators
In the wild, chickens tend to hop onto tree branches to avoid predation during the night.
Now, chickens have been domesticated for thousands of years.
They currently live in all continents of the world.
While urban areas are relatively safe for chickens.
However, most rural and natural settings present a huge number of chicken predators including foxes, snakes, feral cats, stray dogs, and sometimes even stoats.
Which is why
Roosting at high positions within a coop allows chickens to increase their chances of survival.
This comes as no surprise that even domesticated chickens try to find the highest spot to roost, some even finding their way to coop rooftops.
Chickens that sleep piling up on each other are likely to release their dropping on each other.
This will keep chickens moist and damp in the droppings, thereby causing skin burns and rashes.
Chicken feces is home to several pathogenic bacteria.
This mess will give rise to mosquitoes and pest infestations.
This means chickens sleeping on the ground are highly likely to get sick.
Additionally, the chickens will get poop stuck to them.
Thereby, making it harder to handle them.
If chickens are sleeping in nest boxes, then their droppings may get attached to eggs or even hatchlings.
That said, perches are also easier to clean.
3. Air Drafts
The floor of a chicken coop is more likely to get moist and have more air drafts.
In contrast, the perches are located about 2-3 feet above the ground.
These will have somewhat constant temperatures and moisture levels.
Chickens sleeping in perched positions are likely to be safe from catching colds.
Most pests dwindle on the ground.
For instance, rodents and roaches will prefer floor boxes over perching positions.
Sleeping on perches helps chickens to avoid pests.
Now, you may be wondering:
Which Perch Is Ideal For Chickens?
Chickens are rather bulky birds with distinct flat feet.
Chicken perches are fairly different from regular pet bird perches.
Here are the things that you need to consider for a chicken perch:
|Shape||Round or rectangle rods, preferably with rectangle edges.||Chickens feel secure by curling their feet
around the perch.
Therefore, flat sheets are not ideal.
Round and rectangle rods allow curling of feet.
Rectangle edges allow setting up perches without wobbling or permanent attachments.
|Width||About 3-4 inch diameter.||The rule of thumb is to have the same diameter of a rod that allows you to completely curl your finger while holding it.|
|Length||Depends on the number of chickens.
Ideally, each chicken should have at least 25cm to herself.
|The longer the better.|
|Material||Wooden Smooth Perches.||Wood is natural and environmental-friendly.
Steel can be too cold and too hot.
Plastic may be too slippery for a chicken to sit properly.
|Spacing||Two parallel perches should be at least 20cm apart.||The wider spacing the better.|
|Location||Should be about 2-3 feet above the ground and at least 2 feet from the rooftop.||The perches should not be too high for chickens to feel pain while jumping up or coming down.|
I recommend setting up temporary but reliable perches.
This will allow you to easily inspect the coop for red mites and other pests.
Furthermore, unfixed perches give the liberty of adding more chicken perches.
However, even with the best coop conditions, chickens may not sleep on the perches.
Chickens may roost on the ground
Let’s find out
Why Are My Chickens Roosting On The Ground?
This may involve the following reasons:
Young chicks tend to sleep in the nesting boxes, perches are not only new but also somewhat uncomfortable for them.
So, it may be that:
The chickens are too young to even know that they are supposed to roost on perches.
They may deem the coop floor as the sleeping place.
2. Injury And Disease
Perching requires a bird to put all the weight on its breastplates while curling its feet.
While this helps a chicken to keep itself warm, it may uncomfortable for sick or injured chicken.
Perhaps, your chickens are roosting on the ground because they are sick or have some injury.
In this case, carefully inspect the chicken for injury or signs of sickness.
If anything appears odd, contact a vet immediately.
3. Uncomfortable Perches
Perhaps, your chickens are sleeping on the ground because the perches are not suitable for them.
It may be that:
- Perches are not wide or long enough.
- They have sharp and jagged edges.
- Perches have red mites or other parasites, pestering chickens.
- They are wobbly and unstable.
- They are not spaced.
4. Pecking Order
Adult chickens are likely to bully and peck at the younger and newly introduced chickens.
Such chickens will prefer to stay out of the coop altogether.
Perhaps, chickens are sleeping on the ground because perches have bullies on them.
5. Nesting Boxes
Chickens tend to lay down in the nesting boxes, late in the morning.
Sometimes, even evening.
If the nests are always open for sleep, then chickens are likely to not move to a perching position.
A nesting box above perches may also attract chickens for roosting.
A coop that is not regularly cleaned is bound to get piles of chicken droppings.
Such a coop will harbor diseases, insects, and a humid ammonia smell.
Chickens resist the smell of ammonia and insects.
Chickens will likely prefer to sleep outside the coop on the ground, rather than inside the coop on perches.
But then, chickens are often considered to accept all sorts of living standards.
Another thing is, most people have not seen them chickens roost on a perch, or even roost at all.
The roosters tend to crow quite early in the morning.
Exactly how Chandler and Joeys Rooster wakes up Rachel and Monica during a “Friends” episode.
Anyways, you may be wondering, if chickens sleep at all.
Is It Bad For Chickens To Not Roost?
Indeed, it is.
Sleep is essential for all animals to stay healthy.
The same is true for chickens.
Ornithologists suggest that chickens need about 8-12 hours of undisturbed sleep to properly function.
A lack of sleep will likely result in chickens:
- Being overly sensitive to light and sound triggers.
- Excessive shrieking and walking restlessly.
- Less number of eggs.
- Signs of muscle and feather deterioration.
- Lack of preening.
- Reduced interest in free-ranging and other activities.
But a more appropriate question would be asking:
Why are Chickens not Roosting?
Most likely because they are suffering from some physical disease or are under stress.
The most common diseases causing sleeplessness include pest bites, rashes, and kidney tumors. You must seek professional advice for properly diagnosing any animal.
The stress may be caused by several factors, including:
- Presence of predators in the surrounding.
- Hostile flock members or strict un-kind human owners.
- Inability to raise eggs into chicks.
- Lack of food and hydration.
- Unclean environment.
- Improper coop settlement.
- More roosters to chicken ration.
If your chicken is not sleeping at all.
I recommend you immediately rush to a vet.
But if your chickens are roosting on the ground, while avoiding coop perches, you need to pinpoint the reason for their behavior.
How Do You Encourage Chickens to Roost?
You can do so by following a routine.
I suggest you do the following:
- Gather all chickens by calling a specific call set for nighttime and let them in the coop.
- Keep the lights on and put one chicken on its perch.
- The rest of the chickens will hop on their own, as they all wish to sleep in high positions.
- Once all the chickens settle in, stay for a few minutes to ensure that all chickens are comfortable.
- Switch off the lights and lock down the coop.
- Check up on chickens for at least 2 weeks. They will learn to follow their routines.
But sometimes, encouraging roosting may not be this simple.
So, I present to you a few more tips to encourage chickens to roost:
|Comfortable Perches||Wooden 2-3 inches wide rods, 30cm length per chicken with 30cm width to other rods.
2-feet above ground and 2-feet below the rooftop.
|Ideal perching for chickens.|
|Relative Perch Heights||Ensure all perches are on the same height.||Like all other birds, chickens prefer the highest perches possible. Even with the same heights chickens often squabble.|
|Start Training Young||Provide low-height perches to baby chickens in their separate boxes.||This helps the chickens get accustomed to perching from the start.|
|Pecking Order||Try to ensure that a broody hostile chicken is not next to some baby chick.
Give baby chickens are separate perch or places in the corner.
|Young chickens are more likely to lean against the wall for extra support.|
|Chicken Arrangement||Put chickens facing opposite to each other.||The chickens are less likely to bother each other if they have vulnerable backs.|
|Persistence||Actively and gently perch chickens until they learn this behavior.||Chickens naturally take time to learn new things. Light-weight chickens like Leghorns are more open to roost while perched. But heavy chickens like Orpingtons will take a huge time learning to roost on perches.|
|Sleep Times||Start late to call the chickens for bedtime. Also, make sure to use a specific call for sleep.||Chicken sleep is oriented with light exposure, rather than a regular clock. They will stay outside if they see daylight. So, start late to ensure that chickens sleep on their own time.|
|Night Lights||Don’t keep lights on in the chicken coop.||This will not only attract predators but mayhaps will cause stress to chickens.|
|Familiarizing New Members||When introducing new chickens to the flock, keep them inside the coop for at least 2 weeks. Make sure to provide them with food and water.||Once chickens learn that they have a new home, only then allow them to free-range. This way they will return to sleep in the coop.|
|Cleanliness||Regularly clean chicken droppings and parasites. Also, do change materials as needed.||Chickens resist the smell of too much ammonia.|
|Chicken/ Rooster Ratio||Ideally, only one rooster per 7-10 chickens in a single flock.||More roosters are likely to cause discord among the flock.|
|Security||Get rid of any predators in the area, or provide better coop security.
Use Neem Oil rubbing over perches to remove red mites.
|Chickens don’t sleep with a predator or pests around.|
|Nest Box Management||Allow only broody chickens to have the nest boxes for raising chicks.||Block off nest boxes to other chickens. Otherwise, they will want to lay down in nest boxes.|
|Ventilation||Provide ventilation according to the season.||Chickens easily catch colds. But may not sleep at all in humid and warm coops.|
Chickens often perch on trees to sleep during the day, to avoid predators.
However, they need in the coop for the night.
Nesting boxes are not enough to help chickens sleep in a neat and healthy environment so, they need suitable chicken perches to sleep.
I hope this helped you in improving sleep quality for your chickens.